India’s PM calls for water conservation push as drought hits crops

India received 24% less rainfall than the 50-year average in the week ended on June 26, data from the India Meteorological Department showed, with scant rains over central and western regions of the country. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 June 2019

India’s PM calls for water conservation push as drought hits crops

  • The monsoon season is responsible for around 70% of India’s annual rainfall
  • India received 24% less rainfall than the 50-year average in the week ended on June 26

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday pushed for greater grassroots water conservation efforts amid concerns weak monsoon rains would push millions of drought-hit people to the edge and hammer agricultural production in Asia’s third-biggest economy.
The monsoon season is responsible for around 70% of India’s annual rainfall, and is particularly important for the farm sector since more than half of the country’s arable land is rain-fed.
“Only 8% of all the rain water in India is conserved,” Modi said in his first monthly radio broadcast after winning re-election last month. “It’s now time to solve this problem.”
India received 24% less rainfall than the 50-year average in the week ended on June 26, data from the India Meteorological Department showed, with scant rains over central and western regions of the country.
The spectre of a crisis this year comes after drought in some parts of India in 2018 destroyed crops, ravaged livestock, exhausted reservoirs, leaving some cities and industries with little water.
“There is no one formula to deal with the water crisis across the country,” Modi said, adding that he had written to scores of village chiefs across the country about the need to conserve water earlier this month.
The prime minister said there was a need to create public awareness about water conservation and explore traditional water management methods, in the much the same way the “Clean India” mission to end open defecation, started in 2014, had.
However, Modi did not outline any specific measures his government would take to deal with the ongoing situation, which has already affected the sowing of summer crops and forced many communities to buy water from expensive private tankers.
Himanshu Thakkar, co-ordinator of the South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), said Modi’s initiative would have limited impact without the government fixing problems like rampant groundwater usage.
A key source of water, groundwater levels in 52% of wells monitored nationwide were lower in 2018 compared to last decade’s average, the country’s water resources minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat told parliament this week.
“The government is doing nothing to regulate groundwater use,” said Thakkar of SANDRP, a non-governmental organization that advocates for better water management practices.
“It has all the knowledge and institutions, but it is doing nothing.”


Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

Updated 10 December 2019

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

  • International Court of Justice seeks to address atrocities committed by Myanmar

DHAKA: Several members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar expressed optimism on Monday that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would rule in their favor once it began its three-day hearing against Myanmar on Tuesday.

The case was filed by Gambia on behalf of all Muslim nations from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with the ICJ over the alleged persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar military.

On Nov. 18, the court decided to hold the hearings from Dec.10 to 12. Gambia’s justice minister will lead his country during the hearings.

Both Canada and Bangladesh have been supporting Gambia by providing different data and information regarding the atrocities against the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s state councillor and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has already reached  the Netherlands to lead the defense lawyers on behalf of her country at the ICJ.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque will remain present at the courtroom to witness the process.

He will lead a 20-member team, comprising government officials and civil society representatives.

Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar are highly optimistic of securing justice at the ICJ.

“We think justice will be ensured because all international human rights groups, different UN organizations and the international community have got evidence of the persecution on the Rohingya. All of them have visited the refugee camps many times and listened to the plight of the Rohingya,” Sawyed Ullah, a community leader from Jamtoli, told Arab News.

“Also, we have strong evidences of atrocities committed by the Myanmar government to root out the Rohingya from their birth place, Rakhine,” Ullah added.

“Without ensuring accountability, there will not be any safety and justice in Rakhine. Once the accountability is restored,  all of us will be able to go back home.”

Ramjan Ali, another refugee from the Kutupalang camp, said: “Myanmar’s government has forcibly displaced the Rohingya from their own land and that compelled us to shelter here at the refugee camps. Isn’t it enough evidence to justify our allegations against the Myanmar government?”

Ramjan Ali added: “Still the situation in Rakhine is very bad as we receive information from our relatives over there. We need protection from the international forces before any repatriation, and the ICJ’s decision will be helpful for us in this regard.”

Rohingya human rights activist Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the German-based Free Rohingya Coalition described the ICJ’s move as historic.

“It is first ever since we are persecuted. We have been seeking for justice since very long time,” Lwin told Arab News, adding that “finally the case is now at the world court and although it will take several years we are now excited for provisional measures from the court.”

Lwin, along with some 200 Rohingya rights activists from around the world, is set to hold a protest rally at the Hague from Dec. 11 during the ICJ’s hearing.

“We are expecting very much from the ICJ. Regardless whether Myanmar follows the decisions of the court this will have a huge impact. There won’t be any other justice mechanisms if this international court of justice can’t ensure the justice for us,” added Lwin.

Expressing his frustration on the repatriation process, Lwin said that the Myanmar government still had a “genocidal policy” on the Rohingya.

“I don’t think repatriation of the Rohingya will take place soon unless the government is considering to fulfill our demands,” he said.

The ICJ’s final decision will hold strong significance as any decisions taken by the ICJ are binding on member states.

Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories of the Genocide Convention.