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Killing the Ganga

VANDANA SHIVA comments on the ecological and social consequences of the proposed move to privatise the Ganga by a multi-national company.

The Hindu, Sunday, Aug 31, 2003

FOR the first time since the construction of the Ganga Canal in 1847, water has stopped flowing in Har-ki-Pauri at Haridwar and through the Ganga canal that nourishes the entire western U.P. region of the Doab. Even the British colonisers did not stop the flow of Ganga at Har-ki-Pauri. Why has the Ganga disappeared at the peak of summer?

The argument that a bridge needs to be built for Ardh Kumbh in 2004 does not wash. Hundreds of bridges have been built since 1847; the flow of water in the Canal system was never stopped. And there is no imperative for beginning construction in the peak of summer when water requirement is greatest in agriculture and for domestic use.

The real reason seems to be engineer a water crisis — not a bridge — and use that to promote the idea of selling Ganga to private corporations like Suez. It also seems to be an experiment to test the social resistance of people to disappearing rivers — an inevitability if rivers have to be dammed and diverted for the grandiose $200 billion River Linking Project.

The privatisation of the Ganga by Suez is, in fact, an example of river linking — of bringing the Ganga waters to the Yamuna.

The Yamuna has already been killed by pollution and, in spite of millions spent on cleaning, it continues to be unfit for drinking. Now, the powers that be want to make the poor rural communities of Uttaranchal and U.P. give up their water rights so that Ganga water can be commodified and sold to those with money — Delhi’s elite…