|Ecology and The Politics of Survival:Conflicts Over Natural Resources in India|
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|Part Two :Water Conflicts|
Water is a fluid resource, constantly moving between the atmosphere, land and sea; flowing through minerals, plants and soil. Mountain catchments are the source of all water streams, creating rain through their orography, and capturing it in the natural reservoirs created by forests and geological structures. Mining in the catchments can lead to ecological havoc in the water systems. It can generate severe conflicts between the role of minerals in the market economy, for which they must be mined and removed, and the role of geological structures in nature's economy of maintaining the water cycle.
Be it coal for the generation of energy, iron ore for export and the growth of the national steel industry, bauxite for feeding the Japanese aluminium plants, or limestone for the cement industry- exploitation of mineral resources is the material basis of the industrial economy.
Yet in every region citizens are willing to lay down their lives to stop mining operations which, behind the facade of development, destroy the material basis of the survival of large numbers of local people. Women of the Gandhamardan Hills and of the villages of the picturesque Doon Valley, the tribals of Chhattisgarh, Singrauli, and Santhal Parganas have carried out month long blockades against mining operations in their hills. If, for various geological reasons, the mountains of India are repositories of the richest minerals, they are also the central features of our life-support systems.
While historically human settlements have tended to flourish mainly in the plains, Indian civilisation recognised the central role of mountains in ensuring survival in the densely populated river basins and valleys. The mountains in which our major rivers rise have, accordingly, been protected. Mountain watersheds have often been treated as sacred and have been conserved. The sacred Himalaya is the source of the major rivers of North India-the Ganga, the Yamuna, the Brahmaputra and their many tributaries. The Vindhya and Satpura Ranges feed the Tapti, the Narmada. the Sone, the Mahanadi, etc. The Western Ghats are the origin of the major rivers of peninsular India like the Godavari, the Krishna and the Kaveri. These rivers are the lifeline of the economy. and the mountains from which they renew their flow are the foundation for a stable economy.
The main contribution of the mountains to the country has been their role in providing perennial water resources. Through their orographic influence, mountains induce precipitation of water from the atmosphere. Through their natural forest cover. along with their geological structures, mountains convert seasonal rainfall into perennial water resources. Unfortunately, the hydrological role of the mountains has been totally ignored by the champions of industrial growth for whom the mountains are mere sources of unexploited raw materials.
The most well known people's movement against ecologically destructive mining is in the Doon Valley villages of Nahi-Kala and Thano, where activists of the Chipko movement are working with local communities to draw attention to the fact that mining of limestone has totally undermined the material basis of survival of the people.
Miles away from the Doon Valley, in Orissa, adivasi women of the 'Save Gandhamardan' movement embraced the earth singing Mati Devata, Dharam Devata (the earth is our God) to blockade the movement of vehicles of the Bharat Aluminium Company. BALCO had come in search of bauxite deposits in Gandhamardan after having destroyed the hydrological stability and sanctity of another important mountain-Amar Kantak-the source of the waters of the Narmada. the Sone and the Mahanadi rivers. The destruction of Amar Kantak was a high cost to pay for reserves which were much smaller than the original estimate. To feed its one lakh tonne aluminium plant at Korba in Madhya Pradesh.
Balco has moved to orissa to exploit the sacred gandhamardan hills, a storehouse of invaluable plant diversity and water resources. The forests of Gandhamardan have a rich stock of herbs with high medicinal value and feed twenty-two perennial streams and four waterfalls which feed the Ong and Sukhtel tributaries of the Mahanadi.
Since 1985 the tribals have obstructed the work of BALCO and have refused to be tempted by the company's offer of employment. Even police help has failed to weaken their determined protest.
The conflict is totally unnecessary because aluminium production has turned out to be a losing enterprise in India in market terms. BALCO incurred a loss of Rs. 77 crores in 1985 86 alone. Its cumulative net loss up to March 1986 stood at Rs. 317 crores. Future prospects of the company to make profits also seem dismal. The irrationality of destroying precious water resources for the mining of bauxite when we already have a surplus of aluminium is evident. The mining activity is not dictated by the needs of the people but by the demands of industrialised countries which are closing down their own aluminium plants and are encouraging imports from countries like India. Japan has reduced its aluminium smelting capacity from 12 lakh tonnes to 1.04 lakh tonnes and is importing 90 per cent of its aluminium requirements. Several Japanese companies have expressed a desire to set up joint ventures in India's export processing zones to manufacture aluminium products with buy-back arrangements. The survival of the tribals of Gandhamardan is thus threatened because the wealthy countries want to preserve their environment and their luxurious lifestyle.
The export imperative that has been guiding the mining industry in India is no less destructive to the people living in the iron ore rich Western Ghats. The export-oriented Kudremukh iron ore mines produce 7 million tonnes of concentrated iron ore from the magnetite deposits of the extremely high rainfall zone of the Tungabhadra catchment. Nearly 21 million tonnes of tailing washed annually into the reservoir of the Tungabhadra project drastically reduces its water storage capacity and total life.
Open cast mining in the iron ore belt of North Goa, between Honda and Usgao, has disrupted the hydrological balance of Goa's hills. Professor Marathe of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, has shown that the annual loss of groundwater due to mining in the belt amounts to 0.28 metres.
Whether it is iron ore in Goa or Karnataka, bauxite in the hills of Madhya Pradesh or Orissa, coal in the nation's energy capital Singrauli, limestone in the Doon Valley or magnetite in Kumaon, open cast mining on catchment slopes has drastically reduced the water resources of the country. Mining increases surface run-off and decreases infiltration. The increased run-off combined with the choking of water courses with overburdens and fines are causing floods and droughts in regions-which had stable and perennial supplies of water. In the context of the unprecedented water scarcity facing the country, the role of mining in the hydrological destabilisation of mountain watersheds can no longer be ignored. The movements of local people against ecologically destructive mining are movements for water security and survival.
The Conflict Over Limestone Quarrying in the Doon Valley
The doon valley is a distinct ecobiome in the district of dehradun, situated in the himalayan foothills of the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). Recently, it has become the focus of a serious conflict over the mode of utilisation of the rich limestone deposits located in the Mussoorie Hills which form the northern boundary of the Valley. For one interest group (including the operators of the limestone quarries and the scientific and technical agencies of the state government in charge of geology and mining), the most productive use of the limestone deposits in the Valley lies in their extraction for commercial and industrial use. For the other and much larger interest group (consisting of the local communities, both rural and urban), the most productive use of the same limestone deposits lies in their in situ function in conserving the large volumes of rain water that falls in the Mussoorie Hills during the monsoon every year. The economic activities as well as the survival of the local communities depend almost exclusively on this vital water resource. It is clear that these two functions of the limestone deposits are antagonistic and mutually exclusive; utilisation based on one actually negates the other.
During the last three decades the limestone industry in the Doon Valley, consisting of both quarrying of limestone and its processing, received a lot of encouragement, which led to its accelerated growth. For the people residing in the Valley, this growth has threatened the material basis of survival through the destructive impact of the limestone industry on the hydrological balance of the Valley' Damage to vital resources such as water, through the destruction of the essential ecological processes controlling the hydrological balance of the Valley, has been perceived by the people as a violation of their political and economic right to a decent though often minimal share of the vital resources that are needed for their biological and economic sustenance.
This issue of violation, through ecological destruction, of the people's rights, has been presented before the Supreme Court of India in an attempt to seek justice which is apt to be denied in the economic world when it is dominated by profit motives and market forces. This initiative to seek justice, which is rather exemplary, came from the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Centre in Dehradun, and was supported by interventions from citizens' pressure groups, such as the Save Mussoorie Society and the Friends of the Doon. The petition was also supported by those official agencies whose concern coincided with that of the citizens. These agencies included the Department of Environment" of the Government of India and the City Board of Mussoorie. The litigation is in the course of decision in accordance with the due process of law of the Supreme Court of India. The historical and ecological background of the conflicts over natural resources in the Doon Valley will be analysed here.
Fragile Ecosystems of the Doon Valley
The disruption of essential ecological processes, caused by the exploitation of natural resources by violating the ecological principles, is registered very quickly in the sensitive and unstable ecosystems comprising the local ecobiome. In such regions, conflicts over natural resources are apt to become acute within a short time. The Himalayas, which are said to comprise the youngest mountain system of the world, form one such fragile super ecobiome, whose fragility is due in some degree to their inherent geological instability and furthermore to the violence of the monsoon rains that they arrest and moderate.
As shown in Figure 10.1, the Doon Valley is bounded on the north-east by the lesser Himalayan Ranges, and on the eastern half of its south-west by the Shivalik Ranges. The two most important rivers of North India, the Ganga and the Yamuna, demarcate its south-eastern and north-western boundaries, respectively. The 'fragility' of the Doon Valley is further accentuated by the presence of a major boundary fault passing through the northern parts of the Valley and by the unusually heavy rainfall of about 2,000 mm per year. The average width of the Valley is about 20 km, and the length is nearly 70 km. The Doon Valley ecobiome comprises two distinct sub-catchments, one formed by the drainage basin discharging into the Ganga a little south of Rishikesh, and the other formed by the drainage- basin discharging into the Yamuna near Rampur Mahdi (just outside Dehradun district). Thus the Doon Valley forms a sub-catchment for the Ganga Yamuna rivers system which carries the vital water resources for the northern part of the Indian subcontinent.
The Lesser Himalayan Ranges, which form the northern boundary of the Doon Valley, are part of the Great Himalayan Range. The Shivalik Ranges, which form the southern boundary of the Valley, are alluvial formations that are younger than the Himalayas, as they were formed by the debris which was swept down from the mountains. The Shivalik Ranges present a stiff face to the plains, while a long and gentle slope meets the foot of the Himalayas to form a shallow longitudinal valley. These valleys or longitudinal depressions formed between the Shivaliks and the Himalayas are generally called 'Duns'. They are not continuous but are cut through by streams that drain the adjacent mountains. In some places the Duns disappear with the merging of the Shivaliks and the Lesser Himalayas. The lower parts of these Duns are generally covered by a deposit of boulders, so that the floor of the Valley is considerably higher than the level of the plains beyond the Shivaliks.
Owing to this elevation of the Duns and the short distance over which the drainage from them meets the water courses in the plains, the landscape is marked by deep gorges and gullies, which cut through the unconsolidated strata that form the floors of these valleys. For the same reason, tapping of underground water through wells has not been as feasible in the Valley as in the plains.
The Shivaliks belong to a tertiary belt consisting of conglomerates interbedded with clays and sandstones. The bands of clay give cohesion to the soil and improve its physical qualities. This belt meets the older, pre-tertiary Himalayan belt at the main boundary fault, which separates the rocks of the pre-tertiary age from those of the tertiary age and is a major tectonic feature of the area. Tectonic movements that are continuing at the rate of about 2 cm per year, have moved the older rocks of the Mussoorie area to cover the younger belt of the Doon Valley. The rocks in this dislocation zone are thus fractured, crushed and weakened. In the Mussoorie area this boundary fault coincides with the Krol formation of limestone rock which is folded into a syncline called the Mussoorie syncline. The town of Mussoorie is located in this synclinic formation.
On the basis of its rock and soil structure the Valley can be divided into three belts or ranges, namely, the Lesser Himalayan belt, the Doon Valley proper, and the Shivalik belt. The Lesser Himalayan belt consists of high grade limestone and shales at the base, passing gradually to dolomite towards the top, which is covered by a thin layer of soil. The Doon Valley proper is covered by unstratified and mixed pebbles and boulders with very little matrix. The Doon gravels of the Pleistocene age are covered by a thin layer of soil except in the river beds. These gravels are highly pervious, forming a poor water reservoir. The boulder bed of the drainage channels provides the underground course for most streams originating in the Himalayas, many of which disappear deep into the boulder bed for long stretches, only to reappear near the edges of the plateau where they encounter the impermeable clay formations. The natural abundance of water in the Valley, particularly in its eastern part, is reported in the Settlement Report of Bakery
At present the Eastern Doon is a vast natural reservoir or feeder of the Ganges. The forests are intercepted with running streams rising from innumerable springs in every direction, and the ground is literally oozing with water. The volume of water poured into the Ganges by the Suswa and Song is immense.
A diagrammatic section of the Doon Valley showing its three distinct geological belts is presented in Figure 10.2. These belts are related to the hydrological characteristics of the Valley, which received the highest rainfall in Northern India, apart from Cherapunji. The rainfall intensity is highest in the northern parts of the Valley, the annual average in Dehradun, Rajpur (about 8 km farther north), and Mussoorie, being 185, 266 and 197 cm, respectively. This abundant precipitation on the southern slopes of the Mussoorie Hills infiltrates the fractured limestone belt which has a high degree of porosity and therefore high storage capacity. This capacity of fissured limestone gives rise to perennial springs and streams, such as those of Bhitarli, Kiarkuli, Arnigad and Baldi. The acquirers in this belt conserve large quantities of water for dry seasons, and reduce that part of the precipitation that is lost as seasonal run-off during the monsoons. The spring fed streams disappear underground when they meet the Doon gravels, and reappear as rivers such as the Suswa and Asan in the lower clay formations of the Valley.
The sources of the water resources of the Doon Valley are thus, in the final analysis, linked with the surface and sub-soil structure of the Lesser Himalayas. The vegetation supported by the thin top soil helps in the interception of the torrential rainfall by both the canopy and the leaf litter. This helps to reduce run-off and increase infiltration of water to the suh-surface, while the high porosity of the fracture d limestone heft permits the storage of water for year around discharge.
.Origin of the Lime Rush
Direct and major human interference in the limestone deposits began in 1900, when the railway line was brought to Dehradun and the forest department started selling quarrying rights to the limestone deposits at a royalty of Rs. 5 per 100 cubic feet (ca 2,832 dm3). An attempt by the government to assume full control of all limestone deposits was challenged in the court by the local landlords. They argued that the boulders on the surface of the earth and river beds were not mines, and their objections were upheld. As a result, surface boulders were declared as not to be quarried, until the settlement of 1904 which declared all quarries as government property.
Extraction of Limestone and Marble in Delhradun
In 1911, four quarries were being worked in the Doon Valley, and by 1982 there were nearly 100 quarry leaseholders holding about 1,250 hectares of leased area. Out of these, nearly SO per cent are in operation. The limestone of the Doon `/alley, being of high purity, has a ready market in the steel, chemicals, sugar, textile, and other industries. The amount of extraction of limestone and marble in the vicinity of Dehradun for the period 1977-82 is given in Table 10.1.
The Ecological Crisis Generated by Quarrying
Quarrying in the doon valley has disturbed the ecosystem dras tically. the limestone belt in the Mussoorie Hills lies in a tectonically active zone, and a geological thrust was created by the extension of the older pre-tertiary rocks of the Mussoorie Hills over the younger tertiary rocks of the Doon Valley. The thrust is disturbed by a series of of&hoot faults, rendering the region geologically unstable.
The extraction of minerals by open cast mining first disturbs the land-soil-vegetation system by the removal of the vegetation, the top soil, and the overburden, for surface quarrying. This disturbance would be associated with surface mining anywhere. It is, however, accentuated locally by the precipitous slopes and high rainfall, which add to the land's instability caused by mining.
The actual process of extraction of limestone thereafter creates the second ecological impact on land resources, which is unique to the fragile and sensitive ecosystems that characterize the Doon Valley. The use of explosives to remove the rocks further weakens the already weak rock structure. Explosives also activate faults in the dislocation zone of the main boundary thrust, where the quarries in the Mussoorie area are located. The result is induced slope failure and landslides, which are increasing in the region since the mining operations began.
Effects of steep gradients and high rainfall
The steep gradient of the hills and the high rainfall in the Valley contribute further to this instability, as has already been indicated. Landslides raise the beds of streams and rivers, by piling up debris in these drainage channels. The combination of heavy monsoons, bare slopes, and silted river beds, leads to flood in a valley, that was endowed by nature with excellent drainage. Floods, in turn, further destroy land resources downstream, because silted river beds lead to unpredictable changes in the course of rivers, which begin to cut their banks. The upper parts of the streams are thus intricately linked with the lower parts, forming a single ecological continuum in which manipulation of land resources upstream leads to the destruction of land resources downstream. These induced instabilities in land resources have been so large in magnitude that they are conspicuously visible.
A less visible process of destruction has been associated with the water resources of the Doon Valley, which is served entirely by rain fed streams originating in the Mussoorie Hills. The limestone deposits, besides being a reservoir of water, overlap the catchment of these streams. The ecological crisis generated by limestone quarrying is reflected by the fact that, in a valley with abundant rainfall, areas affected by mining no longer have enough water available for the sustenance of crops or humans. Furthermore, all streams and rivers serving the Valley are affected by the run-off of the Mussoorie Hills, as all of them are fed by recharging of subsurface storage systems in this catchment area. The Suswa and Asan rivers, which emerge in the lowest drainage line of the Valley, also provide sub-surface and delayed drainage of the Mussoorie Hills. Tampering with the limestone belt implies direct destruction of the recharge basin of all water sources in the Valley
Further impacts of quarrying
The impact of quarrying is also reflected in the flow characteristics of the springs and streams in the Doon Valley. As in the last few years, quarrying has led to the most drastic changes in the surface characteristics of the catchments-both in terms of extent and intensity-decline in the lean period base flow in the streams can be linked with it. The lean period flow in the Rajpur and Bijapur Canal systems, which tap the water from the Rispana and Tons rivers, respectively is shown in Figure 10.3.
Moreover, the destruction of the internal hydrological system is reflected in the fact that the spring sources of all villages surveyed in the local catchments have registered an average decrease of nearly 50 per cent in their lean period discharges over the last two decades. Such disturbance of the hydrological cycle resulting from human intervention in the limestone belt in the processes of quarrying seems unavoidable and an expensive impact of quarrying.
This disturbance has been further accentuated by the impact of the disposal of overburdens and 'finest' on the hill slopes, and by the landslides induced by mining related activities in this sensitive region. The resulting debris covers large areas of the hill slopes Ludlow the limestone belt. As the debris deposited has little water infiltration capacity, there is a drastic decline in the effective catchment area in the Mussoorie Hills which in turn leads to surface run-off.
Thus the situation of the limestone belt is such that the real impact of quarrying on the hydrological characteristics of the hill surface will, through the deposition of debris, be several times as extensive as the total area of the quarries. The area of land under debris may even be several orders of magnitude greater than the leasehold area of quarrying. Moreover during heavy rainfall, which is common in the Doon Valley, debris is carried by the run-off to the river beds. This in turn raises the river beds, changes the course of rivers, leads to soil erosion in the adjoining agricultural land and forests, and blocks the vital canal systems of the Valley. The ecological impact of quarrying, in terms of destabilized land and water resources, is clearly indicated by the transformation of the boulder beds of the Doon Valley rivers into debris covered beds following the introduction of quarrying.
More than a century ago, Williams" reported that there was no 'kunkar' ('kunkur', kunkar', 'coucher', etc., coarse limestone sheets or nodules) or 'bajri' (limestone debris) available in the Valley. According to him, 'the geological formation of the Valley itself, a vast shingle-bed interspersed with (tracts of) sand, having a partial covering of loam, forbids the existence of kunkar, the substitute for which is stone metalling, procured by breaking up the boulders found in the mountain torrents.
Devastating silting and flooding
This description remained applicable to the Doon Valley until recently, when the impact of three decades of quarrying became painfully evident through the deposition of materials carried down by the mountain torrents during each monsoon. As a result. the boulder strewn beds of the rivers were transformed into ever rising depositories of debris Rispana river bed, boulders disappeared about ten years ago, while in the Tons river bed a major inflow of debris about 6 feet (nearly 2 metres) in height was recorded after the 1982 monsoon. The Baldi river's bed has been rising constantly, threatening roads and bridges in the area of Sahastradhara, which lies about 1 km upstream of its confluence with the Song river. Buildings near the only bridge over the Baldi river have already been washed away, and the cumulative piling up of 'bajri' will, in the near future, pose a serious threat of floods in large parts of the Valley.
Such floods have already begun to affect villages on the banks of the Asan, the Baldi, and the Song rivers. Distance does not save these remote villages from the destructive impact of quarrying, as they are part of the overall ecobiome, being linked to one another by a common drainage channel, and to that extent belonging to a natural ecological unit. The upper parts of the streams have an impact on the lower parts, and quarrying upstream affects activities further downstream, sometimes quite drastically.
Besides damaging land and property along the river beds, the debris loaded flow in rivers has started choking canal works, thus heavily increasing their maintenance costs and the vulnerability of the water distribution system. Costs for removal of the debris in the canals, which were insignificant until the last decade, have risen to Rs. 5 lakhs in the last monsoon. The Irrigation Department, which looks after the Doon Canals, has to employ a large labour force to work around the clock throughout the monsoons, so that the canal head is not blocked by silt and other debris. The maintenance team is involved in such activities as not allowing the rivers to change their course in order to ensure that the water reaches the canal head, clearing out debris from the canal head and the canals.
At times the torrent is so :powerful and the load of silt is so heavy that it is physically impossible to remove the silt quickly. In mid August 1983, Dehradun city went without water for several days because the Rajpur Canal was entirely silted up. It is expected that within a period of ten years the entire canal works will be threatened by rising torrents and the concomitant destruction of flood protection works. Unfortunately, the cost associated with the destruction of this vital water conservation and distribution system has so far not been recognised as a negative externality of quarrying, because the processes by which quarrying threatens water resources have not been recognised. Through water, the impact of quarrying is carried to the human settlements, which depend on these water resources for survival.
The destruction of the processes of.renewability of water resources has. in the past, led to the collapse of human societies and civilisations. For instance, There is a sfrong link between the fall of Rome and the devastation of the Mediterranean forests and grasslands by the suppliers of Rome's sustenance. There is every indication that unless the processes of destruction of water re
sources are reversed, large parts of India, which are proud of their ancient civilizations will face serious water problems well before the turn of this century, and Chaturvedi" believes that by the beginning of the twenty-first century water demand might exceed the ultimate usable resources in different states of India.
These assessments have been borne out by the water famine faced by Tamil Nadu, particularly Madras city, while Uttar Pradesh, for which the water crisis was projected start in the eighties, is already facing severe and absolute water shortages which cannot he overcome by engineering solutions. In such a situation the creation of drought in water rich regions, like the Doon Valley can only aggravate the problem.
In tropical regions, water resources are widely maintained through a very delicate balance with the local ecosystems, such that even small disturbances can completely destabilise water supplies because of the climate, the heavy seasonal raiman and the high mountain ranges which are the catchments of many of the major rivers. Hydrological destabilisation through deforestation or other ineffective land management in these catchments often increases instant run-off leading to floods in the monsoons and drought in the lean season. This degree of destruction of water resources would not, however. be caused by a similar land use abuse in ecobiomes where the rainfall distribution and the slopes of c catchment areas are not 50 extreme. Yet, the rapid destruction of water resources, which is especially problematical in tropical countries, inreatens the healthy biological survival of human communities and forecloses opportunities for their economic development.
The local situation
The decrease in water supply, coupled with ever increasing demands from industry and a rapidly growing urban population, has created scarcity of the most viral resource for human survival and development. This scarcity in turn leads to social costs by diverting human resources from productive work to the drudgery of water collection or attempts to ensure supplies.
Nearly 70 per cent of the Doon Valley population is dependent on public water supply. Water shortages mean longer queues, longer waiting hours, and less water collection for those families. On the average, those dependent on the public supply spend 2 hours a day on water collection, while in certain localities the waiting time is nearly 4 hours. Besides this wastage of human work potential, water scarcity is becoming a source of serious social conflicts among those who are the victims of such water resource destruction.47
The impact of this crisis in water resources is unequally divided between different groups of human society, such that 70 per cent of the population which cannot afford private water connections is increasingly deprived of water. Of the 30 per cent which has a piped supply in their homes, about 5 per cent can overcome natural shortages by capital-intensive technological solutions to which they alone have access. Underground storage wells and pumps can provide twenty-four hours daily supply of running water in homes which can afford an initial capital investment of Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 6,000. The ecological crisis clearly affects the poor more drastically than the rich, despite the prevalent myth that concern for a 'stable ecology' is a luxury which only the latter can afford!
In the villages in the hills, the impact of destruction of water resources is even more drastic than in the towns. The drying up of springs or a decrease in spring discharge means the destruction of the only alternative available to most villagers. While nature treats all humans equally, development plans do not. Only 20 per cent of the total population of India is supplied safe drinking water, and scarcely 50 per cent of the total rural population is provided this vital resource. Most water development is for urban areas. Such villages as those in the Doon Valley, which were provided safe drinking water by nature in the form of springs, will join the 1.52 lakh 'no-source' villages once their springs run dry. For the government this will mean an insignificant increase in the statistics, but for the women in those villages it will mean longer distances over tough terrain and longer hours to collect an essential resource for their families. For the families of these women, especially the children, it will mean increasing disease and morbidity.
While the water resources which are provided by the Mussoorie Hills have been treated as valueless in the controversy over limestone quarrying; they have an undeniable value for the well-being and very survival of the people of the Valley. The destruction of an economic value which degrades the quality of life and threatens the survival of the citizens. The natural endowment of these mountain ranges is an essential part of the resource base for the survival and economic activity of the people in the region.
The economic value of nature has been completely ignored by conventional economics and conventional models of progress and prosperity. The deepening ecological crisis is, however, making it imperative that nature's values and functions be taken into account through proper ecological audits. Such ecological audits of economic activities should assign a value to natural functions on the basis of the cost of technological alternatives to deliver the same set of goods and services. Thus the value of water resource potential of the Mussoorie Hills is the cost of the technical installations that would provide the people with the same quantity and quality of water. Quite obviously, the damage involved is equivalent to the destruction of a gigantic waterworks which pumps more than 500 cusecs (500 x 28.32dm3 per second) of water from the Yamuna river and distributes it to all the villages that are currently served by nature. The natural water installation that is being destroyed will in theory cost the public many thousands of millions of rupees to replace.
Hidden Externalities of Limestone Quarrying
Limestone quarrying in the doon valley has come into direct conflict with other important economic activities on which the majority of the residents of the Valley depend for their livelihood. Traditionally, four main sectors of economic activity have flourished in the Doon Valley. The unique material endowment of the region has given it a unique comparative advantage for agri-horticulture, tourism, education such as schools and research institutions, and knowledge-intensive manufacturing based on a favourable climate and a clean environment. These diverse economic activities are ecologically consistent with one another' as they are all based on the stability of land and water resources. Agriculture and horticulture are directly dependent on them as central inputs, while tourism and knowledge based industry are supported by the environmental capital of a stable ecobiome. However, limestone quarrying and the processing units which have been established to support it, have destroyed the resource base on which other activities survive and prosper. The 'growth' recorded by the limestone industry has, thus, to be seen against the background of the decay of other economic activities and not independently of it.
Undermining of Food Production
Agricuelture is the oldest economic activity of the doon valley, and the villagers tapped the abundant and perennial streams to irrigate their fields. The plateau was ably served by the ancient Rajpur Canal, at the head of the Rispana torrent coming from the adjacent foothill. This tapping of water before its disappearance into the boulder bed was a successful indigenous technology of water management. Due to the geological character of the Doon Valley, the profitable and successful construction of wells has been impossible except in villages near Rishikesh or near the sources of the Suswa and Asan rivers. This has made canal irrigation vital for agriculture. as well irrigation is next to impossible.
The British recognized central role of canals in the agricultural economy of the Doon Valley, and started expanding the canal network to serve the newly colonised areas of the Valley after their takeover. In 1837 Captain Cautley was deputed to inaugurate a canal from the Tons river below the village of Bijapur, to irrigate the triangular tract between the Tons, the Asan and the Bindal, and in October 1839 the Bijapur Canal was completed. In 1841, work on the restoration of the old Rajpur Canal was undertaken, and in the same year the Katapathar Canal, fed by waters of the Yamuna, started functioning in the most westerly Dun. The Kalanga Canal, drawn from the Song river above Rajpur, and the Jakhan Canal, drawn from a stream of the same name in the eastern Dun, were completed a few years later. The 9th Settlement Report acknowledged that:
These canals, insignificant though they appear at first, are the greatest blessing to the district. In fact the people depend almost entirely on them for water for drinking and domestic purposes, and for the cultivation of all the more valuable crops
This traditional agriculture provided the economic basis for a decent quality of life in the Valley. The stability of-the economic base was, in turn, linked with the stability of the water resources. According to the description in the local Gazetteer, Dehradun enjoyed '... an unusually copious rainfall, and owing to the physical configuration it is seldom that the monsoon is an entire disappointment. In addition to this climatic advantage, hitherto unknown, considerable tracts of the Doon are ensured against crop failure by the canals.
Earlier, in the 8th Settlement Report, it had been pithily recorded that:
There have been no famine or droughts to ruin the people and kill off their cattle.... The Doon is what is commonly called a backward district, but so far as the comfort and well-being of all classes is concerned, it is a matter for regret, rather than otherwise, that more districts are not in the same state of back wardness.
The impact of quarrying on agriculture is most appropriately assessed within the ecological units formed by the catchments of different streams draining the Mussoorie Hills, and the command areas of canals fed by them. The Katapathar command area provides an example of an agricultural economy within the Valley which is not affected by quarrying, as this canal draws its water from the Yamuna.
As already discussed, the central ecological impact of quarrying is the destruction of land and water resources, both of which are vital inputs for food production. Also, as explained earlier, abundant rainfall combined with stable catchments provided by the Mussoorie Hills had earlier formed the most important base for a stable agricultural economy in the Valley.
The destabilisation of the resource base has destabilised food production. In most of the villages that lie below quarries, the irrigation channels have been destroyed by the flow of silt and other debris from mines or from mining roads. Village Bhitarli in the Tons catchment was self-sufficient in foodgrains and had surplus food and milk production before the quarrying operations destroyed the food and fodder base of hte village. But the submersion of the irrigation channels led to a drastic reduction in food production, and the loss of grazing land has decreased the cattle population of eight households (randomly surveyed) from 194 to 37.
The entire area below the limestone belt can no longer be used for grazing, and large areas have practically no vegetation as they are covered by debris from the mines. The few pockets of shrubs and forest that remain are of no use for cattle, because of the perpetual danger of boulders rolling down the slopes as a result of blasting. An important economic activity based on animal husbandry is therefore being eroded, and the decline in cattle population in areas affected by mining is as much as 40 per cent. The decline in livestock population affects the production of milk, the production of energy for farm operations, and the production of animal dung that provides soil fertility for sustainable agriculture-the last function being the most important one in hill agriculture. The overall result is a collapse of the food production system, which is quantified in Tables 10.2 and 10.3.
As a consequence of these problems, villagers living near the quarries are becoming increasingly dependent on non-agricultural incomes. The quarries provide employment to many of these villagers who had been rendered unemployed indirectly by the
Table 10.2 Comparative Changes in Agropastoral Economy of
Areas Affected and Not Affected Quarrying
|Indicator||Affected Areas||Unaffected Areas|
|Foodgrain production at present||1,995 Otls.||N.A.*||9,193 Otls|
|Foodgrain production twenty years ago||2,763 Otls||N.A.||5,875 Qtls|
|Livestock population at present||1,060||423||748|
|Livestock population twenty years ago||1.626||919||655|
1 Qtl = Quintal = 100 kg = 220.5 Ibs.
N.A. = not applicable.
The above data were collected for 191 households of 18 villages in the Tons catchment area and for 250 households of 19 villages in the Kalapathar command area. quarrying operations. Those who cannot withstand the hard labour in the quarries. have, reportedly, turned to brewing illicit liquor and smuggling firewood as a means of survival. Both items have a ready market in the nearby human settlements.
Quarrying affects agricultural activity not only in the villages in the vicinity of the quarries but also in the villages in the other parts of the Valley served by the canal network. As indicated earlier, destruction of the hydrological stability of the region means that there is less water than was previously available for irrigation when it is most needed. The increasing difficulty in the distribution of water interferes with the timely availability of irrigation water, and this leads to increased crop failure. The growing of Basmati rice, famous for its flavour, is on the decline in the Valley, thus reflecting the failure of the Valley to utilise its relative advantages of climate and water resources. In an early Settlement Report it was stated that 'the canals are, without doubt, the making of the Doon. The destruction of the irrigation potential through the canal system may soon prove to be the unmaking of the Doon. The lime rush which has been profitable for the quarry operators could be the only factor behind the ecological, and hence economical, collapse of the Valley.
Table 10.3 Decline of Agriculture in Baldi Valley
|Major Crops||Productivity in Qtis/Acre|
|30 Years||20 Years||10 Years||Now|
Official Response to the Signs of Disaster
The heavy negative externalities of limestone quarrying in the doon valley have long aroused popular protests. This contradiction came to a climax when a large number of leases were due for renewal at the end of 1982. In 1981 the Department of Industries of Uttar Pradesh had appointed a committee to decide the policy for renewal of the leases. According to the recommendations of this committee, quarrying was to be discontinued in the Sahastradhara area because of its impact on the Baldi Nadi (river) and the consequent ill-effects on tourism. In the Arnigad Valley, quarrying was to be selectively continued while avoiding violation of mining rules or leased rights. It was further recommended that all quarrying on the main highway linking Dehradun and Mussoorie was to be discontinued. In the Bhitarli Valley, leases were to be renewed on merit'.
Continuation of quarrying was recommended in the Nun Valley. In Banog, block quarrying was recommended on the condition that the Kempty Falls and the water pumping station for the township of Mussoorie was not damaged. In the Song Valley, total ban was recommended because of the practice of dip slope mining, as the stability of the entire mountain was in danger. On these grounds, nine out of eighteen leases that were due for renewal were recommended to be allowed to continue. Others, however, were not recommended to be allowed to continue apparently on the basis of ecological considerations as well as for safety reasons.
Contrary to the recommendation of selective renewal, the Government of Uttar Pradesh decided to impose a blanket ban on the renewal of these quarrying leases. The decision was, however, challenged in the High Court by the quarry operators, who obtained 'stay' orders allowing them to continue quarrying even in those quarries which had been recommended for closure. The stay order led to confusion among the local monitoring agencies for the quarries. The quarry operators reportedly interpreted any control and monitoring by the official agencies as interference in their activity which had been approved of by the Court. The result was severe and reckless quarrying, as the operators tried to maximise their production in a period of uncertainty about future possibilities.
In the perspective of this lack of control by official agencies' public interest litigation at the Supreme Court of India was the only alternative available for the protection of the citizens' rights to vital resources, as well as for the assertion of social control on activities related to the utilisation of common natural resources owned by the community or government for public use.
The People's Response
The resistance to the extraction of limestone from this vulnerable ecosystem was in three phases. In the first phase, the local village organisations politically resisted the mining activities. The resistance was quickly interpreted as a block to national progress, and, the organisations of villagers were subverted by converting them into cooperatives and providing them with small leases. Without the support of science or the state,.the villagers lost their campaign.
The second phase was characterized as a conflict between the state and the lessees. The Uttar Pradesh government tried to withdraw a lease in 1977 on the grounds that it would affect the 'natural beauty and ecology' of the region. The Court called on technical experts to inform its decisions. The technical experts were partisan scientists, who perceived minerals as isolated from soil and water and vegetation and who perceived the economic value of minerals only in extraction and mining. The experts informed the Court that quarrying in the lease areas 'does not necessarily affect the environmental and ecological balance in regard to water, soil and other related factors'. Without counter arguments from ecology as public interest science, even the state could not control mining in the Doon Valley.
In the third phase, citizens" groups in Dehradun and Mussoorie fought a similar case in the Supreme Court, this time informed by public interest science. The balance shifted, and the same expert who in 1977 had stated that quarrying was ecologically safe now said of the same quarry that 'the lease area is situated right in the immediate catchment area of a nullah and is thus subjected to conspicuous denudation by flow of water. Rectification of the situation calls for a permanent closure of this mine'. The emergence of public interest science supporting public interest litigation in the Doon Valley created a new countervailing force favouring public interest. The ecological knowledge was generated with people's participation in an ecosystems study of the Doon Valley undertaken by the authors for the Department of Environment. The study was completed in May 1983 and in June 1983 it was used to file a public interest litigation against limestone quarrying. The study showed that in the partisan, reduction) viewpoint of an economy based on the exchange value of resources, these resources are seen as isolated from one another. In this fragmented perspective, the most efficient use of limestone is its extraction for meeting the commercial/industrial demands. From the ecological viewpoint, limestone in its fractured form provides the best and the largest aquifer that can sustain the supply of water resources to the Valley. The most efficient and economic use of the mineral in this perspective which views limestone in its relationship with other resources, is its conservation for the sustained supply of water on which all economic activities in the Valley depend. Scientific' mining and 'scientific' geology in the reductionist framework is based on partial and incomplete knowledge of the diverse properties and functions of mineral resources. It is based only on specific and particular properties which provide maximum exchange value to the mineral. But minerals have properties and functions beyond those that are commercially exploitable, some of which are only realisable in situ. Mineral extraction in the reductionist framework is blind to the other functions, treats them as non-existent, and thus destroys them by maximising benefits from the commercial exploitation of individual resources.
The Court acted as a public interest science laboratory where scientific ideas were tested, verified and developed into a countervailing force challenging the power of partisan expertise. Public interest litigation backed by public interest science was successful in controlling mining.
On 12 March 1985 a Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice P.N. Bhagwati, Justice A.N. Sen and Justice R. Misra, who had been hearing the public interest litigation against limestone quarrying in the Doon Valley, passed an order closing permanently or temporarily, fifty-three limestone quarries out of sixty within the geographical limits of the Doon Valley or the Dehradun Tehsil. The honourable bench, introduced the order in the follow ing words:
This is the first case of its kind in the country involving issues related to environment and ecological balance and the questions arising for considerations are of grave moment and of significance not only to the people residing in the Mussoorie hill range forming part of the Himalayas but also in the implications to the welfare of the generality of the people living in the country. It brings into sharp focus the conflict between development and conservation and serves to emphasise the need for reconciling the two in the larger interest of the country.
The bench justified the closure of mining operations on the grounds that 'it is a price that has to be paid for protecting and safeguarding the right of the people to live in a healthy environment with minimum disturbance of ecological balance and without avoidable hazards to them and to their cattle, homes and agricultural land and undue affection of air, water and environment'. With this order the Supreme Court of India has set a precedence in accepting a stable and healthy environment as a human right and has intervened on behalf of citizens for just and sustainable development.
One of the mines that was allowed to continue operations by the interim order of the Supreme Court was the Nahi-Barkot mine operated by C.G. Gujral. The lease of the mine had expired in 1982, and for four years, the quarry had been operated on the basis of an interim injunction from the local court in Dehradun. activists launched a non-violent resistance against the ecological havoc being caused by the mine. The ecological impact of limestone quarrying in the Nahi-Kala region is more acute since the area had rich resources of forests and water and since the mine is located at the origin of water resources and on a steep slope on the hill top. In a report to the Supreme Court of India the local divisional forest officer wrote that the vegetation is undergoing serious damage by the mining activity. The trees on the nala banks have been badly damaged. At some places the trees are four to five feet under debris. The land instability generated by quarrying, road construction and the related landslips also obstruct and deplete the natural flow of water in the streams, seriously affecting the local irrigation system.
The waterfall at the source of Sinsyaru is now dry. The increase in the level of the beds of Sinsyaru Khala, Bidhalna and Jakhan rivers has led to enhanced cutting and erosion of the banks, destroying some of the best farm lands. This report also mentions that 'the nala is continuously widening, causing great damage to the agricultural fields of the village Barkot. According to a study conducted by Kalpavriksha, as part of a UNU study, the quarry is also a serious threat to the lives of villagers and their cattle. Irresponsible blasting at the quarry site has reportedly killed a number of cattle while grazing. As a result, five of the seven families living near the quarry site have been forced to abandon their lands and houses and have moved away. Kalam Singh who heads one of the two families who have decided to stay on, had to face the wrath of the quarry mafia when his young daughter was kidnapped by some labourers working in the quarries.
The record of functioning of the limestone quarry at Nahi-Kala is a record of irregular and unscientific quarrying that has violated several rules. The Uttar Pradesh Directorate of Geology and Mines had reported that the concerned limestone quarry was served a notice by the Directorate of Mine Safety on the grounds of excess vertical height of the steps, quarrying on faces steeper than a 60° slope and the rolling down of the mineral extracted.
On 15 March 1987, the movement celebrated six months of struggle. The struggle has not been easy. For six cold months, the volunteers had to spend nights under a tent near Sinsyaru Khala to make sure that their natural wealth is not turned into profits but is available for their children as a source of sustenance. Local courts have served the peaceful satyagrahis with notices of arrest while C.G. Gujral and his men have made many attempts to attack the people. On 30 November 1986 four truck loads of fifty men armed with sticks attacked the satyagraha camp. Chamandai ran down from the village and told the men that the quarry would be operated only over her dead body. They dragged her for a few hundred feet but finally had to turn back overcome by the power of her peaceful protest.
On the morning of 20 March 1987, four truckloads of goondas armed with revolvers, spears, knives, iron rods and sticks attacked the volunteers in the Sinsyaru Khala camp of the Chipko movement; there was another attack in the evening on the non-violent but determined volunteers. This left a large number of men, women and children wounded.
Itwari Devi and Chamandai who were leading the movement were stoned and Ramesh Kukreti and his colleagues received serious injuries and had to be rushed to the Doon Hospital 20 km away. While the spirit of satyagraha has remained alive in Chipko, the movement has transcended beyond its original association of hugging trees in the Garhwal Himalayas. The Chipko movement in the Doon Valley shows that the movement is not merely an issue of hugging trees, but of embracing the living resources of nature in all its diversity, including the living mountains and living waters. On 25 December. 1986, the 100th day of the struggle, Ghanshyam 'Shailani', the folk poet who gave the movement its name in a song he wrote in 1971, spent the whole day singing new songs about the Chipko against quarrying in the Doon Valley. With his songs, the strength of the Doon Valley Chipko is renewed to fight an extended battle for the protection of nature:
A fight for truth has begun at Sinsyaru Khala
A fight for rights has begun in Mulkot Thano
Sister, it is a fight to protect our mountains and forests
They give us life
Hug the life of the living trees and streams to your hearts
Resist the digging of mountains which kills our forests and our streams
A fight for life has begun at Sinsyuru Khala