Eastern Plateau

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In a two-part series, we look at the health of rivers across India. Here’s a comprehensive assessment of the rivers of the north and the east.

Rivers in India are always in the news whether it’s the interstate water sharing disputes, dams, sand mining or the recent order of the Uttarakhand high court declaring Ganga and Yamuna as living entities. Seven major river systems, over 400 rivers and numerous streams have sustained lives and livelihoods in India for centuries. Enormous pressure from faulty management practices is confining these lifelines to dams and canals, encroaching their space, pouring untreated sewage into them, and lifting sands from their banks.

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Fluorosis was first discovered in Madhya Pradesh in 1997. Since then half the state has been affected. The people involved in combating the spread of this disease in the state share their story.

It was 1995. A 34 year old doctor working in the Regional Medical Research Centre for Tribals, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Jabalpur received an appeal for help from the District Collector of Mandla, Madhya Pradesh.

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The Ahar Pynes irrigation systems were originally built and managed by the Zamindars of South Bihar. How does the system function today and who is responsible for it?

For as long as local records exist, the countryside of  South Bihar has witnessed a lone man striding across the fields night and day. In the past, he was accompanied by a lantern and a lathi. Today, his companions are a bicycle and a mobile phone. He is the Bandhwe, a man charged with overseeing the irrigation channels of the area. The term 'bandhwe' rises  from the fact that this person was usually well-built and carried a lathi, so no one had the temerity to tie him up.

The Bandhwe

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The residents of Gobariya village built two ponds for livestock rearing and horticulture, but a chance discovery led to them becoming a quicker and better income generator.

The Bhuiyas, a group of people who belong to the Scheduled Castes in Jharkhand and Bihar, have historically been landless foragers -- a fact reflected in their name which means 'of the earth'.

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To let people make their own decisions and to understand that the best solution doesn't always work are two big lessons that have come from meetings with Jharkhand's tribals.

"Clean water", emphasized the woman. "'Close to the house. Whenever it is needed", she added. She was speaking at a village meeting organised to determine what was needed to make the village water secure. The discussions had begun with an attempt to define water security.

The leader of the group sat stunned. It had taken him many moons and many meetings to explain to his peers in both the development and government sectors the concept that a tribal woman with no formal education expressed so succinctly.

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Jadugoda, Jharkhand, has the distinction of being India’s only underground mine for uranium. his coveted uranium, however, comes at a huge price for the local inhabitants in the area. Villagers in the proximity of these mines suffer from the ill effects of this toxic substance and face major health problems. These videos highlight the stark reality of our so called ‘progress’: the plight and the health and safety issues of the tribals in this area.

The rich treasure of uranium in this belt turns toxic for the ‘adivasis’, engulfing them in severe health and safety issues

A shocking story of ‘Toxic neglect’ (Source of video: womenaloudindia)

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Mangroves are tropical and subtropical coastal forests that grow in inter-tidal saline areas and estuary mouths between the land and the sea.

These ecosystems provide a bunch of direct and indirect services to humankind. This special article in Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) by Saudamini Das examines whether the mangrove forests in Kendrapada district of Orissa played any protective role during the severe cyclone that hit the state in October 1999. 

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This article on floods in Orissa shows how no lessons have been learnt yet.

This article by Kishore C Samal in the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) discusses how in the natural disater prone state of Orissa the authorities have not been able to draw up an effective disaster management plan and politicians continue to play politics with relief works. It argues that for dealing with these disasters and the relief and rehabilitation work that follows what is needed is the participation of the local community and functionaries of panchayati raj institutions, and coordination with national and international bodies.

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This article by Arun Kumar Nayak in the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) examines the movement against the construction of the Hirakud dam in Orissa.

It is evident that the domestic resistance to the project was variously compromised by nationalist rhetoric, imperatives of state development and absence of transnational support. The Hirakud dam project has failed on all of its objectives – flood management, hydropower production, irrigation and navigation. Its socio-economic impact has been devastating.

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Current studies and activities indicate that indigenous knowledge is appropriate for local situations and that it is efficient and sustainable to springboard from such knowledge and practices.

Guest post by – Rahul Bakare, Arghyam

 This article details an example where local knowledge has been used to develop access to safe water in the tribal areas of the Eastern Ghats in Andhra Pradesh

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