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Case study : 6

Bhima River Basin, India

1. Basis statistics

Total river basin area: 48,631 km²
Average annual rainfall: 2500 mm in the upper reaches, 500 mm in the lower reaches of the basin, in the four months of the monsoon season.
Population: 12.33 million people (1990, 30.90 million people expected in 2030)
Main income activity: agriculture

2. Stakeholders

Leading organisation: Gomukh , a non-governmental organisation involved in direct field interventions related to land and water issues in the Bhima basin.

Other stakeholders: National and regional government; local communities; NGO’s, irrigation committees; Self Help Groups; private sector.

3. Background

Though the state of
Maharashtra has about 75% of the basin area of the Bhima and receives abundant rainfall, the inter-state tribunal award and national policy restricted Maharashtra State from using this water. It had to release this water, without obstructing it, to the riparian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in order to satisfy the water requirements of these low rainfall regions. The award of the tribunal is open again for negotiation, which could easily cause conflicts over the scarce water resources. Additionally, the mainstream policy of centralized water impounding has favoured the construction of big and medium sized dams, whereas the actual demand for water for drinking and domestic use is decentralized and dispersed. These dams have had major negative impacts on livelihoods and environmental qualities.

The inadequacy of the current planning process is so serious that more than 80% of the basin area and an equal proportion of the rural population living in villages still remain completely outside the purview of irrigation systems developed so far. The majority of the water resources harvested in major - medium irrigation dams is used for irrigating sugarcane fields (in which half of the elected Members of the Legislative Assembly from the Bhima basin hold a major political and economic interest), which constitute only 3% of the cultivable land. On the one hand, there is a severe shortage of drinking water for the majority of the rural population and on the other hand, the sugarcane fields are flooded with water.

The need of the hour is to initiate a meaningful dialogue between the stakeholders of the Bhima waters so as to ensure equitable distribution of the available water resources in the river basin. Gomukh has been developing several activities throughout the basin, varying from active involvement in river basin management in areas neglected by government agencies to activities of social and environmental restoration in areas in which government interventions have had major negative impacts. The challenge is to integrate all seemingly stand-alone activities into one vision for the entire basin, and negotiate this vision within the Bhima
Water Partnership and other relevant, government coordinated, institution and policy design processes.

4. Case Study

Gomukh identifies past and ongoing initiatives in which negotiation has been a major element in decision-making, and facilitates the build-up of wider coalitions within the Bhima basin to strengthen negotiation positions of local actors. Basically, it facilitates the enlargement of the negotiation process (outside the state of
Maharashtra), allowing local negotiations to spill over into regional and eventually basin and national negotiations.

Expected results:
a) a strengthened position of local actors on a river basin level;
b) a clear articulation of the local actors’ vision on the management of the river basin;
c) insight into the ways in which supra-local negotiation processes work, and in what ways power imbalances could be dealt with.




 

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    2004 Dialogue on Water, Food and Environment. All rights reserved.