June 18, 2009

life in general: monsoon eludes bombay & north of it!

In my previous (last Friday) blog post on monsoon, I posted a satellite picture of the Indian sub-continent from the University of Dundee's satellite receiving station. In that picture, you can see a large cloud formation taking place deep inside the Arabian Sea.

Well, look at the latest (yesterday evening's) satellite picture below (click on the image to see it enlarged). That large cloud formation has now approached the Indian coast. But it is to the south west of Bombay and if winds, as they have been in the last many days, continue to flow from west to east (instead of south-west to north-east as they normally do during this time of the year) then Bombay could be in serious trouble. If no new big cloud formations form quickly that moves in the direction of Bombay and north of it, there won't be any decent amount of rainfall for another 2 weeks at least.

As per Indian Meteorological Department's (IMD's) regional centre in Bombay, the rainfall-measuring centres in Colaba and Santacruz have recorded, (till now in this year's monsoon season), a rainfall of only 5.5 millimeters and 0.1 millimeters that, compared to the IMD normal figures for 18 June is short by 227 millimeters and 205 millimeters respectively.

IMD's report of 10 June for Maharashtra and Goa revealed the following facts:


CHIEF FEATURES : . South West monsoon further advanced into some more parts of Central Arabian Sea on 06th June.The Northern limit of monsoon passed through 15 o N/ 60 o E ,15 o N/ 70 o E and Karwar. On 7th it further advanced into some more parts of Central Arabian Sea, entire Goa State and some more parts of South Konkan. The Northern limit of monsoon passed through 17 o N/ 60 o E ,17 o N/ 70 o E, Ratnagiri and Gadag.

a) Districtwise rainfall for the week ending 13-06-2009 ( From 04-06-2009 to 10-06-2009 )

Excess Goa,Sindhudurg,Gadchiroli,Chandrapur
Normal Ahmednagar,Pune,Sangli,Satara,Nagpur,Bhandara.
Deficient ratnagiri,Kolhapur,
Scanty Mumbai,Raigad,Nandurbar,Nashik,Solapur,Aurangabad,Beed,Jalna,Latur,Nanded,Osmanabad,Parbhani,Amaravati,Buldhana,Gondia,Wardha,Washim,Yeotmal
No Rain Thane,Dhule,Jalgaon,Akola,

In Bombay, to make matters much worse, the 4-5 artificially-constructed lakes 100-200 kms to the north-east and north of Bombay are seeing their water levels (from last year's monsoon) fall. See the newsreport here or read it below the satellite image below. Water, in the meanwhile, continues to used recklessly and wastefully by the affluent citizens of Bombay. It is a criminal waste as I have highlighted in a couple of past blog posts. But BMC and the mainstream media will continue to maintain a criminal silence on it and do absolutely nothing about it. Shame on such Indians!

18 Jun 2009, 0049 hrs IST, Sukhada Tatke , TNN
There is more bad news for the city which is already facing a 10% water cut. More water cuts seem imminent if it does not rain by the end of the week as the dipping lake levels have become a cause for concern.
The city right now has water reserves to last only up to a fortnight. Of the six lakes that supply water to the city, the Vihar and the Upper Vaitarna have already reached the lowest drawable level. The Tansa and the Tulsi have enough water to last for a week and the Bhatsa and the Modak Sagar can continue supplying water with ease till the end of the month.
Civic officials say they cannot take the risk of using up all the water that is there now and that is why more water cuts may be a reality. "The water levels are dripping drastically. This will pose a major problem next year. The situation is very grim, the meteorological department has not been able to give us a proper prediction,'' said a senior civic official.
Hydraulic chief S S Korlekar said the department would have to assess the situation and come to a conclusion soon. "We have to still decide on how much further we need to increase the cut,'' he said.
The hydraulic department, in its white paper tabled at the civic standing committee on Wednesday, blamed unplanned and rapid development in the past three decades for the water scarcity in the city and warned the situation might worsen if the state and the BMC continued to provide FSI and TDR sops. But civic chief Jairaj Phatak said: "FSI does not necessarily lead to population growth. Even if there is an increase in FSI, the same people get rehabilitated after redevelopment,'' he justified. However, corporators cried foul saying that the explanation was not good enough.
"The white paper clearly says that the water supply network has been planned on the basis of norms formulated in the Development Control (DC) Regulations, 1991, where FSI for the island city and suburbs was restricted to 1.33 and 1. Phatak always presented the amendments in the DC rules in a positive light,'' BJP leader Ashish Shelar said.
The white paper says: "The incentive FSI and TDR perquisites for slum and private redevelopment of new and dilapidated buildings have put severe burden on it, leading to reduced water supply.''

June 12, 2009

life in general: where is the indian monsoon?

Where is the Indian monsoon? It is mid-June and no signs of the Indian monsoon in Bombay.

Have a look below at the satellite picture of the Indian subcontinent yesterday (11 June) evening:


June 10, 2009

life in general & financial markets: a different stroke

This is a well-articulated write-up that I came across in my mailbox today. Its from Sunita Narain who heads the Centre for Science and Environment. I have shared her write-ups in earlier blog posts as well.

Reading her latest write-up that I share below, I do not completely agree with her intense belief that the rural employment scheme is what got Congress re-elected. Congress (and its UPA alliance) did not get much more number of votes than in the previous election but this time the non-Congress/UPA votes got distributed way too much between the non-Congress/UPA parties. Whether it is a good or bad sign I don't know, but Congress/UPA win was not very convincing.

Anyway, here is Sunita Narain's insight, and she writes much more sense than almost all the business editors in India:


Down to Earth - Editorial: Time to be different.
By Sunita Narain
The new (old) government is back. The question is if it has learnt its most important lesson: how to enjoin its political agenda to the agenda of government.
Let me explain. It was not the Indo-US nuclear deal, which won the Congress Party the elections. It was the national rural employment guarantee programme, which provided people entitlement to work, gave them cash to survive drought or a flood. Similarly, it was not the ecstasy of the stock market, the opening of the retail sector or the grandiose special economic zones that won the day. This government was re-elected - as its leaders reminded people in their rallies - because it gave better prices to farmers, wrote off loans and gave tribals and other poor forest dwellers rights over their land.
In other words, it got elected for all the ‘wrong’ things, as the reformists put it. The reformists have already made it clear, now the noisy, obstructionist Communist formation is out, they want more reform. They want it fast. They want to divorce politics from governance. They want ‘populist’ things, good to win votes and rally people, out of the way. Already, corporate leaders have taken over the airwaves to hammer in the market reform agenda. People seem already forgotten.
So are we in for another interregnum between elections, when the government will focus on the ‘real’ agenda of the corporate world and forget the issues that got it the votes? Or will this second-term government grow up and understand good politics is also good governance?
After all, this is a time the entire free-market loving world is learning greed is not so good, and that a corporate-driven agenda creates havoc. Today, all countries are re-evaluating their policies—some seriously. All top know-it-all economists agree they still don’t know how the world economy will fare. They are beginning to admit, albeit in whispers, the consumer-driven economic model shows fatal weakness. It is now clear countries are more vulnerable when driven by the assumption people living somewhere else will have an infinite ability to spend and consume. In these times, we also need a new growth model, driven by resilience and sustainability.
This is a time for difference. Instead of focusing on bankrupt ideas - disinvestment in the public sector; FDI in retail; privatization of insurance, banks and pension funds - we can think of strategies that combine the needs of all with growth for all.
Take the employment guarantee scheme, dismissed as a corrupt, inefficient programme. The fact is this scheme is no different from what the rich world is today re-discovering in the name of Keynesian public investment-driven recovery programmes. It invests public funds to create public assets with the labour of poor people. The opportunity lies in using such labour to build assets: for relief against drought, for instance. The national rural employment programme is already the world’s biggest ecological regeneration effort - just under a million water bodies being dug, desilted or renovated. We must make sure these water bodies are not just holes in the ground, but will capture the next rain and recharge the aquifer.
It is possible. Doable. People’s desperation and demand for work, already recognized, must now be converted into a demand for development. People will use their labour to plan their village regeneration plans and then build their own durable assets. This is not possible without giving people rights over their resources - their local forest and their water resources. This is the ‘reform’ the top leadership must believe in and back.
Another big-ticket concern is dryland and rainfed agriculture. Most of India today, after years of public investment in surface irrigation structures, remains dependent on increasingly variable rain. The monsoon is the true finance minister for most poor Indians. We must recognize multipurpose agriculture as practised in dryland areas - combining coarse cereals with animal care and its products all mixed with off-farm products like artisanal craft - is one way to build affordable and resilient economies. Today our policies discount and destroy these local economies. Tomorrow, our strategies must build on their strengths. For instance, fiscal policies must recognize crops that minimize the use of water - more crops per drop - and include ‘coarse’ cereals in the public distribution system. Simultaneously, we must build local water security, to enhance productivity. We must do this not by increasing costs of cultivation but reducing costs and investing in resilience.
The third challenge is to invest big in building employment opportunities for the future. But this will demand recognizing jobs where we do not see they exist. Currently, all our policies push for organized business, in retail or in manufacturing. But we forget this business is not labour intensive and tends to collapse when the world sneezes. We need employment which is domestic, built on multiple opportunities and comprises millions of enterprises.
The next reform must be in education and health - reinvent ways to ensure the systems are efficient, affordable and accessible to all. Public investment in these sectors does not work if it is not accountable. And private investment will not flow into these sectors, which, being about the poor, are not profitable. So, we will have to do things differently, without dogma, with the idea of reform for those who voted the government to power.
Postscript: Remember, corporate India had anointed Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi their prime minister. They had dumped this government and its prime minister. This government is in power not because of them, but because of the poor. This trust must be kept. It is time to be different.
Read this editorial online: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/
To comment, write to cse@equitywatch.org