Jagan should look beyond Naidu's illegal structures

Jagan should look beyond Naidu

AP Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy has got one building built illegally demolished claiming he would not tolerate encroachments. He is missing the wood for the trees.

AP Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy has got one building built illegally demolished claiming he would not tolerate encroachments. He is missing the wood for the trees.

All that he can see is his rival Chandrababu Naidu's buildings. Beyond that? Does he know that the entire Krishnalanka of Vijayawada has to go in that case?

How about Gunadala Hill? Does he plan to clear it of all those houses that people have built there? Similarly, on all those hills and river plains including the one called Ajithsingh Nagar which is on the Budameru flood plain? He should have done some basics before acting against Naidu.

There are illegal constructions all along the rivers in the State. He will never be able to act against them. The lack of protection of river floodplains from damaging impacts like encroachment and diversion for 'developmental projects' is a tragedy that affects both the river as well as those who encroach it adversely.

The river suffers as it is unable to occupy and transport floodwaters downstream during high rainfall events (monsoon in particular).

It is unable to recharge aquifers, wet the lands along its banks or provide life-sustaining conditions to plant and animal habitats along the river margins and banks. It cannot also cut and deposit soil on its banks in a natural fashion or maintain its oxbow and floodplain wetlands.

Damage to floodplains harms the riverine ecosystem, lessens groundwater recharge capacity and poses threats of flash floods. People too suffer an immense loss of life and property, including loss of public infrastructure like bridges, roads, schools etc., during high floods.

It is indeed a shame that despite a series of disastrous floods in recent times such as in Mumbai (2005), Kedarnath (2013), Srinagar (2014), Chennai (2015) and Kerala (2018) resulting from human occupation of river floodplains, the nation is still without a legally mandated prohibition on such ingress into and violation of river's integrity.

The Kerala floods are a tragic reminder of the cost that the nation is paying for its inability to enact a river regulation zone (RRZ).

Since the constitution lists 'land' as a State preserve and States see river floodplains as "developable lands", they are reluctant to admit the overriding need for its legal protection against occupation and conversion.

Also, once a disastrous event has diminished in the public memory, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC) also forgets its obligation towards protecting nation's natural resources (including rivers) and the relevant file goes back to a state of hibernation.

In 1975, the Union Water Resources Ministry had circulated a model Bill on the subject to the States, but it has been ignored. Instead of taking it out on Naidu, Jagan should, if really interested, work with the Centre on the new Bill it is working on.

The value of the land and the lack of value for rivers is the major force working against river zone and floodplain protection.

Jagan should study the subject in depth and act wisely and not for vicarious pleasure of throwing Naidu on to the streets.

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