On 11 March, panic struck engineers at a giant power station on the banks of the Ganges river in West Bengal state.
Readings showed that the water level in the canal connecting the river to the plant was going down rapidly. Water is used to produce steam to run the turbines and for cooling vital equipment of coal-fired power stations.
By next day, authorities were forced to suspend generation at the 2,300-megawatt plant in Farakka town causing shortages in India’s power grid. Next, the vast township on the river, where more than 1,000 families of plant workers live, ran out of water. Thousands of bottles of packaged drinking water were distributed to residents, and fire engines rushed to the river to extract water for cooking and cleaning.
‘Shortage of water’
The power station – one of the 41 run by the state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation, which generates a quarter of India’s electricity – was shut for 10 days, unprecedented in its 30-year history.
“Never before have we shut down the plant because of a shortage of water,” says Milan Kumar, a senior plant official.
“We are being told by the authorities that water levels in the river have receded, and that they can do very little.”
Further downstream, say locals, ferries were suspended and sandbars emerged on the river. Some 13 barges carrying imported coal to the power station were stranded midstream because of insufficient water. Children were seen playing on a near-dry river bed.
At least 330 million people are affected by drought in India, the government has told the Supreme Court
Authorities say this number is likely to rise further given that some states with water shortages have not yet submitted status reports.
The drought is taking place as a heat wave extends across much of India with temperatures crossing 40C for days now.
An 11-year-old girl died of heatstroke while collecting water from a village pump in the western Maharashtra state.
Yogita Desai had spent close to four hours in 42C temperatures gathering water from the pump on Sunday, local journalist Manoj Sapte told the BBC.
She began vomiting after returning home and was rushed to hospital, but died early on Monday.
Yogita’s death certificate says she died of heatstroke and dehydration.
The pump was a mere 500m from her house, but a typical wait for water stretches into hours.
India is heavily dependant on monsoon rains, which have been poor for two years in a row.
The government said that nearly 256 districts across India, home to nearly a quarter of the population were impacted by the drought.
Schools have been shut in the eastern state of Orissa and more than 100 deaths due to heatstroke have been reported from across the country, including from the southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh which saw more than 2,000 deaths last summer.
The western state of Maharashtra, one of the worst affected by the drought, shifted out 13 Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket matches due to be played in the state next month because of the amount of water needed to prepare pitches.
There is growing public concern over the lack of water in many parts of the state following two successive years of drought and crop failures.
The government has asked local municipalities to stop supplying water to swimming pools and, in an unprecedented move, a train carrying half a million litres of drinking water was sent to the area of Latur.
Another train carrying 2.5 million litres of water is scheduled to reach there on Wednesday.
States like Punjab and Haryana in northern India are squabbling over ownership of river waters.
In water-scarce Orissa, farmers have reportedly breached embankments to save their crops.
Water availability in India’s 91 reservoirs is at its lowest in a decade, with stocks at a paltry 29% of their total storage capacity, according to the Central Water Commission.
Some 85% of the country’s drinking water comes from aquifers, but their levels are falling, according to WaterAid.
Photo: The overflowing Mapocho River in Santiago, where its seven million residents face drinking water problems. (AFP: Vladimir Rodas)
Heavy rains battering central Chile have now left an estimated 4 million people without drinking water, as landslides wreaked havoc and rivers breached their banks, leaving at least one person dead and closing the world’s largest underground copper mine.
A woman was killed by a landslide in the San Jose de Maipo valley, a mountainous region just south-east of capital, Santiago, while a special police force is searching for another four people in the same area, said Ricardo Toro, the head of Chile’s Onemi emergency office.
In Santiago, the national emergency response agency declared a red alert for the city of more than seven million people due to dirty water.
Television images showed streets in the upscale neighbourhood of Providencia overrun by flood waters after the Mapocho River breached its banks.
Heavy rains in the Andean foothills since Friday triggered landslides into the Maipo and Mapocho rivers.
The Intendant of Santiago’s Metropolitan region, Claudio Orrego, said late Saturday the cuts affect 4 million people, 1 million more than announced hours earlier.
Tap water production was down to 35 per cent of normal levels, said Eugenio Rodriguez, corporate manager of the Aguas Andinas water company.
Municipal authorities activated an emergency plan that includes accessing 45 backup water sources and mobilising more than 60 water trucks.
Thousands on Saturday flocked to stores to stock up on bottled water, and supermarket shelves were quickly left bare.
Aguas Andinas said that “it is not possible yet to estimate the time that service will be restored”.
The Office of National Emergencies called on residents to ration water, and collect and save water if possible.
Codelco, the world’s top copper producer, said the rains forced the Chilean state-owned miner to suspend production at its century-old underground El Teniente mine, likely leading to the loss of 5,000 tonnes of copper.
The rains flooded parts of the massive mine, located in the foothills of the Andes 150 kilometers south of Santiago, forcing its closure to let engineers and crews clean up landslides and divert streams that have caused damage to machinery, Codelco said.
Global miner Anglo American suspended mining activities at its flagship Los Bronces copper mine and the smaller El Soldado deposit for security reasons.
Carlos Pacheco is one of 17,000 beneficiaries of the CRIAR program in Bolivia. The program provides financial support to small-scale farmers to buy low-cost agricultural technologies, along with technical assistance to use and apply them. CRIAR organizes technology fairs in rural areas of Bolivia so that small-scale farmers like Mr. Pacheco can obtain information regarding various agricultural technologies and purchase those that best fit their needs.
Farmers have purchased an assortment of technologies that range from greenhouses, irrigation systems, and metal ploughs to small barns and milling equipment.
“When I heard people talk about the fair, I thought that with these kind of technologies I could find my way out of poverty,” said Mr. Pacheco.
The adoption of low-cost technologies can generate important changes in production patterns and productivity, resulting in higher incomes and improved well-being for families. Nonetheless, many short-term mechanisms are required to create a virtuous circle in which the adoption of technologies results in an increase in productivity. What are these mechanisms?
Many factors can generate this virtuous circle in agricultural production, including greater use of inputs; increased sales; and increased production of high-value crops. Despite the importance of these factors, there have been no rigorous studies that analyze the mechanisms through which this process is triggered. There was a black box to open.
Opening the black box
IDB researchers embarked on the task of opening this black box to understand what short-term mechanisms generate a long-term impact. The researchers analyzed the impact of the CRIAR program using a Propensity Score Matching methodology. This econometric approach, along with a careful data collection strategy, allowed the identification of a proper control group of farmers comparable to the beneficiary group.
Specifically, the researchers aimed to answer the following questions: Is the CRIAR program generating the initial impacts that were expected? Are short-term mechanisms being triggered so that long-term increase in productivity and income of the beneficiary households will take place? And, most importantly, what are these mechanisms and how do they work?
The researchers show that the most important short-term impacts of the CRIAR program are greater crop diversification, increased input expenditure, and higher sales of agricultural production.
Specifically, the program decreased the allocation of land to traditional crops such as potatoes and corn and increased the area allocated to modern crops with higher value added like peas and green beans. The CRIAR beneficiary households increased the production of modern crops by 11 percent compared to nonbeneficiaries. In addition, input expenditures on fertilizers, insecticides, and fungicides increased by 56 percent. Finally, production allocated for household consumption fell by 10 percent, while agricultural sales rose by the same proportion.
What are the initial mechanisms that take place among the beneficiary households that receive the new agricultural technology? The researchers suggest that beneficiary households diversify their crop portfolio, producing nontraditional crops with greater value added in larger areas.
At the same time, the increase in agricultural production for sale, together with the decrease in the proportion allocated to household consumption, indicates that beneficiary households are modifying their household economy, moving from self-sustainment toward a more market-oriented structure. Finally, the greater use and expenditure on agricultural inputs indicates that the household productive structure has changed.
The importance of understanding and assessing the short-term mechanisms that take place with this type of agricultural programs is essential for achieving long-term effectiveness. In other words, to identify, measure, and determine how these initial mechanisms trigger productivity increases is essential for policymaking decisions.
In particular, in the case of the CRIAR program, the importance of providing technical assistance, together with the delivery of technologies, was crucial to achieving program’s impact. The mere delivery of a technology is insufficient to obtain sustainable results in the long run.
Also, it is important to provide training to farmers in the management of higher value-added crops and the efficient use of inputs, while providing them with information on access to new markets. This will ensure that initial impacts of the program are sustainable over time and will ultimately result in improvements in both productivity and income of small-scale farmers like Mr. Pacheco.
he Board of Directors of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) approved a grant of USD 8 million to support the efforts of the Government of Haiti to enhance agricultural productivity in the North West Department.
The grant will allow for the development of infrastructure and services to improve agricultural productivity in the identified communities. Particular focus will be placed on improving access to water for agriculture and efficient irrigation systems. Communities will be engaged at all stages of the project cycle to ensure the sustainability of interventions.
“This project gives Haitians in the identified communities a better chance at improving their livelihoods, as well as ensuring food security for the persons in these communities and their families. We expect that through this grant, Haiti will be better able to address low productivity in the agricultural sector, which will contribute to economic growth, community development and enhance basic livelihoods across the country,” said Daniel Best, Director of Projects at CDB.
The North West Department, which is the focus of this project, is the second poorest Department in Haiti, and is especially vulnerable to food insecurity. Residents of the North West Department depend almost exclusively on agriculture for their food and nutrition security. However, this is impacted by the area’s irregular rainfall patterns, and the loss of land due to deforestation and poorly adapted agriculture production systems.
One component of the project will be creating Enhanced Agricultural Systems, which will be composed of several demand-driven sub-projects. These sub-projects are likely to include :
- Upgrading of existing and construction of new irrigation infrastructure ;
- Rehabilitating/upgrading of watersheds linked to irrigation systems with a view to sustaining water yields and mitigating the effects of flooding and erosion ;
- Capacity building and technical advice to male & female farmers and groups linked to new and existing irrigation schemes/production centres ;
- Upgrading of existing and construction/purchase of new critical infrastructure and equipment in support of production, storage and marketing of crops.
The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development of Haiti, and representatives from the Ministry as well as beneficiaries will be involved at all stages of the sub-project cycle, including the identification of sites, and the design and construction of irrigation schemes. In addition to CDB, the project is being co-financed by Welthungerhilfe (WHH), a German non-governmental aid organization, which has a long history of working in Haiti in the design and implementation of irrigation systems.