India: Water for All?

In September 2007, the government of Maharashtra, India, invited bids from private companies for the completion of the Nira-Deogarh water project in the Satara district of Maharashtra. The construction of the dam was completed some years prior to this, but canals for irrigation and distribution were not. It was India's first move toward privatization, but the government, which lacked sufficient funds for the project, felt it was the best move at the time.

The invitation for bids was successful, but the move to privatize the remainder of the project invited censure from the locals as well as activists. Activists were enraged by the displacement of the villagers in the areas near the dam and by the move to give control over irrigation water supply to a private organization. Farmers and locals were afraid that privatizing the water supply would mean that water taxes and charges would go up.

The suicide rate among farmers in Maharashtra is the highest in India. Farmers can barely afford hybrid seeds and are heavily in debt. An increase in water taxes would be the final straw. Combined agitation by activists and locals alike lead the state to put the move toward privatization on hold in November 2008.

The implications of privatization of water sources and distribution include a possible rise in water rates and the handing of control over water sources to a private organization, that could decide who gets water and who doesn't — leading to an inequitable distribution of water. Water is a basic human necessity, and the world is poised at the brink of a major water crisis.

Wells in Udupi

Sonali Kudva, Pulitzer Student Fellow

As I did my project, I began to become more aware of the different water issues we face in India. At a large-scale public level, we have problems like privatization, but on a smaller scale, just everyday life sometimes brings with it, its own sets of issues which contribute to the larger global water crisis.

There’s no going back for them

Sonali Kudva, Pulitzer Student Fellow

I was delighted to meet Swapnil Kumbhar, one of those affected and displaced when the dam itself was built.

Swapnil's family had land right where the current wall stands for the Nira-Deoghar dam. His family believed in the promises made by the government in terms of the compensation they would receive for the losses incurred by them.

Water Barons

Sonali Kudva, Pulitzer Student Fellow

When I undertook this project on water issues, I had in my mind a term that I thought I had come up with. That term was "Water Barons." I was wrong. I hadn't coined it. It had existed before. It was a term that I heard when I spoke with Datta Desai from the organization, Bharatiya Gyana Vigyana Sanstha.

Announcing the 2009 Student Reporting Fellows!

Students at Campus Consortium member schools were eligible to apply for reporting fellowships of up to $2,000 each and the opportunity to work with the Pulitzer Center staff on an international reporting project. Listed below are the inaugural winners for 2009 and previews of their projects.