History water and all that

April 13, 2012

Learning From history



Over the years the shortage of rainwater is biting harder and harder. This year for example has seen a severe drying up of bore-wells. Private tankers scurry about and prices are up as is the waiting time. Quality of the water has deteriorated and worms are reported from taps which source water from groundwater.

Lakes and tanks are dry and command areas where once paddy grew, is now filled with construction debris to build the next large project. Storm-water drains are built upon or rerouted so that they flood nearby areas with the smallest storms.  There is no sense that a land –use plan is at work which respects water and its course and that we are fast running out of a precious resource due to sheer mis-management and callousness bordering on stupidity.

The only solution touted is the drilling of more bore-wells and deeper too. This deeper exploitation is magically supposed to solve water problems only it will end up exacerbating the situation in the long run.

Rainwater harvesting and protecting and deepening of lakes and tanks is resented as an imposition. Recycling water using treatment plants is objected to on the basis of a psychological barrier.

In the midst of this collective gloom there are some bright spots. Schools which have built large rainwater storage tanks find that they have better access to good quality water. They can use the tanks for additional storage and one filling lasts them months.

Layouts which could have collectively worked at exploiting water by drilling 450 bore-wells , one for each site, have invested in sharing the waters by drilling only a limited number of bore-wells and sharing it. The rest of the money has gone towards recharge and ensuring that every drop of rainwater is harvested.  Wastewater treatment and a well functioning system closely monitored helps access non-potable water.

In another house an existing open well has been recharged using a simple filter connected to the roof. This small well is holding out bravely in the summer and continues to provide the 500 litres needed daily.

In another layout , a large number of recharge wells connected to storm water drains have ensured that the bore-wells not going dry.

We need to find systems of multiplying good practices such as reducing demand, recycling water and harvesting rain. We need to eliminate bad practices such as leaking pipes, deeper bore-wells and filling up water bodies and drains.

A society that does not provide space for water is condemned to die of thirst. Older civilizations have collapsed in our own country when they mismanaged rivers and soil. Ours too should not share the fate. A virtuous cycle of development which involves more focused attention on preserving, protecting and investing in our water bodies is an urgent need. It is now or never.



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