THE OTHER SIDE
While experts with academic degrees and varied experience, senior officials and politicians go about one of their tasks of commiserating on problems and finding solutions for them it is very odd that little is being done to capitalise on one of our biggest assets. According to a study, India receives about 400 million hectare metres (mham) of rain and snowfall apart from 20 mham more flowing in as surface water from outside our geographical boundaries. It is calculated that harvesting even a fraction of this quantity through rainwater harvesting will greatly enhance the availability of clean water and result in other benefits.
Without very expensive or fancy technology, our ancestors worked out sensible and aesthetically pleasing measures to harvest rainwater for drinking, irrigation and other purposes. Not very long ago when the machinations of short sighted people with narrow aims had not ruined Dehradun, this city too had its system to collect rainwater. The natural depressions which used to act as reservoirs of rainwater have been filled to construct buildings which have disrupted the natural water drainage system. The network of nalas and khalas which carry water to such depressions and rivulets has also been taken over by encroachments. This along with constructions on the banks and even the beds of rivers results in waterlogging in various areas during the monsoon. A few months later, many areas face shortage of water. Imagine if the natural reservoirs had been preserved and maintained, there would have been lakes and smaller ponds in the city and these would not only be a source of water but also enhance the environment and surroundings making it more profitable for all including even those in the real estate business. Harvesting rainwater has advantages not limited to these aspects alone as its effect would also benefit agriculture and other activities boosting the income of people. An example of how such opportunities are treated can be seen in the Defence Colony which also houses the private home of the current chief minister. The planners thought of ‘developing’ a water body in the colony into Gaura Devi water park. A couple of crores of rupees was also reportedly approved some years ago and a foundation stone was unveiled. Plans had been made to build a restaurant, jogging track, provide boating and parking facility. Some time ago, a large ground adjoining this lake, where youngsters used to play volleyball and a few cattle used to graze was covered by homes constructed with impressive swiftness. The lake now holds more flora than water even during the monsoon.
Water is not the only resource we have been wasting to our detriment. The manner in which we allow water to go waste also affects another major resource- soil. Reading an old book about the Himalayan region long ago, one learnt that soil is the most valuable item in the mountains as it is in limited quantity compared to the plains. See how this precious resource is treated during construction of roads or other projects in the mountains- the excavated earth material is simply dumped. So, while we supposedly move forward towards greater heights of progress we continue treating two of our most precious resources with dangerous disdain. Some expensive projects are also planned or already underway to systematically waste these resources.
Next time when heavy rains result in water logging and other problems, the news and authorities will be focused on this not just here but in many parts of India including the national Capital. The same will happen in the next monsoon and a few months after that many areas will face water shortage. However, the rains cannot be blamed for these problems. Nature provides us assets and it is we who have turned these into liabilities using our special skill which causes more damage to us than good while making us think otherwise.
Saturday, 22 August 2020 | Paritosh Kimothi
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