Making Difference: One Step At A Time
First, let’s go back to our old school days and look at the Hydrological cycle: the water transpirates, evaporates and finally condenses back. The condensed water comes back to us, and its fate is what our civilization depends upon. This water precipitation and collection varies spatially (it is not the same everywhere), temporally (the amount of water changes with the seasons), and now it has also begun to undergo variation due to climate change- i.e. the trends have changed from what they were 50 years ago and it is quite possible that these changes have occurred due to human intervention.
Now, how do we humans ‘intervene’?
Since our survival depends on the availability of water, we want to have control over the water resources. There has been an age old demand of water for irrigation for agriculture and it must be fulfilled else we’ll lose the plants and crops. To solve this problem, we channelized surface water making canals and reservoirs. But this wasn’t enough!
So, the Mechanical Engineers came up with this beautiful gadget called the ‘Tubewell’. Created with a very good intention of making irrigation easier and saving crops, it is now being used to exploit the resources. A person, having a tubewell with access to electricity can draw any amount of water from the ground and use it (or misuse it) at his/her disposal. Over 20 years the number of Tubewells have multiplied in millions but the question still remains whether it should be used at such a large extent or not because the water is not getting replenished and the ground table levels continue to fall.
Other than for agricultural purposes, we’ve also intervened on the surface flow creating dams, canals and cutting off flood plains. Creating dams and canals wrecks havoc on the flora and fauna of that area, but that’s not all. It also destroys the natural habitat of species thriving on the river downstream because the flow pattern and volume changes. The flow of rivers also depends on the ground water and changing those levels affects the river water. Besides, we have turned our rivers into drains, disposing off our waste effluents into it; and the extent of damage it has done to the natural biodiversity as well as our own fellow beings is clearly visible.
So is there a solution?
It is clear that no development can take place without damaging the natural processes. Some harm is inevitable but what we need to work on is minimizing that damage to a level such that the natural ecosystem is able to sustain itself. The impacts created by such activities must be within a specific limit. Irrigation, Hydropower, Municipalities and Industries all function on a common resource. Resources are finite and their demand is ever increasing. Our country’s present need is to ensure that the water abstraction from ground confines to natural recharge limit. Rain water harvesting is good but it must be wisely implemented because ultimately it is the same water that will replenish the groundwater levels. The long term solution will, however, always be to reduce our demands, treat water properly after using, and develop methods for reusing it.