Dying Water Bodies of India

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We have always looked up rivers as sources of water and inevitable the human life on earth. Undoubtedly, almost all ancient civilizations flourished around rivers and so named accordingly. In reference to Indian Sub-continent its physical feature is quite undulating. In fact, wisdom of our forefathers was working on the basis of our natural resources. Even if we ignore rivers following down from snow capped Himalayas or Western Ghats, making deltas or estuaries; we have also being blessed by innumerous land bound water bodies.

The commonsense of a villager was more responsible & dedicated enough to protect and preserve these water bodies. They were in all types and sizes ranging from small ponds to big lakes. It may sound silly but this is the truth today’s an educated engineer to even agricultural scientist are ignorant about the importance of these water bodies in our lives. They are not just depressions in our land to accumulate water which can be used later but they are recharging points of our underground water.

Till few decades back we were sensitive enough to protect these ponds & lakes. Villagers where drawing water for their cattle’s need and irrigation purposes and sometime, for washing and drinking requirements of rural population. Urban expansion has influenced our physical outlook along our thought process. When concrete and tar become most desired medium, an imported mode, led to completely uproot the traditional ways of our civilized society.

Irrespective to any part of the country each and every village had one or two ponds. Now we have to understand the utility of these ponds. Every monsoon, these ponds were collecting rain water which was reaching through small streams, paths and nallies. The catchment area depended according to the slant or incline of the area/ village. Rather an wisdom to build pond at location where water flows in naturally without any effort. Sometime a check dam or simple wall was saving water from draining out completely. These ponds were recharging points for the underground water. But gradually these ponds have vanished and being replaced by irrigation canals supported by Government and bore-well. Over exploitation underground water through bore-wells for irrigation has brought down the water table with each passing year. And the greed to have more land for anything from house to cultivation, the conversion had no rules or any limitation.  It is strange, modern British engineer was focusing on supplying water through dams, canals and water tanks specially along railway tracks, Indian wisdom was promoting in accumulating water. Examples can be found from low rainfall receiving Rajasthan, to moderate regions of Gujarat to high rainfall region of Assam & Mizoram.  

Agriculture was converted into a commercial work and so has its patterns. Areas those were ideal for millet production were forced to tilt paddy increased the dependency of farmers on excess underground water then on chemical fertilizer and hybrid seeds. Water pulling means extensive use of fuel to run generator leading to carbon emission and so on. A nexus of large MNCs where a farmer is misled to buy costly and one time use seeds & fertilizer, eventual entering a vicious circle. Following this a poor farmer borrows a loan from bank to buy pesticides & insecticide. Unfortunately, due to bad production and even in situation of bumper production he is unable to repay due to obvious reasons but next year again he is lured into the similar dupe. This commercial agriculture has over exploited our natural resources without any logical end. 

It’s not only oil or gas which is limited even fresh water is limited which behold the key of life on planet earth. And if we seize to use it sensibly we might also exhaust it well before the natural oil or gas vanishes from this planet. If California in US is facing situation of drought so is Punjab in India due to senseless agricultural practices. California is feeding bowl of US as is Punjab for India. The underground water table in Punjab itself has gone down drastically. In India farmers from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Kashmir are few to mention where farmers are facing problems. Only because policy drafting system is busy in something which not about relief for farmers, it has become constant phenomena by reliving them from loans etc will not solve the real reason behind it.

The thought is that we need a more management then just policy drafts. Small farmers can feed us we don’t need commercial farming to feed our urban population. If you have doubts then recall how farmers are still waiting to get paid for their crop they have supplied to some sugar factory of Government run markets (mandi). Some farmers just get rid of their produce by dumping them on roadsides because they are not getting appropriate price for their produce. Imagine the energy: the fuel, labour, seed, water, fertilizer, electricity used everything goes in drain.

Most of the small industries are ignoring any kind of regulation on effluent plants and indeed untreated water flushed by them is unnoticed hence polluting our water bodies and rivers alike. Urban population has to understand that by regulating underground sucking tube-wells system will only ensure that we get water in future. Surprisingly, no town planning is sensitive towards recharging underground water in cities and also in keeping rivers clean. Mother nature has its own ways, hopefully we will understand the importance of curing water-bodies in our lives before we the greedy human race starts vanishing from planet earth. Hopefully government can bring some scheme under which will help in reviving these water bodies. Reason of looking up to government is that villagers have lost the sense of belongingness to these natural resources. This could have initiated the idea of doing it themselves which they might have followed long back if they had felt it this way.

(Nidhi Singh)


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