Fighting Water Woes

A painful picture of a woman collecting water from a dried up water tank in a village in Andhra Pradesh, led me to a news piece in the The New Indian Express.

According to this article, the Additional Solicitor-General (ASG) P A Narasimha, informed a Supreme Court bench that 25% of the population,which is about 33 crore people in 2,55,923 villages, 254 districts and 10 states have been affected by drought this year. 91 water reservoirs in India have only 23% of their volume remaining, and its only April; by the end of June, the figures are expected to dwindle even more. What adds to my excruciating pain is the knowledge of the fact that much of the impact of the drought on crops could have been avoided had we embraced drought resistant crop technology.

Nevertheless, the India Meteorological Department (IMD)?s recent announcement of a forecast of ?more than usual? rainfall brings respite. The IMD Director General Laxman Singh Rathore shared, “Monsoon will be 106 percent of the long period average (LPA). There is 94 percent probability that monsoon will be normal to excess this year. By and large, there will be fair distribution of monsoon across the country. But North-East India and South-East India, particularly Tamil Nadu, may get slightly less than normal rainfall.” (Source).

Apart from relief, it also brings forth an opportunity for us to embrace technology and innovation to ensure that we can leverage the rains for any erratic weather that awaits us as the years roll over. One example could lie in the widespread adoption of rainwater harvesting which is a popular practice across the world, as well as in India (among both agriculture and non-agriculture communities). Rainwater harvesting is a simple and cost effective technique of collecting rainwater for future use. There are several success stories all over the world that showcase the impact of rainwater harvesting. One such story is from the village of Bhikampura in Rajasthan where water had become a luxury commodity. However, villagers took up the challenge upon themselves and built a reservoir to collect rainwater during the monsoons. The reservoir drains water into the earth through channel openings on its sides, which later seeps back into a pond nearby when it dries up. As a result of this technique, the pond was still full even after a five-year drought in the village in 2002. (Source)

In Cambodia for example, people use corrugated iron roof, plastic pipes and ferro-cement jars to navigate rain water from the roof to storage tanks that store water in a cost effective manner which is replicable across communities. Many across the world also use rain barrels next to pipes that lead from the roof. The barrel collects water from the pipe and is recycled for various purposes. When people started witnessing overflow of tanks, they used transparent tanks to keep a tab on water level, and replace it when the tank filled up.

Tamil Nadu is one of the states of India and now has been first Indian state where rainwater harvesting has been mandatory. Tamil Nadu state government has declared on 30th of May 2014 to establish around 50,000 rainwater harvesting structures at various places in Chennai. Till now, approximately 4,000 of the temples in the Tamil Nadu have rain water tanks serving at various rituals in temples and help in recharging the groundwater.