Millenium issue of DTE


Interview of Union water resources minister


Water harvesting for food and water security
Realisation dawns in Dewas
Citizens of Dehradun unite
Necessity breeds ingenuity


Salinity control


Dugwells: a solution to the arsenic menace?
The arsenic effect





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Vol. 2                                    No. 1                           February 2000

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Realisation dawns in Dewas

"Akash pani rokenge, patal pani badhayenge"
(We will harvest the rainwater and recharge the groundwater).

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Groundwater rises as collaboration intensifies






This movement has been launched by M Mohan Rao, district magistrate of Dewas, Madhya Pradesh, to solve the acute water crisis the district is facing for the last 10 years. Unlike many other bureaucrats, he thinks that "No movement can succeed unless people are involved in it." Adds Rao, "People have now realised that water scarcity is their problem. And the solution can only come from them . It will not come from the government."

The district administration has been extremely successful in mobilising people’s support in recharging depleting groundwater aquifers. When Rao flagged of his "Bhoojal Samvardhan Mission, Dewas" on May 28, 1999, the first of its kind in the state, nobody expected such an overwhelming support from the public.

This support has also taken the form of investment: out of the total investment of Rs 1.4 crore on water harvesting projects carried out in the district, local people have contributed more than Rs 1.3 crores. People in the district are so enthusiastic about the mission that they have constructed 5 new ponds, worked for deepening of existing 188 ponds and 156 wells, made 2542 percolation pits and installed 35 rooftop water harvesting systems.

The district is spread over around 7020 sq km with a population of 10.3 lakh spread over 1058 villages. The average rainfall in the district has been recorded around 1060 mm for the last 10 years. Dewas is part of the Malwa region, which is in eminent danger of turning into a desert. "It is very sad to read newspaper headlines that say, "Malwa maruashthal hone ja raha hai (Malwa is going to become a desert)," says Rao.

With the plateau being made up of black cotton soil, rainwater does not easily percolate down. Unregulated exploitation of groundwater for irrigation industrial and domestic use has resulted in rapidly declining groundwater tables. According to Narendra Kashyap, executive engineer, Dewas, "The water table has gone down as low as 700 to 800 feet (250 m)." People from villages such as Surmania Kharadi and Kali Ratri walk five to six kilometres everyday to fetch the drinking water. Villagers are forced to drink red and muddy water, which is what the villagers in this area get through hand pumps. All the drinking water sources in these villages dry up soon after the rainy season. "Unless we give water inputs to the groundwater aquifers, we cannot get the water from it," says Rao. After discussing the issues in several meetings, they have developed various techniques to harvest water. Techniques included tubewell recharging, percolation pits and rooftop water harvesting, which have been designed keeping in mind the geographical conditions of this area. However, since these methods recharge mostly shallow aquifers, the deep aquifers remain unreplenished while their exploitation continues unabated. "We have evolved new techniques so that we can recharge deep aquifers as well" informs Chaturvedi.

The district administration is concentrating on rooftop water harvesting systems to recharge deep dry tubewells. Rainwater is injected into those tubewells, which till recently have been used to extract water. "This is the most cost-effective technique to recharge deep aquifers. thought most of the people in the district cannot afford to construct water tanks which requires an investment anywhere between Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000", says Kashyap. The district administration figures show that there are 1400 tubewells in Dewas town.

"Even if 1000 houses of 1500 sq feet area harvest the rainwater, officials think, it will have enough water to recharge all these tubewells. The deep aquifers in Dewas are thirsty. I am surprised that none of the tubewells overflowed even after such a heavy rain this year. It means the aquifers are totally deprived of their food (water). There is no United Nations aid to the thirsty aquifers in Dewas. And no one will, in fact, do it. It is our duty and we have to do it," Rao opines.

Rao is of the opinion that such plans can never succeed if mass awareness about the needs of recharging groundwater is not created to deal with the drinking water crisis. It was a challenge for Rao to get public support for what he was planning. For this, the district administration organised a water conference ‘Jal Sammelan’ on May 28, 1999. Rao himself went to the villagers and discussed how best the people can harness the rainwater.

An officer who recognises his duty. And the value of rain and community participation.

M Mohan Rao
District Magistrate, Dewas
Ph: 07272 55 111 (O), 52222 ( R)


Citizens of Dehra Dun unite 

Dehra Dun is faced with a number of problems like water scarcity, air pollution and garbage disposal. Hope for the city came in the form of a three day seminar, "Agenda for Institutions of Dehra Dun in 21st Century - Mapping to Resource and Planning Convergence to address the issues of local development" organized by the DAV (PG) college, Dehra Dun from 21st-23rd January 2000.

Participants included various Dehra Dun institutions like the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Oil and Natural Gas Commission, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Institute, Forest Research Institute and Wild Life Institution of India. Delegates were also present from Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam, Garhwal Jal Sansthan, Regional Transport Office, local post graduate colleges, and prominent NGOs alongwith lawyers, retired scientists, teachers and research scholars.

Participants discussed the inadequate water supply, increase in air pollution, need of a garbage management system that is scientifically oriented, and the need for higher education and employment covering the dimensions of science, administration, finance, law and society.

One of the main recommendations of the seminar was to implement rainwater harvesting. The population of Dehra Dun demands 39 billion litres of water annually, and the supplies in the city do not match the demand. However, Dehra Dun, spread over an area of 38.04 sq. km. and having an average annual rainfall of 2200 mm, receives over 84 billion litres water per annum in the form of rain. Tapping even 50 per cent of the rainwater should more than suffice.

The seminar resulted in the formation of a citizen’s forum and the formation of working groups to deal with the problems that face the city. The forum will coordinate with the four working groups, dealing with water, pollution control, garbage management and higher education.

The working groups will explore possible inter-linkages between institutions to expedite rainwater harvesting. The seminar also deliberated on the various water harvesting technologies feasible for the hilly terrain of Dehra Dun. A draft action plan was formulated which proposed to involve the resourceful student community, technical experts, researchers and the Garwhal Jal Sansthan. Its target is to recharge abandoned ponds and build new ones.

Quick to set an example, the DAV (PG) college has already set a deadline of March 2000 by which they intend to revive its seven dry tanks and harvest the rain.

Sunil Bhatt
Dept. of Telecommunications
New Delhi - 110066
Ph: 618 1084 (R)

Necessity breeds ingenuity

At a farm in Delhi, water harvesting was used to convert a nuisance into an asset. The farm is a member of the Westend Green Farms Society which is an association of 60-odd farms and farm houses at Rajoukri, on the outskirts of Delhi. The area is plagued with waterlogging during the monsoon because over the years, farm-owners in the vicinity have encroached upon the natural drainage channels – the nalas - by filling them up and bringing the land into use. This has disturbed the natural drainage pattern of the area leading to waterlogging on individual farms and common areas.

As a response to waterlogging in the area, an innovative method of harvesting rainwater has been devised on one of the farms. The solution to this problem was found by digging an openwell on the bed of the nala flowing through the farm. According to Sanjay Khanna, a civil engineer who has devised and executed the system, the well has been designed to soak up all the rainfall runoff from the 1 hectare (2.5 acres) farm. The 9 m deep well, with a diameter of 2.5 m, has brick lining on its sides. It was built at a cost of Rs. 70,000.

The percolation rate of water through the well is high because it has an open bottom and lies in an area having sandy alluvial deposits. Khanna now plans to add some modifications to the well to ensure good quality of water entering the well by desilting and filtering it before it is discharged into the well.

Contact Address:

Sanjay Khanna
Manager (Civil Engineering)
SRF Limited
A-16, Aruna Asaf Ali Marg
Qutab Institutional Area
New Delhi – 110 067
Phone:011 - 685 7141