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Vol. 3      

No. 1 

Februray   2001

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Water harvesting in news

Are dugwells or water stations the solution?

Arsenic concentration in the groundwater of Bangladesh that commonly exceeds the limits laid down by the World Health Organization has created havoc in the affected region. This crisis has given rise to a number of debates over the appropriate source of potable water, one of the topics being the use of dugwells. Formerly a common sight in rural Bangladesh, they were discontinued due to advice of health workers and subsequent proliferation of tubewells backed by the foreign Aid agencies. This is an ideal example of how an alien technology has been effective in wiping the traditional practices. The fact that surface water has microbial contamination does not make groundwater safer. Although floride concentration was known to exist in the groundwater for 40 years, no Aid agency got any prior test done before funding the nation wide programme for tubewells. Now that the tube well programme has gone out of hand and examples of success of traditional dug wells being brought to light, people are still skeptical about the dugwells and surprisingly the funding for tubewell has not stopped, despite the escalating water problem. UNICEF and Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) have recently re- excavated a few old dug wells to make people trust the surface water which has been the source of drinking water for 2000 years. One problem in the present day context is the huge human and cattle population and the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers, which make it difficult to guarantee that the dugwells will not be polluted with arsenic in the future. This leaves installation of small water purification plants or water stations as the only way to ensure potable water for the arsenic affected villages.
(The Bangladesh Observer, Dhaka, 20 January, 2001)

Bangalore’s water bodies fast disappearing

Due to rapid urbanisation and explosive city growth, there has been an overall decrease of 35.09 per cent in the number of waterbodies from 379 waterbodies in 1973, says a study done by the Indian Institute of Science’s Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES). The majority of Bangalore’s wetlands located on city outskirts have been eaten up by expansion of the city from around 67 square kilometres (sq. km) in 1961 to over six times today. The study reveals a reduction in the water spread area from 49.56 sq kms in 1973 to the present 45.26 sq kms The number of man-made wetlands in the Bangalore City Corporation and Bangalore Development Authority areas has fallen from 262 in 1960 to around 81 lakes at present, warns CES. Bus stands, residential colonies, sport complexes, golf courses stand on land that once constituted water tanks that were either land filled or got dried up. The number of tanks that got dried up account for an overall 66.07 per cent of the tanks owing to removal of vegetation and excessive silting. The results show that due to developmental activities in catchment area, drainage connectivity between important wetlands have been lost, leading to depletion in the ground water table and loss of habitat for flora, fauna and migratory birds.

(Deccan Herald, Bangalore, 24 January, 2001)

Japanese grant for water in Rajasthan, AP villages

All the water sources for Amarpura village, 40 kilometres east of Jaisalmer had dried up during the summer 2000 drought. And with no water source close by, both men and cattle lost their lives or were forced to migrate to other parts of the country. But today, following a grant from the US government World Vision, the village has water harvesting systems to store water for the summers and drought months. The harvesting systems came into place during the later half of year 2000 during the second phase of the ‘Jaisalmer/Barmer Relief Operation Programme (JROP) in which water tanks were built adopting a ‘cash for work’ approach. This January the Japanese government gave World Vision a grant of $ 1,00,000 to continue the operation in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. The new project, Nirmal Jal, based on a ‘food for work’ concept addresses the long term problems with respect to water storage capacity in the drought prone areas. The ‘food for work’ approach also takes care of the food security and income needs that have become acute as a result of the drought. During the first phase cash was preferrred as the drought was severe at that point and cash gave quicker relief to the drought hit villagers. Now the project is looking at constructing concrete tanks in low lying areas in Jaisalmer to collect and store rainwater while in Udaipur 20 tubewells would be sunk and water pipe lines for drinking water will be laid in Mehboobnagar where a community well has already been dug. The project covers 30 villages in Jaisalmer District, 20 villages in Udaipur district and 65 in Mehboobnagar in Andhra Pradesh.

(The Financial Express, New Delhi, 28 January, 2001)

Thrust on people’s participation in water conservation

Enthused by the success of people’s participation in Rajiv Gandhi Watershed Mission, under which water reservoirs were constructed and repaired in 7,132 villages, the Madhya Pradesh State government launched a paani roko abhiyaan in each village from February, 3 to 7. Of the total 45 districts in the state, as many as 157 tehsils spread across 37 districts are in the grip of drought. The main aim of the campaign was to make people stop indiscriminate use of water and take all possible measures to conserve it. The evaluation of the number of waterbodies constructed and quantity of water collected would be done by the collectors of the districts concerned on June 30, 2001 and February 28, 2002.

(Central Chronicle, Bhopal, 30 January, 2001)

Encouraging response from local bodies

The ‘user pays principle’ in urban water supply sector, mooted by the Chennai state government, has evoked an encouraging response from around 80 urban local bodies, which have geared up to set water supply improvement schemes into action. In the present scheme, the emphasis is to involve the beneficiaries in order to make the project successful and sustainable. Taken up under the Golden Jubilee Water Supply Project, the Rs 180 crore project with a state government grant of R .56 crore aims to ensure a service level of 50 litres per capita per day in 14 municipalities and 65 town panchayats. The rest of the funds shall be raised either through a one time deposit, ranging from Rs 1,500 to Rs 10,000 from domestic and commercial consumers with a levy monthly charges of Rs 40 to Rs 100, or through borrowed funds from institutions such as HUDCO.

(The Hindu, New Delhi, 1 February, 2001)


Copyright  Centre for Science and Environment