Monday, 9 September 2013
Friday, 30 August 2013
Sunday, 4 October 2009
I arrived in London last Saturday. This is my second visit to the city. Reaching at my accommodation at around 9 PM, I was delighted to see the India-Pakistan cricket match being telecasted live.
In the following days, I glued to NDTV to get news from my country. The news of floods in southern India is dominating the screen these days. It is painful to see many dead and countless losing their homes. I happened to discuss one such issue of past with my room-mate. He described me his experiences in a relief operation he was a part of, that served the people affected by flooding of the River Kosi in Bihar last year. And then I browsed over the internet to search for news about climate that made headlines in past one year or so. Ironically, not too long before, many parts of the country declared state of drought due to failure of the monsoon. The message was loud and clear. We lack the basic infrastructure to manage our water needs.
It is not the first time in history that India is marred by such ironic situation. Year after year, parts of India cry for shortage of water and monsoon failures, whereas some other parts are unable to handle excessive rainfall. We perhaps need to store this flood water and use it in times of drought. We store water at catchments, where it rains well. If we are unable to do the same, or it is expected to rain more than our storing capacity, logically, we should divert the water to some other place.
Way back in a geography class in my secondary school, I was taught about the National River Linking Project. Every time I hear of this term, a map of India appears on my mind, with the Ganga flowing east from Uttaranchal area, the Bhramaputra covering parts of North-eastern states, the five rivers of Punjab, the Narmada and Godavari in the plateau and the Cauvery in the South, all interconnected by network of canals. More like a web across the nation. All leading to prosperity and averting adversity. But this project never took off from the pages of text books. May be because it is much complicated than just drawing a web on a paper map.
Well, I don’t ask for the Ganga connected to the Cauvery, but we can create small units where canals can connect neighbouring rivers. Or perhaps various catchments. We could group certain regions to form a unit within which the interlinking can be done. For our convenience, let us call these units a Hydrosquare. Each hydrosquare could be well studied and designed taking into account the environmental effects and its impact on people staying in the concerned areas. Canals constructed within a hydrosquare could divert the excessive water to the other side or more catchments, which can preserve water. All hydrosquares in a large region could be governed by central controller, who has enough visibility on availability and demand of water in each of them. A hydrosquare could be an area covering the high rainfall region, a supplying hydrosquare, or a low rainfall region, a receiving hydrosquare. The demand of water in each hydrosquare could be studied. If supply is more than demand, excessive water could be passed on the next demanding hydrosquare.
Apart from other concerns, cost has been among top noise makers in the National River Linking Project. Innovative ideas can be sought for to meet up the cost of developing such canals and catchments. I would love to give you the example of the Thane Municipal Corporation here. This city, neighbour of Mumbai, had issues with water supply to its citizen years back. A study revealed that the pipes that supplied water to various parts of city had corroded and reported huge amount of seepage. Thus, despite availability of water, the citizen faced a shortage. The Municipal Corporation was not in a position to fund the entire repairing and replacement of the pipes. It came up with a unique idea. It asked the citizen of Thane to pay certain taxes for a specific period at once in advance. This money was directed to repairs and replacement of the pipes. Today, the problem of water shortage in houses of Thane has been done with. And the Municipal Corporation could manage the funding very well. The money too got utilized in the areas it was collected for.
India has been an agricultural country since independence, perhaps long before that. Agriculture has been a primary occupation and India cannot afford to neglect this. However, every year there is a sense of insecurity among the farmer fraternity about the approaching monsoon. And history shows a lot many farmer suicides across the country due to the failure of rains. It’s well past time that we get serious about solving this problem. A possible solution to end this is to reduce dependency on natural availability of water. Of course we cannot substitute rains, but we can store this excess water every year and use it in dry places and times of drought.
Actress Sharmila Tagore quoted on television the other day, that on one side the newspapers read India finding traces of water on moon and on other side, taps of various houses in Delhi, the national capital, were dry. Not thinking of bringing the moon water home, we could at least allow our clouds to carry the water from land to land here.