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Water Management

28-AUG-2015 14:47

    Water resource management is the activity of planning, developing, distributing and managing the optimum use of water resources. It is a sub-set of water cycle management. Ideally, water resource management planning has regard to all the competing demands for water and seeks to allocate water on an equitable basis to satisfy all uses and demands. As with other resource management, this is rarely possible in practice.

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    The water cycle, through evaporation and precipitation, maintains hydrological systems which form rivers and lakes and support in a variety of aquatic ecosystems. Wetlands are intermediate forms between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and contain species of plants and animals that are highly moisture dependent.

    Statistics on Water

    Water covers 70% of the earth’s surface but only 3% of this is fresh water. Of this, 2% is in polar ice caps and only 1% is usable water in rivers, lakes and subsoil aquifers. Only a fraction of this can be actually used. At a global level 70% of water is used for agriculture about 25% for industry and only 5% for domestic use. However this varies in different countries and industrialized countries use a greater percentage for industry. India uses 90% for agriculture, 7% for industry and 3% for domestic use. The total annual freshwater withdrawals today are estimated at 3800 cubic kilometers, twice as much as just 50 years ago (World Commission on Dams, 2000). Studies indicate that a person needs a minimum of 20 to 40 liters of water per day for drinking and sanitation. More than one billion people worldwide have no access to clean water.

    India is expected to face critical levels of water stress by 2025. At the global level 31 countries are already short of water and by 2025 there will be 48 countries facing serious water shortages. The UN has estimated that by the year 2050, 4 billion people will be seriously affected by water shortages. This will lead to multiple conflicts between countries over the sharing of water. Around 20 major cities in India face chronic or interrupted water shortages. There are 100 countries that share the waters of 13 large rivers and lakes. International accords that will look at a fair distribution of water in such areas will become critical to world peace. India and Bangladesh already have a negotiated agreement on the water use of the Ganges.

    Sustainable Water Management: ‘Save water’ campaigns are essential to make people everywhere aware of the dangers of water scarcity. A number of measures need to be taken for the better management of the world’s water resources. These include measures such as:

    • Building several small reservoirs instead of few mega projects.
    • Develop small catchment dams and protect wetlands.
    • Soil management, micro catchment development and afforestation permits recharging of underground aquifers thus reducing the need for large dams.
    • Treating and recycling municipal waste water for agricultural use.
    • Preventing leakages from dams and canals.
    • Preventing loss in Municipal pipes.
    • Effective rain water harvesting in urban environments.
    • Water conservation measures in agriculture such as using drip irrigation.
    • Pricing water at its real value makes people use it more responsibly and efficiently and reduces water wasting.
    • In deforested areas where land has been degraded, soil management by bunding along the hill slopes and making ‘nala’ plugs, can help retain moisture and make it possible to re-vegetate degraded areas.

    Dams Problems

    • Fragmentation and physical transformation of rivers.
    • Serious impacts on riverine ecosystems.
    • Social consequences of large dams due to displacement of people.
    • Water logging and Stalinization of surrounding lands.
    • Dislodging animal populations, damaging their habitat and cutting off their migration routes.
    • Fishing and travel by boat disrupted.
    • The emission of green house gases from reservoirs due to rotting vegetation and carbon inflows from the catchment is a recently identified impact.

    Sardar Sarovar Project

    The World Bank’s withdrawal from the Sardar Sarovar Project in India in 1993 was a result of the demands of local people threatened with the loss of their livelihoods and homes in the submergence area. This dam in Gujarat on the Narmada has displaced thousands of tribal folk, whose lives and livelihoods were linked to the river, the forests and their agricultural lands. While they and the fishermen at the estuary have lost their homeland, rich farmers downstream will get water for agriculture.

    Kulhs in Himachal Pradesh

    Parts of Himachal Pradesh had evolved a local system of canal irrigation called kulhs over four hundred years ago. The water flowing in the streams was diverted into man-made channels which took this water to numerous villages down the hillside. The management of the water flowing in these kulhs was by common agreement among all the villages. Interestingly, during the planting season, water was first used by the village farthest away from the source of the kulh, then by villages progressively higher up. These kulhs were managed by two or three people who were paid by the villagers. In addition to irrigation, water from these kulhs also percolated into the soil and fed springs at various points. After the kulhs were taken over by the Irrigation Department, most of them became defunct and there is no amicable sharing of water as before.

    Water harvesting is an age-old concept in India. They are called as

    • Khadins, tanks and nadis in Rajasthan,
    • Bandharas and tals in Maharashtra,
    • Bundhis in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, ahars and pynes in Bihar,
    • Kulhs in Himachal Pradesh,
    • Ponds in the Kandi belt of Jammu region, and
    • Eris (tanks) in Tamil Nadu,
    • Surangams in Kerala, and
    • Kattas in Karnataka are some of the ancient water harvesting, including water conveyance, structures still in use today. Water harvesting techniques are highly locale specific and the benefits are also localized. Giving people control over their local water resources ensures that mismanagement and over-exploitation of these resources is reduced.

     

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