The hydrological cycles have been so disturbed and destroyed that in many parts
of India drought has become a way of life as soon as the monsoon clouds dry up.
Farmers find their crops windling as the ground water recedes from aquifer to deeper
aquifer. The prime task of the women and girls in majority of the villages is to
walk three, four and even five hours a day to fetch small quantities of water for
their families. In cities and towns, they don't walk but wait in long lines. The
loss of productive hours is huge resulting in poor income generation.
Water scarcity is constraining not only agriculture and industry, but severely risking
the health of the people. The streams of water borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid,
jaundice, gastro-enteritis and dysentery are rampant wherever paucity compel people
to drink unclean water. Infants are particularly vulnerable, and even those who
survive suffer from malnutrition, debility and a slowing down of growth. As population
grows and each person demands more and more goods and services that depend on water,
the scarcity could only be worse.Before the massive destruction of forests, the
same ecosystems produced more than sufficient fresh water to meet the needs of the
people. The situation could be salvaged if we bring back the trees and regenerate
the aquifers. The solutions lie in a combination of traditional and modern technology:-
land and water management techniques used for centuries by, for example, the Chandelas
and Moghuls, together with satellite imagery for site selection. Afforestation,
cropping and other land management practices reinforce the infiltration of water
into the ground water aquifers, leading to year round flow of water in the streams.
Restoring the bounty of water also requires the same three pillars of human endeavour:-
good management practices to encourage the natural resource conservation, good science
to design such practices and good institutions of governance to help internalise
these practices into community decision making processes.
Research has shown that ground water holds the key for increasing irrigated crop lands in India. Even after harnessing all the available potential for large dams,
only 50 per cent of the cropped area could be irrigated. The big dams need huge
funds and long gestation period, adversely affect environment and cause displacement
of people as has been highlighted in the recent case of Narmada Sagar and Tehri
dam projects. The bulk of existing and future irrigation needs with limited resources
therefore would have to be met by tapping ground water and utilizing it more efficiently.
The construction of some 100 check dams constructed in the rugged and dry area of
Bundelkhand have helped local communities bring back to life several rivers and
streams that had, over the past few decades, virtually died.