TODAY -

Hilly North-East to rely on Rain Water Harvesting

Kamal Baruah *



We were sipping summer drinks to quench our thirst at City Center. It was sheer joie de vivre but a message from WhatsApp shattered in a jiffy. A child drinks surface water contaminated with human and animal faces. At the same time, a few celebrities drink luxury packaged water priced at Rs 600 per litre.

My heart goes out to the people of Tanzania where millions of people living in the border of Uganda have no access to safe water and basic sanitation. Women walk miles to fetch half a bucket of water from the Lake Victoria. Old and sick gathers water from dirty swamp. Children die in diarrhoea due hygiene practices. The life is utter hell there.

We’re grateful to God that India has been blessed by enough rainwater. We should make all efforts to conserve this blessing. Assamese give little importance since Brahmaputra and its tributaries are flowing abundantly across the state. But hilly states of North-Eastern face crisis of drinking water although it gets rainfall throughout the year.

My memories of conserving water were the drums of rainwater for making fountain pen ink at our neighbourhood. Grandmother said they would go to the river to bath and wash and even fetch some for drinking in their time. I also noticed people in Shillong do makeshift arrangement to collect rainwater for household need.

The ongoing four-month monsoon rainfall will help to ease the rampant agricultural distress especially in dry regions across Northern India. A good monsoon could provide a much-needed economic boost to GDP. Concerned about the water crisis in rural India, PM Narendra Modi pitched for conservation of rainwater at Mann ki Baat.

PM wrote a letter to 601 'Gram Pradhans’ of the Amroha (the most fertile districts in UP, usually having enough rainfall) through respective District Magistrates and Collectors requesting them to conserve rainwater during monsoon. PM constitutes Ministry of Jal Shakti in NITI Aayog Council meeting recently

India finally woke up after Chennai thirsts. The southern city receives deficient rains that cause dipping of ground water. Reservoirs failed to provide as desilting is crucial for water body. I saw Madurai women working early hours of the day lifting water from traditional hand-dug well because water recede from well after sunrise. Bangalore being the city of lakes, water disappeared due to rapid urbanisation that caused apartments don’t get Cauvery water. Ground level water is disappearing at an alarming rate.

Now I realised why there is no love lost between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. What surprised me most is that half of Guwahati population does not receive sufficient water while Brahmaputra is flooded over. GMC failed to cater the need from its age-old water supply treatment plants.

24x7 JICA project suffered for years under a cloud of doubt and mistrust. It’s indeed a pity to watch children fetch water from leaked pipes by the street. Certainly “Jack and Jill went up the hill” is still words for ours in 21st century. Women and children walk extra mile to fetch drinking water. They are an iconic image of rural India.

My tenure at Jamnagar caused anxiety over storing water while I happened to drive office with a water jar. The ground water in Gujarat is salty and not fit for any purpose. To quench the thirst of Gujarat’s drought-prone coastal belt, the Reliance came up with setting up a desalination plant.

Pune hoteliers try to deal in a rather unusual way by serving half glasses of water to guests. Water is the source of energy that I realised during my AIS career. Water supply scheme in Northeast has limited coverage on account of the topographical feature. Meghalaya is reeling under acute shortage of water despite receiving the highest rainfall in the world. Nevertheless, the pine city falls in line with drinking water crisis.

Mizoram enjoys abundant monsoon rainfall. Rooftop Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) and Spring Water Collection are the main sources of domestic water supply. With the development of the gravity pipe it supply water with a pump. With the help of Government, people living atop the mountains construct water tanks to harvest rainwater that could suffice to meet the requirement round the year.

After Meghalaya now Manipur planned to go Mizoram way of mountain RWH. The number is enormous for Mizoram when 24,000 RWH tanks have been constructed with the assistance of Government while more than 1200 private tanks by individual families.

After mass movement of cleanliness drive “Swachh Bharat Avhiyan”, the government now go ahead with “Jal Shakti Abhiyan” to put importance on RWH for every household. Budget 2019 promised ‘Nal se Jal' scheme to offer piped water to every house by 2024. The Centre has asked all urban local bodies to set up effective monitoring of RWH and revive water body.

Also new guidelines will ensure all building permission to have RWH structures incorporated as per building bylaws. With RWH, Solar Power Harvesting System is possible in residential areas too. The UN focuses on ensuring availability and sustainable management of water for all. We need to explore the ecosystem in the global water cycle despite the threat of climate changes that poses to achieve universal access to water and sanitation. The world must go unite its causes to mitigate disasters.

Saudi Arabia overcomes water scarcity by undertaking sea water desalination. Chennai has huge seawater desalination plant where saltwater is drinkable now. Southern India should go for that. Concretization in Mumbai helps to avoid silting and makes drains free from clogging but at the same time it restricts natural percolation of water contributing to urban flooding.

The Himalayan Rivers play an important role in North India. Its rivers carry plenty of waters to sea. Interlinking rivers might be a solution to India’s myriad water problems in the future. Indira Canal passing Thar Desert brought green revolution in Rajasthan that transformed the barren deserts into fertile land.

The water bodies in plains have to be freed from massive encroachments for these are natural water reservoirs. But the hilly states of Northeast have no option but to rely on RWH from monsoon rain. Yet hills living people aren’t traditionally acquainted with smart changing life style. The villagers aren’t accepting the deviation from their century old life style. Piped water is no divine. They continue to depend on the stream water from the abounding hills.


* Kamal Baruah wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a former Air Warrior and currently working for SBI Dispur. He can be reached at kamal(DOT)baruah(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on July 12, 2019.



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