Water Crisis : Causes and Cure

In its ‘Make India Water Positive’ initiative, the Times of India addresses wastage and mismanagement of water.

Subodh Varma| TNN | Updated: May 23, 2017, 01.57 PM IST reports the following under the caption India uses up more groundwater than US and China. In the ‘High Lights’ he mentions that 1) Agricultural production over the years has mostly been fueled by heavy use of groundwater.

2) If the current trends continue, by 2030 nearly 60% of Indian aquifers will be in a critical condition.

3) Some 25% of the agricultural production will be at risk.

Right on the edge of the Ganga basin that spans 11 Indian states lies Naujhil block, a few kilometers west of the Yamuna in UP’s Mathura district. You would think this is a blessed location with plentiful water all round.With its 17 tributaries, including the Yamuna,Ganga’s catchment area has about 525 billion cubic metres (bcm) of surface water and about 171 bcm of groundwater. On average, it receives a million cubic metres of rainfall on every square kilometre. But Naujhil block is a declared “dark zone”, that is, its groundwater extraction far exceeds the recharging rate and use of electricity for pumping water is not permitted. Because of heavy withdrawal, the groundwater is very saline now.

Most residents of Managarhi use bottled water for drinking and cooking, as if they  were living in a desert and not in one of the world’s most water-rich plains. This water scarcity is spreading across India, smothering idyllic villages and high-rise city habitats in equal measure. No Indian city supplies 24×7 drinkable water to all of its residents.

In many cities, including Bengaluru and Chennai, water scarcity has reached crisis levels+ and in pampered Delhi, every summer brings intense water scarcity for the disadvantaged sections.

Meanwhile, in rural India, zooming agricultural production over the years has mostly been fuelled by heavy use of groundwater because not enough investment was made for using surface and rainwater through canals and reservoirs. Now, take a look at India’s water equation: after accounting for losses due to evaporation and unusable water like brackish water or swamp water, the total usable water available in the,country is 1,123 bcm, while the total water consumption in 2006 was 829 bcm, projected to rise to 1,093 bcm by 2020. So, in just a few years, India will reach its limit of water consumption because water supply cannot be increased. It is a definite, finite resource.

Just 18% of rainwater is used effectively while 48% enters the river systems, most of which just flows into the ocean, according to Narayan Hegde, a water expert with the BAIF Research Development Foundation. “Farm ponds, percolation tanks, water reservoirs and small and medium-sized dams can help retain more surface water while increasing the groundwater recharge,” he told TOI.

This would ease some of the pressure off groundwater usage that has pushed 29% of the country’s blocks into the “over-exploited” category, that is, where groundwater withdrawal is more than the possible recharge. This indiscriminate withdrawal, as in Naujhil, has led India to showing an annual groundwater usage that is more than the combined usage by the US and China. Studies by NASA using satellite imagery show that the Indus basin, which includes the high food producing states of Punjab and Haryana, is one of the most stressed aquifers in the world.

If the current trends continue, by 2030 nearly 60% of Indian aquifers will be in a critical condition. This means that some 25% of the agricultural production will be at risk — a devastating scenario. India’s cities are teetering on the brink of an unimaginable water crisis because of unplanned growth and low priority to provision of safe drinking water. Loss due to leaks in the supply systems and wasteful consumption practices pose a serious and unsolved problem. Cities also symbolise the injustice of water distribution with well-heeled localities getting as much as 6-8 times more water than the poorer localities. Here, too, rainwater harvesting can play an important role in supplementing municipal supplies and taking the load off precious groundwater resources.

Take the example of Delhi. It receives a mindboggling 690 billion litres of rainfall every year. Harvesting even 25% of this would yield 172 billion litres. With an average demand of about 5 billion litres per day, this could just be sufficient to tide over a hot, waterless summer month. A mix of traditional and modern technologies needs to be urgently put in place to tackle India’s impending water crisis, argues Hegde. This includes watershed development programmes, increasing the efficiency of irrigation by replacing the prevalent flood irrigation with drip or sprinkler systems and creation of desalination plants to convert seawater into drinkable sweet water.

1. As far back as in 1960s, Sri Gopaldatt Shastri, a renowned pundit and Sanskrit scholar from Arrah in Bihar and the Mantri, Shastra Dharma Prachar Sabha, in his speech at Megh Mela ground in Prayag, Allahabad, had predicted that after 40 years one would be required to purchase drinking water.This was unthinkable in those days, but the inevitable has happened. Overlooking the sanctity of pious rivers, unrestrained diversion of river waters for irrigation and other usages, disposal of industrial and town waste in river, allowing installation of numerous licensed and even far greater number of unlicensed abattoirs in different states, allowing conversion of poor Hindus by the champions of proselytisation, by force, allurement and false propaganda along with unabated cross border infiltration to change the demographic profile of various bordering States including the North East, and such numerous adharmic acts against the Shastric injunctions have culminated in the present calamitous catastrophe facing the country.

Saints and savants raised alarm, cried hoarse only to be mocked at and dishonoured. After independence, Industrial development was accorded topmost priority and considered the sine qua non for progress, by the Nehru Congress regime. Shastras have enjoined – Vrihad yantra as Upapatak. Russian help was invited for the establishment of large factories. Factories were established in quick succession but resultant inevitable hazards were neither foreseen, nor adequate mandatory safety measures to protect Mother Nature were duly addressed. To explore new scientific methods for development, English educated and Sanskriti disoriented Bharatiya shasaks, without any second thought eagerly accepted all poison spilling, non-sustainable methods to the neglect of innate strength of Bharat, its wisdom and resources. On the other hand Gandhi’s vision to promote small scale industries, and his urge to implement a complete ban on cow slaughter in the country after independence, remained grossly enshrouded for minority appeasement. The price of wrongful planning of dams, sheer neglect of statutory industrial waste management techniques, a sheepish dependence on exotic science and culture, proliferating hybrid technology in agriculture,animal husbandry, fishery(at the cost of losing indigenous rich natural diversity and quality), failure in proliferating a robust cooperative movement in diverse sectors (agriculture, processing, warehousing, transport, marketing etc.), infringement on Hindu laws of inheritance leading to fragmentation of holding(agricultural land) at the cost of disintegrating families, are only a few to mention. Each step has been against Dharmic Injunction and wisdom. The

Shastras enjoin that–A wise should analyse properly the unforeseen ill effects of a system before embracing it. Our country besieged with (self-forgetfulness) has been repeatedly failing on this account, and very recently started partly realising its follies.Retracing our old wisdom, adoption of the unparallalled Bharatiya Danda neeti and Samhitas (law of the land based on infallible divine instincts), revival of Sanskrit language, reform of existing education curricula which is clandestinely spreading spiritual bankruptcy and innovative skill among students, are yet to take off. This may be achieved only with

the establishment of a perfect Dharma rashtra without prejudice. As the  subjects of our nation are aroused to restore Truth and values, perfect peace and spiritual glory will soon prevail which awaits a strong and decisive dharmic battle to reign over infatuation  and untruth.

2. Radha Kund and Shyama Kund, the two most spiritually surcharged Kunds (ponds), are located in a village called Arita about 3 miles north-east of Govardhan and fourteen miles from Mathura and Vrindavan. Radha Kund is the holiest place in all of Brahma’s creation.Radha Kund and Shyama Kund represent the eyes of Govardhan, which is in the shape of a peacock. This is the place where Radha and Krishna performed their most intimate and most sweet pastimes. From legends we learn, how in Sri Vrindaban, when Lord Krishna slayed the mighty Arishtasura (demon) in the form of a bull, his consort Radha tersely told Krishna to wash off his sins by taking dips in various holy rivers. Krishna laughed it off and struck the ground with his foot whereupon the mighty rivers emerged, welled up and formed a kunda (little water body). Subsequently the Lord bathed in the water to please Radha. The kunda came to be called “Shyam-Kund”. Indignant that Krishna used his powers for this, Radha and her girl attendants dug out a kunda with their bangles and filled it with water from “Manasi-Ganga”, another holy kunda at nearby Govardhan. It is also stated that smt. Radharani mercifully permitted all the teerthas on their earnest request to enter the Radhakund (This leela is estimated to be 5200 years old ).

Radha kunda is the personified love of Srimati Radharani. That particular kunda is today’s “Radha- Kund” (in Arita village) where people come from far and wide to take a dip. Lord Sri Chaitanya re-discovered these two lost holy places during his visit in 1550.It may bear mention that Lord Chaitanya wanted the holy places of Vrindavan to be excavated for the benefit of all people. But at that time Radha-Kunda & Shyama-Kunda were just two small ponds. Raghunath Das Goswami thought of excavating them but he didn’t want to entangle himself in money etc. Radha & Krishna understood his heart. At the same time a wealthy merchant was on his way to Badrikasrama with the intention of building a beautiful temple for Lord Badrinath. Badrinath appeared in the dream of that merchant and instructed him to excavate Radha-Kunda under the guidance of Raghunath Das Goswami instead. In this way Radha-Kunda & Shyama-
Kunda were excavated.

While excavating Shyama-Kunda, Yudhisthira Maharaj appeared in a dream to Raghunath Das Goswami and told him that he, with his four brothers, were standing there in the form of trees and meditating on the pastimes of Radha & Krishna. So in order to show respect to the Pandavas the trees were left as it is and therefore Shyama-Kunda is not square shaped.

These all are associated with the glorious Hindu past of our land, and The Maha teerthas still exist as evidence of the glorious leelas. The sacred water has been a great source for divine worship and survival. Even in the 20th century affluent people always installed wells (Koop), or excavated ponds in villages in remembrance of their parents, or on any other pious occasion to ensure availability of portable water. The ponds were provided with established wells (pratisthit pushkarini) so that water doesn’t dry up in summer. Metal images of Hindu Gods were given in those wells so that the ponds are not defiled or desecrated. Creating newer provisions for water harvesting was considered as a great service to the society for the rich and poor alike. Besides these, constructing check weirs or check dams on water channels or small streams was also a most useful, inexpensive and environment friendly method. With loss of faith in Shastric practices, the socio- spiritual practices have been gradually discontinued which once provided for water harvesting, forestation and conservation of nature as also for use by animals, birds and other creatures.

3. The problem of water crisis needs to be tackled from different angles by combining traditional wisdom and modern scientific practices.

Municipalities and Corporations should make it mandatory to sanction building plans only when accompanied with rain water harvesting provisions. These are catching up in hilly areas where safe water is often scarce in spite of good rainfall.

The following issue raked up by the Times Of India under the caption ‘How Much Water are we eating’ may serve as an eye opener. The reporter writes- “Depending on your diet, food can have a huge water footprint. Fruit and vegetables are the least thirsty kind of food, requiring far less water to produce than various kinds of meat. That does not mean you have to go vegetarian, just that you can vary your diet and choose to eat food with a smaller water footprint more frequently.

Water footprint is the amount of fresh water used in the production or supply of goods and services used by a person or group. It is the amount of water one consumes in his daily life, including the water used to grow the food he eats, to produce energy he uses, for all products in ones daily life – gadgets, clothing, house, car, furniture and more.

Each person consumes an average of 5000 litres of water a day (the range is from 1500 to 10,000 litres per day depending where one lives and what he eats.)Understanding water consumption can help solve the problem of making sure there is enough water to sustain life on earth. Litres of water required to produce one kilogram of the following food products:

(i) Beef – 15,415 litres

(ii) Nut – 9,063 litres

(iii) Mutton – 8,763 litres

(iv) Pork – 5,988 litres

(v) Chicken – 4,325 litres

(vi) Eggs – 3,265 litres

(vii) Cereals – 1,644 litres

(viii) Milk – 1,020 litres

(ix) Fruits – 962 litres

(x) Vegetables – 332 litres

The information on water foot print applies equally to family, society and national conscience crossing International boundaries and deserves consumer awareness and mass sensitisation for everyone’s welfare.

4. Narayan Hegde writes that the water crisis is going to be much more serious than what most anticipate it to be, particularly because of rising atmospheric temperature and increasing per capita consumption. The challenge being very serious, there is a need to identify various out-of-the-box solutions…

The problem of sewage disposal and recycling is also enormous. As per estimates urban India generates 38bn litres of sewage daily, only 32% is treated and the rest is let out in rivers and sea: Delhi generates 3 bn litres sewage daily.

He further suggests measures to curb consumption and avoid wastage which include correct pricing of water, metered supply , fixing per capita requirement and charging substantially higher charge for water consumed beyond the fixed limit. (TOI, 9th June, 2017)

5. To increase water use efficiency, region and topography based cropping pattern guided by water requirement of the crop, availability and edaphic factors need to be implemented coupled with Watershed development programmes. But in practice it is the reverse.

In Maharashtra, the concentration of large number of sugar cooperatives and sugar factories is not eco-friendly being the prime cause of water scarcity in the agriculture sector.

Venkaiah Naidu has stated that, MP’s current crisis has arisen due to a glut, a problem of plenty– increased production of crops like cereals, pulses, onions and soyabean and lack of remunerative prices (This also is an outcome of ground water exploitation). In West Bengal there was immense scope of watershed development, but in and round Kolkata, all prospective sites are serving the purpose of dumping ground and being filled up.

6. Industrial civilisation, associated with urban living, aided by alluring consumer comforts and lack of amelioratory measures through proper plantation programme, rain water harvesting etc., is continually driving humanity away from Dharma to the precipice of cultural crisis. Plantations being undertaken by Municipalities, Corporations or Forest department prioritise on planting of fast growing trees which are often useless in many ways, fragile, fruitless, invite asthma in winter (through dispersal of allergenic pollen grains) and the planting process is often not corruption free.As we refer to Srimad Bhagavatam we find mention of hundreds of beneficial trees in Vrajdham, Mathura and Vrindaban growing in excellent, diverse, sustainable and eco-friendly combination, (including leguminous and other soil enriching species) to encourage habitat for useful birds and animals and permit growth of pasture and cattle feed. The diverse Indian breed of cattle in Bharat are mindlessly being replaced by hybrids escalating maintenance cost, disease potential, retarded genetile purity and medicinal utility (from urine and cow dung) and in the preparation of organic manure etc. It needs to be studied, as to what extent it is affecting the indigenous, useful microbial population in the soil by inducing unwanted competition with the native strains deteriorating soil status inadvertently.

7. It would be really stupid trying to solve the crisis of water in isolation without addressing to the factors causing degradation of all the five elements of Nature viz. Soil, water, air, space and energy  as a result of deleterious human interference and acute cultural crisis. The over exploitation of energy sources, ever increasing use of vehicles, aircrafts and ships for navigation etc.discussed above, cause constant pollution of soil, water and air. Dharmic values supported by salutary spiritual customs,various forms of yajna, vriksha ropan, rain water harvesting, rearing of cattle (promotes soil fertility, restricts soil borne diseases) etc. which so long protected the mother Earth from over-exploitation to usher in a ‘Nature and nurture concept’ have been silently altered as a result of cultural crisis. This amounts to putting the cart before the horse. The present Consumer oriented science prioritises maximum withdrawal from Nature, instead of planning how much we can give back to Nature.Worship of Nature is linked with values of Sanatan Dharma and culture.There is great need to divert our scientific acumen and effort towards development of reformed eco-friendly technology on lines of humane spiritual (Dharmic) values which consider the creation as Divine. The infallible Hindu Shastras declare in loud and clear terms that Nature with its five elements are integral with consciousness, and Dharma (under the influence of Maya– the law of contradiction) deserves protection from evil forces and Adharma. The Shatras proclaim that –

Adharma is responsible for the imbalance and deterioration of Kaya and other elements of nature, inviting human despair with pollution of seasons, rains, winds, soil (earth) and trees and plants (from diverse biotic and abiotic sources).

In essence, crisis of Dharma and culture is the prime cause of present crisis and the Rule of Dharma is the only panacea. Our revered Founder Srimat Upendramohan indicated the proximity between purity and Dharma. He writes Purity is success and stressed on purity in life, purity in thought, purity in dress and purity in manners. Purity, the ugbear of sinners, who must nickname it Puritanism or prudency, is the life of nations and individuals and their only saviour.

Source: “Truth” Dated 23-06-2017 Vol:85 Issue:10 published by Shastra Dharma Prachar Sabha, 91, Chowringhee Road,Kolkata -700020

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