In Dry Season, a Flood of Good Samaritans
But though conservation measures have given results, environmentalists caution unscientific methods can do more harm than good
Pune: People from all walks of life have come forward and donated crores of rupees for water conservation in Maharashtra, many parts of which are reeling under acute scarcity. Although measures aimed at water conservation have started yielding positive results in some cases, environmentalists have raised concern over “unscientific” voluntary or government-led initiatives, saying these could permanently harm the ecosystem of rivers.
For instance, environmentalists have raised the red flag against 20 Poclain and 24 tipper trucks working round the clock since April 3 to broaden and deepen the Manjara river flowing through Latur so as to increase its water capacity.
“We cannot attack the river with Poclain machines to straighten, widen and deepen them in the name of rejuvenation, without a clear understanding of our objectives and its impact,” said Parineeta Dandekar, who works for South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP).
Straightening the curves of the river shortens its route, which can make the water flow off fast without recharging the ground water, Dandekar said. “Straight cut banks are liable to collapse with rushing water where the dumped silt comes back again into the river. Rejuvenating a river entails a much gentler and well thought out process,” she said.
On the other hand, in Ambejogai, where surgeries had stopped at the local civic hospital for want of water, reactivation of unused wells allowed surgeries to resume. The volunteers installed pumps on these wells and started water supply to the poor who could not afford to buy it, after carrying out due medical tests of the water.
“Children of one school raised .₹ 7,500 while during the annual programme of another school, parents donated .₹ 8,000. We arranged a show of a play to raise funds for the work,” said Mujib Kazi, a high school teacher who is the vice presi- dent of the ‘Amhi Ambejogaikar’ (We Ambejogaiits) group.
Kazi said he suggested to the group that its members could clean up 10-15 Nizam era wells in the Company Baug area which had not been in use for more than 50 years.
In Latur, residents of the business hub raised .₹ 2.75 crore within 10 days to broaden and deepen the Manjara river, said BB Thombre, chairman of Natural Sugar and Allied Industries, who is a member of the group of volunteers leading the ‘Jalyukta Latur’ campaign. “We will need .₹ 7.5 crore to complete the work,” he said.
Similarly, Tukaram Munde, district collector of Solapur, one of the most parched districts of Maharashtra, is being hailed for reducing the number of tankers in the district to 17 from 673 four years ago. “Apart from other water conser- vation works, the voluntary work of desilting of reservoirs and recharging of wells and tube wells in the district amounts to about .₹ 60 crore,” he said. The state government’s Jalyukta Shivar mission aimed at making Maharashtra drought free by 2019 has also begun to show positive results at some places.
Besides, near the source of Godavari river in Nashik district, volunteers along with the local Rotary Club are helping farmers take away the fertile soil from the Gangapur dam, one of the highly silted reservoirs in the state, with their own funds to spread in their farms. Dandekar of SANDRP said while intention of the people cannot be faulted, care must be taken to carry out the conservation properly since rivers in Maharashtra are already abused by dams, pollution and encroachment. “A river is not just a water channel or a pipeline for carrying water. It is an ecosystem that stabilises the banks, helps ground water recharge and the sand bank helps retain water,” she said.
In Latur, residents of the business hub raised 2.75 crore within 10 days to broaden and deepen the Manjara river
NITIN SONAWANE WATER HUNT A dried up well in Latur