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

The Economic Times - - Economy & Companies - Jayashree.Bhos­ale @times­group.com

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

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