Mak­ing ev­ery drop of wa­ter count

SUS­TAIN­ABLE SO­LU­TIONS In­dia’s un­re­lent­ing drought un­der­scores the need for ex­perts who can train com­mu­ni­ties in sav­ing, stor­age and re­use of wa­ter

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - HT Education - - Front Page - Aye­sha Baner­jee

About 256 dis­tricts across In­dia and a pop­u­la­tion of at least 330 mil­lion are in the grip of a se­vere drought in In­dia. Such dis­as­ters, go­ing by sta­tis­tics from 1900, when 1.25 mil­lion peo­ple were killed, to 2002, when 310 mil­lion peo­ple were af­fected, have and will oc­cur in the fu­ture as fears of climate change and global warm­ing get only too real.

Wa­ter man­age­ment thus is now a key re­quire­ment to mit­i­gate the drought cri­sis In­dia, where there is so much di­ver­sity in to­pog­ra­phy, ge­ol­ogy, land cover and land use pat­terns. Ex­ten­sive re­search needs to be done on wa­ter bud­get­ing, wa­ter shar­ing, wa­ter gov­er­nance and wa­ter mar­kets. “Thus, wa­ter ex­perts need to work to­gether and de­velop in­te­grated so­lu­tions for sus­tain­able man­age­ment of wa­ter re­sources,” says Prad­nya Mathur, an MTech in aqua­cul­tural en­gi­neer­ing from IIT Kharag­pur. While study­ing for MTech, Mathur also did a oneyear project in GIS (ge­o­graphic in­for­ma­tion sys­tem, which uses com­put­ers to cap­ture, store, check and dis­play data re­lated to earth’s sur­face) and re­mote sens­ing as she felt “it had good scope for agri­cul­ture and wa­ter man­age­ment.”

A whole l ot of ques­tions started both­er­ing Mathur when she was work­ing in a ru­ral de­vel­op­ment project, study­ing drought-prone vil­lages. See­ing peo­ple strug­gling to reach a wa­ter source, trudg­ing up and down hills to fill very small ves­sels with wa­ter which would be eas­ier to carry back home made her won­der how they would man­age if the source dried up. Wa­ter­sheds to col­lect wa­ter and drain them to fields and vil­lages had been de­vel­oped, but th­ese had run dry. Finding so­lu­tions then to work on com­mu­nity-based wa­ter man­age­ment and climate change be­came a mis­sion for her.

Mathur has been part of a team that han­dled drought sit­u­a­tions in the semi-arid re­gions of Maharashtra. “One of the so­lu­tions we de­vel­oped was a wa­ter bud­get­ing tool. With the help of the com­mu­nity it was used for par­tic­i­pa­tory crop plan­ning based on avail­able wa­ter in the com­mu­nity’s wa­ter­sheds.” Drip ir­ri­ga­tion (sav­ing wa­ter by al­low­ing it to drip slowly through pipes, valves to var­i­ous parts of plants) was pro­moted as was com­post­ing to se­cure soil mois­ture for a longer pe­riod and kitchen gar­den­ing to utilise kitchen waste wa­ter. Farm ponds for col­lect­ing rain wa­ter were dug, thereby dis­cour­ag­ing pump­ing of ground wa­ter.

Now a freelancer, Mathur, who was born in Mum­bai and brought up in Dapoli, in Rat­na­giri, Maharashtra, has done ex­ten­sive work in par­tic­i­pa­tory wa­ter bud­get­ing, crop plan­ning based on wa­ter bud­get­ing, ir­ri­ga­tion ad­vi­sories us­ing CropWAT (a com­puter pro­gramme for the cal­cu­la­tion of crop wa­ter and ir­ri­ga­tion re­quire­ments based on soil, climate and crop data), hy­dro­dy­nam­ics mod­el­ling us­ing Ex­cel, wa­ter­shed net plan­ning us­ing GIS and aqua­cul­ture liveli­hood de­vel­op­ment. Her re­search in­ter­ests are in com­mu­nity-based adap­ta­tion, wa­ter man­age­ment, sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture, GIS and re­mote sens­ing, train­ing and ca­pac­ity build­ing.

Mathur, who loves trav­el­ling, has worked in Maharashtra, Mad­hya Pradesh, Gu­jarat, and Megha­laya to study wa­ter dy­nam­ics. “And I am not done yet. This is just the begin­ning,”she says.

Prad­nya Mathur (right) in­spects a dry well in a vil­lage of Mad­hya Pradesh while work­ing on case stud­ies for com­mu­nity wa­ter man­age­ment

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