Archive for the ‘Water Conservation’ Category

Trickle of hope in the parched Himalayas

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POKHRI: It’s a sparkling morning, the dawn chill lifting as the sun’s rays light up this little village in Pauri Garhwal. Situated nearly on top of a hill, and facing east, the villagers get the early sun. It helps, because morning is the time for fetching water from the three public taps in this small village of 235 people. Each family gets two buckets, no more, and then the tap is put under lock and key, using an ingenious contraption made from a metal dabba.

This is a fairly common story in the parched Himalayas, often called the ‘‘Water Tower’’ or even the Third Pole of the world, because these mountains contain the largest store of freshwater in the world after the north and south poles. Most of it is in the form of snow and glaciers. Life-giving waters of 10 major river systems originate from the Himalayas, sustaining nearly one-fifth of humanity from southern China, through the Mekong delta in Vietnam and the Irrawady in Myanmar to the Indo-Gangetic plains in north India

But for the people here, water is arguably the greatest hardship. Spring water, the main source of water in the hills, is drying up. In Pokhri, it trickles in at about 11 litres per minute, while the need of the villagers — for personal use, as well as for animals and kitchen gardens — will get fulfilled only by 24 litres per minute. And, this is leaving aside irrigation needs.

With changes in rainfall pattern, deforestation and growing population, the springs are going dry across the hills. This has unleashed many responses, ranging from government schemes to lay pipelines to more lasting efforts by NGOs at rejuvenating water sources.

One of the most innovative efforts is the result of an unlikely collaboration between villagers of Nagrasu, in Rudraprayag district, and nuclear scientists of the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (Barc),  Mumbai. Using isotope analysis, the scientists traced water flows inside the mountain. This helped locate the areas from where water starts percolating into the ground to finally reappear at the spring. Water conservation structures were built on these areas so that the water doesn’t flow off but gets absorbed into the ground.

Gursharan Singh, head of Barc’s isotope division explained the process to TOI. ‘‘Naturally occurring isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen were analysed from water collected at various points above the spring by the scientists.