There is water everywhere. Rivers have crossed the danger mark. Thousands of lives have been lost – both human and bovine. Means of transportation and communication have been disrupted. And the water that has caused all this havoc is simply going back where it came from.
There is such a dichotomy in human nature - when it doesn't rain, we pray for water; but when it does, we curse the rain gods. Rather than fatalistically praying and cursing by turns, we ought to put more thought into better water management planning.
Social scientists are predicting that the next world war will be fought over water; but here we have farmers fighting a different kind of war just to ensure that they can protect their families and homes from water. Mud houses are collapsing in the rain, burying people and livestock.
Rural economies work on the principle of the farmer saving a part of his harvest. But now, when he is blessed with a bumper crop of rain water, will he be able to conserve even some of it, to avoid this pernicious cycle of flood and drought that repeatedly afflicts our countryside, Morarji Desai's Janata Party government had tried to implement the recommendations of the Dastur Commission by linking rivers. But before anything could take shape, his government was booted out of power. The BJP under Atal Behari Vajpayee also started thinking along similar lines but nothing much came of it. The present government has also made some half-hearted attempts but no real results have come forth yet.
Rainwater can be conserved on the surface of the earth in ponds, lakes, baolis and wells. Below the surface of the earth, it enriches the groundwater to raise the water table. Unfortunately, no real efforts are made to ensure that we make preparations to conserve rainwater in time. The government simply shirks responsibility by announcing compensation. In earlier times, when rainwater was conserved, it would ensure a steady supply of water for at least another year. Now, we are unable to conserve even a small proportion of it. We are also depleting our already sparse groundwater with falling water table, without making any efforts to replenish it,.
Everyone is aware that the water table is falling. In summers making hand pumps dry and breathing hot air. Given the quantity of rainwater this year, even if a tenth of it seeps into the ground and reaches the water table, it will immensely benefit us irrespective of the level of the water table today .
In days past, the water table was so high that all one had to do was throw in a bucket in a well and you could fill it even without a rope. Now, the use of road rollers to make roads and buildings has diminished the porosity and permeability of the earth. Trees, whose deep roots helped loosen the earth making it easier for water to seep in, have been chopped down.
Apart from the depletion of vegetation and increased usage of water, the other obstruction in the path of the replenishment of the groundwater is the fact the layer of kankar at 4-5 feet below the surface. This layer of kanker makes it difficult for water to enter the water and get collected there.
It is incumbent on the government that it should encourage farmers to adopt various means of water harvesting during the rainy season. They should be encouraged to drill shallow holes at various places and make borewells to facilitate the entry of water into the ground. We can take some consolation in the fact that the heavy rainfall has happened in the beginning if the monsoon so it is seeping slowly into the ground. If this kind of rain happens in September-October, it will cause floods in the plains.
Another problem of the heavy rain is the intense water-logging at so many places. This is because due to the construction of roads, there is no place for excess water to drain out. The roads are blocking the drainage of water, preventing its passage into the ground. Even the drains that have been made do not follow natural slope. In such situations, the farmer is left with no option but to breach the irrigation canals and break the roads, even at the cost of having to face fines and punishment. It is the officials responsible for the unscientific construction who should be punished. , for not making drains and culverts at appropriate places. Even now some corrections can be made keeping in mind the location of the village roads and irrigation canals. If development works come in the way of the natural flow, this is the right time to identify flaws in construction work. Similarly, if the rainwater is not reaching the ponds, farmers can dig drainage trenches leading the water to the ponds.
This is also a good time to plant trees on high ground along the banks of ponds, irrigation canals and roads. Often the water bodies created by dams get inundated with excess water and this has to be released causing flooding of cultivated land. If this excess water is released only after adequate forewarning, then the damage caused can be minimized.
Water conservation and its proper use are very important and should be done in a planned manner. There should be empowered bodies to ensure this. Water harvesting and ground water recharging are not meant only for publicity, rather they need to be evaluated regularly.
To ensure that water, which is a boon to farmers, does not become a curse for them, we need to plan in advance during the winter and summer months. Yet, a lot can still be done, even now, instead of just doling out compensation to them.