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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Some steps towards water conservation and sustainable agricutlture

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Human activities during past few decades have compounded to cause numerous ecological problems on local, regional, national and international levels. Uncontrolled emissions of green house gases is intensifying green house effect leading to global warming and climate change , which is a global problem and needs global efforts. On the other hand uncontrolled exploitation of ground water due to improper water management practices is leading different parts of India towards a serious water crisis. As for India, it is a local problem at many places. Local problems need local efforts towards fruitful solutions. But, before going towards solutions let have a look towards principal causes of the falling groundwater level.

Urbanizations and increasing activities of plastering of land surface for various purposes do not allow rainwater to enter into the earth. The water that falls on the ground in the form of rain joins streams that in turn join rivers. Heavy siltation of rivers causes enroute flooding which claims lives and property every year. In cities people have developed tendencies of putting all the household waste into streams or drains. This is the reason why most parts of our cities get flooded during rains. This is the story of most of our Indian cities. Large scale clearing of forests, over grazing along hill slopes encourage soil erosion and the soil eroded in this way joins rivers and causes heavy siltation. On the other hand construction of mega dams is checking all the silt to accumulate near the dams. It is reported that many of the river delta systems of Indian rivers are being engulfed by oceans as silt from rivers is not joining them due to mega dams. The mega dams too are at the verge of heavy siltation which may lead to an unwanted rise of dam water causing local floods. All these reveal the story of improper management of water. Extraction of ground water through bore wells for irrigation is a great factor which is lowering the water table at different places. The growing apartment culture in all the cities and supply of ground water to inhabitants of apartments is another major factor which is lowering the water table.

The pressure of growing more and more food to feed our growing populations does not allow our fields to remain empty even for a few months. The continued cultivation of crops and shallow ploughing practices has sealed the substrata of the land that do not allow the water to enter into deeper layers. In this way water of crop fields has no other way except getting evaporated. Now, since most of the surface areas of the land are sealed in some or the other ways, it is difficult for the surface water to join the underground level of water. These are the basic reasons behind current drought like situations in many parts of India.

In case the emerging problems are taken seriously some important measures are essential to be adopted in the direction of proper water management at the field level and also at the social level. At social level rain water harvesting measures are essential to be adopted. It should be made essential for every house to construct rain water harvesting structures on its roof. On the other hand apartments and agriculturists should not be allowed to dig bore wells. Instead they should be advised to go for secondary options. Watershed development is a major solution towards the management of water in rural and semi urban areas. The governments have so far spent huge amounts of money on the developments of watersheds in different areas of the country through non-government organizations. But the result is unsatisfactory. Crores of rupees are being spent on National Environmental Awareness Campaign and the money is sanctioned to NGOs through nodal agencies. It has been reported that the money sanctioned under the programme remains limited to sending utilization reports and many of the NGOs are expert in the art. Thus sanctioning money can in no way solve the problem.

Let us have a look towards our fields. Since the practice of deep ploughing has been left by our farmers the water that falls into our fields does not penetrate the sealed surface found below the soil. Thus most of the water runs away without any use. The surface run off should be checked by retaining all the water falling into a particular field by bunding and deep ploughing. Deep ploughing will break the under soil seal and will facilitate the water to move downward, and thus to join the underground water level. The bunding around fields will check the water against running away. Thus most of the water will be retained inside the earth. This way the soil moisture can be maintained in a field for longer periods which will in turn reduce the frequency of irrigation.

The green revolution solved our food problem and made us self sufficient. But in the race of raising food production we lost our own mental acumen. We lost our native seed varieties within the 40 years of the start of the revolution. While adopting methods of green revolution we went on increasing the input, ignoring totally our local and traditional knowledge systems. As a result most of the land became barren. The natural varieties of insects and birds that one time helped our crops to grow well vanished away. The water table went deeper and deeper. In the race of cross breeding of hybrid cows and buffaloes we pushed many of our native varieties towards extinction. Now the farming has become non-remunerative and farmers can not cultivate unless they get bank loans. All these conditions have emerged due to dependence of farmers on external inputs. Thus, in order to make the Indian agriculture more lucrative, our farmers will have to for the methods of sustainable agriculture. A major expense on agricultural inputs can be cut down by going on the ways our forefathers used to go, and adopt innovative methods.
Deep ploughing, bunding, depending on organic fertilizers, applying green manure, water conservation, restoration of underground water level, checking the surface run off etc. and adoption of methods of sustainable agriculture can solve the proble.

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