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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Summer brings acute water crisis in Jharkhand

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Water crisis in Jharkhand state of India has been a common experience during summers for about a decade. Water pumps and wells start drying up before the onset of summer season and rivers remain broad lines of sand up to mid summer. This year the degree of water crisis appears to be more sad and painful. Most of the rivers of the state have dried up till this beginning of April month and even water- dams that are meant for water supply in the urban areas are loosing their water levels very fast. As such people living in river basin areas are facing acute crisis of water and those depending on bore wells are bound to drink mineral rich concentrated water due to considerable fall in the ground water levels at different places across the state.
Water crisis in Jharkhand state of India has been a common experience during summers for about a decade. Water pumps and wells start drying up before the onset of summer season and rivers remain broad lines of sand up to mid summer. This year the degree of water crisis appears to be more sad and painful. Most of the rivers of the state have dried up till this beginning of April month and even water- dams that are meant for water supply in the urban areas are loosing their water levels very fast. As such people living in river basin areas are facing acute crisis of water and those depending on bore wells are bound to drink mineral rich concentrated water due to considerable fall in the ground water levels at different places across the state.


Image :1 A dry portion of Damodar River

The story of water crisis during summers is rather old one but the current trend of drying rivers up to the end of March month points towards much serious condition likely to arrive in near future. According to a survey conducted by ground water directorate of Jharkhand, the water table has gone down by two feet than the previous year’s record.While the groundwater table in Bokaro has gone down to 31 feet compared to 29 feet earlier, in Jamshedpur the water table has slipped to 41 feet as against 39 feet earlier. Again in the state capital, the water lever had dwindled to 40 feet compared to 37 feet in the previous year. Dhanbad recorded 47 feet compared to 45 feet in the previous year. The situation has come to such a sorry pass in some parts of Ranchi that deep boring till 1000 feet has failed to yield water”. Another survey by the same directorate revealed that arsenic and other minerals have started appearing up to dangerous levels in some parts of the state including Sahebganj, Rajmahal, and Palamau areas. Of the 2500 samples collected each from Sahebganj, Rajmahal, and Palamau area, about 250 to 300 samples contained arsenic in them. This is due to high degree of water mining aggravated because of growing number of tall and multistoried buildings or apartments, misuse of water, and far less seepage of water into the earth as compared to the rate of extraction.


Image: 2 A scene of a stream flowing through Jharkhand during good old days

Not alone the rivers of the state have dried up, even streams, and springs that pass through dense forest and that used to remain perennial sources of water have dried up. Most of the water falls of the state have just reduced to trickles. As per reports Jonha, Sita, and Khirni water falls of the state that remained magnificent up to winter have dried up. Even the Hundru fall has reduced to a weak line of water. Though it is hard to believe, some so called environmentalists in the state have started blaming the phenomenon of climate change for the water crisis in the state. In my opinion, it is too early to blame the climate change for water crisis in Jharkhand. However, it can not be ignored that the climate changes have started showing its signs in many segments of the natural environment.


Image : 3 Massive deforestation for decades led to serious soil erosions that caused siltation of rivers
and the current conditions of their drying up in the beginning of summer

Many rivers in the state have so far dried up in the current summer where as some are loosing their water fast. People living in the river basin areas have started bringing up the river bed water by digging deep in the river sand, and collecting drinking water through this activity has become a routine practice for them. The Koyel River which is called as the lifeline of Palamau has dried up completely. The water level of river basin areas is reportedly depleting fast and a big population has become dependent on the water collected by digging up the river bed for most of the routine activities. A big number of ladies, men, boys and girls can be seen busy in collecting water from the river bed. Some of the rivers of the state that have been dried up so far are Koyel of Daltonganj area, Kanhar of Garhwa area, Auranga and Koyel of Latehar area, Barakar and Mohana of Kodarma area, Jam, Neelanjan and Satbahini(seven sisters) of Chatara area, Shankh and Koyel of Lohardaga area, Shankh and Palamara of Gumla area. Damodar river which collects water from Jharkhand, passes through mine areas of the state and carries water to the sea through West Bengal is about to dry completely.



Image :4 Jonha water fall of Jharkhand that dries up to a trickle in summers 

The basic truth behind drying up of these rivers is large scale deforestation in the river basin areas leading to heavy soil erosions and filling up of the bellies of these rivers. Drying up of rivers and growing apartment culture in the plateau land of Jharkhand compounding to the over extraction of ground water, no arrangements for seepage of water into ground and water mining for even construction purposes and car-washing are some important reasons behind fast depletion of ground water in the state. Since, Jharkhand has a number of minerals in its soil, minerals in concentrated form come out in dissolved or suspended conditions through the water of bore wells. Large scale plantation, compensatory plantation, agro forestry, judicious use of water, ban of construction of apartments, legal bindings of erecting rain water harvesting structures on buildings, rain water harvesting, water shed development and yes, real ban on cutting of trees are some major steps that can be taken up to avert the condition.

Jharkhand has been a state of numerous man-made and natural fresh water ponds and gardens. But with the growing population, land was grabbed for construction works and expanding agriculture. Tribals, the so called saviors of the natural environment of the state started cutting trees and selling firewood through middle men. This firewood used to be transported through trains passing through forest areas. Wood mafias cleared most of the forests for their greed. Fresh water ponds were leveled and used either for agriculture or for erecting tall buildings. All this compounded to damage the over all ecology of the region. The entire state started to be warmer day by day and it arrived to the present conditions of its ecology.

Going through above accounts, it can be said that not climate change but human hands are responsible for the water crisis in general and the ecological crisis in particular that is terrifying the population inhabiting the land of the state.

Key Words: water-crisis, drying of rivers and water dams, deforestation, agroforestry, apartments, agricultural expansion, land grabbing, reclamation of ponds and other water bodies, ecological crisis, population, Jonha fall, dasham falls, Khirni fall, Sita fall,water mining, wastage of water, river basins, collection of fresh water, digging river beds, Shankh, Koyel, Lohardaga.

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