Green Living

The four Rs of urban living

This has been a year of severe drought in India. As early as September of 2015, Karnataka reported less rainfall and declared drought in 127 taluks. Now the drought has spread and all over India has 330 million people in its grip. The images of water being supplied in train tankers and of women and men struggling to access water from deep wells and fighting over tanker water is searing.

What then is drought? Commonly understood as a long dry period without rainfall, there are many different types of droughts. There is the metrological drought – which is rainfall below the normal by a certain percentage. Then there is a hydrological drought, where rivers, streams and the reservoirs dry up as is happening over India right now. Agricultural drought is a fallout of these two and here crops are affected due to low soil moisture and the absence of water for irrigation. All these forms of drought lead to socio-economic drought, which impacts people in many ways such as the absence of drinking water, water for irrigation and for livestock, absence of fodder et al.

In India, we have to be aware of another major impact of metrological drought and that is on groundwater or what could be called hydro-geological drought. Since most of our drinking water needs especially in villages comes from groundwater, it is important that we understand the relationship between rainfall, recharge and groundwater. For this, aquifers need to be delineated.

When the boundaries of aquifers or water bearing zones below the ground is established, the demand placed on the waters have to be understood and managed. It is logical to say that water drawn from an aquifer should be less than what is recharged and some part of the aquifer should be reserved for conditions like drought and especially for drinking water and water for livestock.

Common sense approaches

While the phenomena of rainfall and drought in India is complex and scientists are struggling to understand it, some common sense approaches that people have adopted are worth considering. The Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (www.ksndmc.org) has done yeoman service by increasing the density of real time rainfall measuring stations. It is able to compile and declare rainfall deficiency at highly granular level of that of the hobli and in the quickest possible time, thus enabling relief measures to kick in early. This needs emulation by all other States.

The State also needs to push the growing of crops which are deep-rooted, drought-resistant and are rain-fed; ensure protective irrigation for these crops; build the moisture retentivity of soil through measures such as increasing organic carbon and humus in the soil; prevent soil erosion through steps such as vegetative bunding and terracing; and ensure the desilting and rehabilitation of all the tanks.

Irrigation and efficient irrigation is key. Water-intensive crops such as sugarcane and paddy must only be grown in regions which have the water resources to support it. They should also be grown with utmost water efficiency in irrigation.

Price signals sent to farmers by the market and the government should reward the growth of crops which are suited to local conditions and demand less water. Millets and pulses need to be encouraged as also horticulture. Remember the market signals begin with your plate and cup. If you eat more millets, if you give up on sugar, if you lessen meat consumption, not only is it good for you but also good for combating drought.

Urban areas should adopt the mantra of reject, reduce, reuse and recycle. Reject the water use if it is frivolous, reduce through demand management and efficient use of water, reuse water for a lower purpose use and recycle once-used water for another use.

Above all, especially in urban areas we must harvest rain. Collect it in barrels and sumps, recharge aquifers through recharge wells, clean up lakes and tanks to hold rainwater and make sure that every drop is harvested.

Combating drought is not a spectator sport. Each one of us has a role to play and each one of us can make a difference. That thought and action would be water wisdom.

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 10:54:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/green-living/The-four-Rs-of-urban-living/article14251702.ece

Next Story