April 18 is observed as World Heritage Day across the globe. The moment we talk of heritage, ancient forts, edifices and monuments come to mind. However, natural formations also come under this category.
The natural springs of Simhachalam hill are one such formation which are in danger and in urgent need of preservation, say experts.
Natural springs have been a vital part of the hydrological cycle for millennia. Nearly 90 per cent of the drinking water supply in Uttarakhand is spring-based. A worrying fact is that 30 per cent of the springs in the Himalayan ranges are drying up. Major rivers such as the Godavari still continue to be spring-fed.
Vizag blessed with springs
The City of Destiny is blessed with a number of natural heritage sites, of which one is the natural spring system on the Simhachalam hills, part of the Eastern Ghats.
According to a survey done by Dhan Foundation, as part of their study on ‘Visakhapatnam Spring Shed ecosystem on Simhachalam hill range’, there were close to 14 springs in Simhachalam hills. But now, locals were able to list only a few springs, such as Gangadhara, Naagadhara, Saagidhara, Aakasadhara, Pichhukadhara, Madhavadhara and Seetammadhara.
A spring is a natural point of exit at which groundwater from an aquifer flows out on top of the earth’s crust and becomes surface water. Springs are driven out onto the surface by various natural forces, such as gravity and hydrostatic pressure. These are formed at the side of a hill or the bottom of a valley, said Mr. Lokesh of Dhan Foundation.
The water needs of the Simhachalam temple are met by these springs and there is no dependency on GVMC or borewells.
Considered to be the most sacred spring of the Simhachalam hill, it is located on the right corner of the temple. This spring’s altitude is higher than the temple structure. The discharge rate is around 7,000 litres per day and it doubles during the rainy season. The Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) are less than 50mg/L. Two inscription stones are found near the spring which are in Sanskrit language but in Telugu script. One is about the importance of bathing in the springs and the other is about the victory of the local king, said Mr. Lokesh.
As per the Dhan Foundation report, the spring is located at the left side of the pathway towards the temple. The discharge rate is around 2,400 litres per day in peak summer. Earlier, the farmers utilised the water for their cultivation. The Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) is less than 50mg/L.
‘Conserve and preserve’
The city has already lost a number of water bodies, springs and canals due to haphazard construction and encroachment. Dhan Foundation has come out with a number of recommendations to ensure that the surviving springs are safeguarded on the hill.
The first thing would be to set up a spring shed management steering committee with the temple administration, GVMC and Forest Department as major stakeholders, with the Centre for Urban Water Resources acting as a secretariat for this committee. Philanthropists should come forward to support it, and a community spring resources centre’ would have to be established to maintain the inventory.
Restriction on changes in the land use, maintaining ecological flow and reducing the infrastructure creation are the need of the hour,, said Mr. Lokesh.
The foundation also recommends mainstreaming and convergence of spring shed management with other developmental programmes.