Thar and Water | Water is one resource that cannot be generated it can only be preserved (By: Mukesh Raja)
“Water is one resource that cannot be generated it can only be preserved”
Tharparkar, geographically spread over 19638 square kilometers is a chronically poor with an estimated population of 1.6 million. Of them 95% people live in around 2450 rural villages. Water is major problem of the area as the limited groundwater is ultimate source of water for people in Tharparkar. The quality of ground water is saline to brackish with high concentration of various salts and minerals, which are dangerous for human as well as livestock health.
Generally the total soluble salts of the groundwater in Thar Desert range between 636 parts per million (ppm) to 9543 ppm and water level varies from 8 to 61 meters below ground surface. The pH is reported to range between 7.1 and 8.6 and sodium is observed as the dominant cation ranging between 28 and 3600 parts per million.
In Tharparkar the dug-well is found only sustainable source of groundwater, rather the experiences of installing of tube-wells, hand pumps and wind mills have also introduced in Tharparkar but such schemes are not yet proved fully successful and most of all such schemes are not functional even due to social, economical, technical and other reasons.
In a normal day villagers averagely spend around 4-6 hours to fetch 4-5 pots (50-60 litters) of water from dug-well. However, during the dry period, they collect water throughout the day including at nights. At various places in Thar the continuous use depleting groundwater with high concentration of salts and minerals is rather declared as not potable by different health related actors. Hence, the regular use of groundwater in Thar led people involved in various health abnormalities including kidney stones and joint pains etc. The social life of villagers is also restricted due to lack of adequate water. This specially affects the women much, who are responsible for carrying water. At times, both the young boys and girls had to postpone their carrier development activities due to the responsibility of fetching water. Whenever they went out of the village, they had to fetch water to compensate for their time of absence. Besides being a pre-occupation for women, fetching water effects children’s education too during dry seasons. Often children also remain necessary part of the water collection, sometimes stretching into the night hours too. In such event children has to sacrifice daily studies, for which they were reprimanded by their teachers.
In Tharparkar the 80% of people’s livelihood is dependent on rain fed agriculture and livestock (animals are more than 4million in numbers). To solve the water problem in Tharparkar More than one billion are invested to cope the issue of water in Thar in which Focus is on groundwater exploitation through mega schemes particularly RO plant which according to different studies are not successful in Thar context because of many reasons like treatment costs, in most cases, are prohibitive and trained operators with high level of expertise, required for the operation are usually not available. That’s why more than 70% of such schemes are non-functional.
As the different studies tells that Total Domestic Water Need of Tharparkar is 0.25% of the total rainfall. It means if we store above said amount of water then we can meet our domestic needs which includes drinking, cooking, bathing, clothing etc. But we have only 0.6% Water harvesting capacity of the total water needs. This is very poor as compare to increasing need of water. Water problem could be solved Just by enhancing rainwater harvesting thrice more can solve the water problem of the area. Rainwater harvesting, and groundwater recharging are more pertinent options to address the water issue of area.
As previous lesson learning tells us that the mega and unmanageable water schemes are not solution of water for local people at this stage. This have been practiced earlier and no had no work out. Now there is dire need to promote local/indigenous technologies/practices and to promote solar, wind and gravity-based water schemes to cope with water issue rather than spending bulk amount on heavy schemes.