Water is going to be the most serious problem that our country is facing in the present times. Many rivers in the north India are frequently affected by floods and discharge copious amounts of water during monsoon months of June to September. Water conservation & management is most crucial and it would be more sensible to encourage the traditional practice of conserving it. This is what our ancestors tried to do and succeeded, as it evidenced by the numerous bunds, tanks and ducts that are a characteristic feature of the Indian landscape. These structures once full with water have just disappeared, becoming victims of rapacious estate builders and cities have been allowed to expand without limit creating pockets of enormous water consumption. This is the only measure which will mitigate the ill effects of water crises over a major part of the country.
Another issue relates to the loss of control over the crops to be grown in times of water deficiency. Farmers are allowed to grow more and more of sugarcane and go even for a third crop of rice. This cannot be termed wise utilization of water. Judicious use of water is a practice which our farmers have failed to adopt especially in the fields supplied with canal water. Although water is literally allowed to flood their fields, the yields are less compared to farmers who use the resource. In addition, many modern gadgets are now available like sprinklers and drip irrigation pipes which can further economize the use of water. Subsidy further promotes wasteful use of water.
At the same time, skills have to be developed for arresting rainwater where it falls and allowing it to recharge these groundwater reservoirs. Afforestation of catchment areas contour bunding, leveling of land, creation of farm ponds and check dams across nallas, gully plugging are measures aimed at arresting the flow of water on the surface and directing it below ground. How can a country of the dimension of India survive it each State thinks it is a country in itself? The global village concept has forced even the European countries once bitter enemies to form a union to survive, while we are trying our best to destroy this beautiful well knit country into bits and pieces as if the previous invaders had not done enough damage to the Indian culture already.
Agra city is underlain by Quaternary sediments comprising of sand silt, clay and kankar. Broadly, single aquifer system, interspersed with number of thin clay lenses, is existing down to 189m depth. The exploration carried out in Agra district so far have indicated that in general fresh water column is limited, available only in shallow aquifer within 50-70 mbgl and is underlain by brackish/saline water. Thus, the Thirsty Agra city is looking for resolving its water crisis which demands creative thinking. To quench the thrust of Agra remains a big challenge so long greed for more goes unchecked. It is extremely important that people should be involved in all plans and phases of development. Schemes conceived in government offices cannot be thrust upon the people. Citizens have a choice and a voice and must be respected. We should concentrate on smaller self sustainable schemes with the community and the human being at the centre of the development process.
SPHEEHA organised a symposium in Agra on 9th December, 2017 for the benefit of the citizens of the heritage city to provide unique opportunity to articulate these paradigms and accelerate the change process for Agra water issues in right direction.
The broad technical themes covered included:
1) Water Conservation, Management and Rainwater Harvesting
2) Receding Groundwater and drying Yamuna River in Agra
The Government of India had initiated a massive mission of creating Smart Cities across the country. Agra was nominated as one of these cities. A number of government organisations are working to make this mission a success. As always, SPHEEHA has taken the lead to bring all stakeholders under one roof with experts from across the country helping outline the broad vision and possible solution to make Agra a Smart City. There is lot of work to be done. SPHEEHA help its seminar titled ‘Smart Cities, Citizen Science and Eco-Habitat for Sustainable Development’ on December 6, 2015, at the International Hostel Auditorium, DEI (near Prelude Public School) to guide through the work involved in creating Smart Cities bringing subject matter experts from across the country, government officers, Citizens of Agra and SPHEEHA members under a single roof.
Visitors to Agra often complain about the city’s poor traffic management system. Severe traffic congestions on the main as well as arterial roads are everyday occurrences. Tourists, who come to see the Taj Mahal, recount of harrowing experiences on the roads.
Agra is spread over an area of over 4000 sqr km, with the projected population for 2021 to be around 2.3 million. In the last few decades, the city has emerged as a leading centre in western Uttar Pradesh for trade and commerce. Since Agra’s roads were built and expanded organically and periodically without much planning for the future course, traffic load in the city has far exceeded the carrying capacity of roads, leading to traffic jams on the roads for major part of the day.
Besides, the inter-mixing of slow moving and fast moving vehicles are further reducing the travel speed of all vehicles. Other problems like inadequate road width, concentration of major activities in one region, encroachment, dumping of garbage on roadside, improper design of road junctions, inadequate public transport, lack of sidewalks for pedestrians,, parking spaces and dedicated space for hawkers, are adding to the mayhem.
SPHEEHA decided to address these issues by involving all stakeholders through a seminar on ‘Traffic in Agra: The Sustainable Course’ held in November 2014.
A detailed action plan for traffic issues in Agra, developed by a team of IIT-Delhi professors in association with SPHEEHA was released by the Commissioner of Agra, Pradeep Bhatnagar in June 2015
In 2013, a number of people were already aware about Environmental Damage. SPHEEHA had already worked upon the concept of an Eco-Village and the members felt it was time to look at our Consumption levels. Thus a Seminar was organised on Consumption levels, Environmental Damage & Sustainable Settlements. It was unique and the Chief Guest was Dr. Anil Kakodkar – Chairman Solar Energy Corporation of India and Former Chairman, Atomic Energy. He was pleased to observe that SPHEEHA and residents of Dayalbagh Township in Agra – which had seen a lot of inputs being put by SPHEEHA was working on the principle of reducing needs and thus towards sustainable development. The Seminar was lauded by national media and the work of SPHEEHA was now reaching to people beyond Agra.
SPHEEHA had his roots firmly grounded with its various activities and it increased it engagement with the citizens of Agra via its Annual Painting Competition, Its one day Workshop – Agra Beyond Taj, its annual celebration of Wetland Day and Tree Plantation activities & training of students and youth. This ensured that work of SPHEEHA was spread evenly with-in all spheres of society and was appreciated by all.
In 2011, SPHEEHA took the concept of an EcoVillage to the next level and organised a workshop on the Concept of EcoVillage – A Role Model for Sustainable Environment and Development. The proceedings of the conference is cited as a bible on the subject by many. It has been published by Tata McGraw Hill and is available for sale via them. Copies of the same are also available from SPHEEHA office.
In 2010, SPHEEHA continued it work of implementing Rainwater Harvesting systems in and around Dayalbagh township in Agra and to keep a check on the systems and process also held a Seminar on Water, Climate Change and Concept of Eco-Village/Eco-City. You would be glad to know that the township of Dayalbagh has now been declared as an Eco-Village.
The Seminar reiterated that water is one of the basic resources of life on this Blue Planet covering two thirds of its surface. The continual renewal of water is performed by the world’s hydrological cycle. Today we face the problem of water management on account of its overuse, misuse and increasing demand. Getting water from where it is to where it is needed, and keeping it clean, would help in its sustainable management. Agriculture, industry and urbanized regions could not exist without using tremendous quantities of water, polluting a lot in the process, and lowering the water table to precarious levels. Water also moderates the weather, making it possible for temperature restricted chemistry of life. Therefore proper management of water is a prime necessity. Like human life, it needs continuous thought and attention. It is high time to start conserving and protecting water usage and conservation of water, the planet’s most precious resource, before the wells of life run dry. Thus we can live without water-woes.
On March 1, 2009 SPHEEHA organised a Seminar on Facing the Challenges of Climatic Change and Global Warming. It was a again a gigantic step taken by SPHEEHA to focus on global issues and the impact it has on a city like Agra.
In India, climate change could represent additional pressure on ecological and socio-economic systems that are already under stress due to rapid urbanisation, industrialization, and economic development. With its huge and growing population, long densely populated and low lying coastlines, and an economy that is closely tied to its natural resource base, India is considerably vulnerable to the impacts of climate Change. An increase by 2% global temperature will result in major agricultural impacts in India. The present wheat producing states like Punjab, Haryana and western UP (where Agra is geographically located) will be affected by low productivity.
In September 2008, SPHEEHA in association with DEI University organised a workshop on Rainwater Harvesting and focussed on conservation of water in this arid region. The then DM of Agra, Mr. Anil Kumar inaugurated the workshop and the Guest of Honour was Mr. Salauddin Saifi from Centre for Science & Environment – who explained the various issues and possible solutions. With Experts joining from IIT Delhi and IIT Roorkee, Individual and Community based Rainwater Harvesting was the suggested way forward. This was implemented by SPHEEHA in a big manner in the township of Dayalbagh with help from the authorities.
In 2007, SPHEEHA conducted its first seminar – SEAIS. Seminar on Environment of Agra: Issues and Solutions. It was the right way of making a start by identifying the issues and discussing possible solutions that plagued the city and continues to do so. From Taj Mahal to Potable water supply, the dying river Yamuna to Solid Waste Management – all possible issues were discussed under a single roof with a battery of experts for the first time in the history of this city.
‘Say no to Plastic bags’ campaign by SPHEEHA was a major success in 2007 as a result of this conference