Looming Water Crises: Wake Up Thirsty Agra (LOW-WATAR)

Looming Water Crises: Wake Up Thirsty Agra (LOW-WATAR)

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