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Almost everyone living in India today has gone through the experience, of having to fill buckets with water, just so that, after the municipal supply of water has stopped flowing, one still has water available for the rest of the day. Those who did not store, have literally paid the price by having to buy water.
The same holds good for the land. Unless the rain water is collected when it rains, you cannot expect water to be available after the rains have receded. A case in point would be Cherapunjee in Meghalaya which gets the maximum rainfall in the entire world; it receives greater than 12000 mm, i.e. 1200 cm of rainfall every year. Yet, it is Cherrapunjee that also faces a severe drought for 3 months in a year during summer. This is because the state has not harnessed the rain water well enough and allows it to drain off from the heights. Cherrapunjee is a stark lesson to all of us in the importance of harnessing rain water even if we receive good rains every year.
Have we understood the significance of harnessing the rain waters? India is a monsoon nation. We depend on monsoon for water for agriculture, drinking, other domestic needs, various industries, etc. But even in such a monsoon region, it rains on an average only for 3 months in a year. Data collected shows that even in these 3 months, it rains for only 100 hours. Thus out of the 8760 hours in a year, India receives actual rainfall only for approximately 100 hours.
Our ancestors had understood this key aspect well and had created excellent water harnessing systems, dotting the entire land, to capture the rain waters when it rained during those 100 hours. They then used those waters judiciously for their needs during the remaining 8660 hours of the year when there are no rains. The villages of India, in the past, had a vision for the prosperity of their land. They acted intelligently to sustain the land for generations to come.
India has roughly 6 lakh villages in all, and they had collectively established over 9.5 lakh water harnessing projects all across India, from the Northern tip of India to the south, including Andaman and Nicobar islands. There were, 6,76,000 irrigation systems in India 1,78,000 Tanks and 96,000 water diversion schemes. This shows that for every 2 villages, there were at least 3 water harnessing projects.
These were simple, indigenous schemes yet designed to suit the local topology, climatic conditions and the needs of the local people. They were highly successful in meeting the needs of the civilization for thousands of years.
This is evident from the fact that India has always attracted plunderers
from all over the world,who invaded her for her riches.
Such sustained wealth could have been generated only if there had been sufficient water to meet the needs of farming, local industries and the domestic needs. Needless to say, that fine arts and culture also flourished alongside, as a result of this prosperity.
All these 9,50,000 native water harnessing systems, survived the onslaught of time when the local bodies exercised ownerships of these irrigation systems. Unfortunately, over the last hundred years or more, due to non maintenance of these projects, incorrect centralized policies, political apathy and the apathetic attitude of the common man in the last few decades, these time honoured local water harnessing projects have become decrepit.
We have successfully managed to sever the links of this sustainability chain in the last couple of centuries. With time we have also forgotten that we need to harness rain waters when it rains. It is time to repair the water stores for harnessing waters effectively, to start planning and acting for restoring the remnants of the 9.5 lakh water harnessing projects that lie closest to you, for the coming year.
D.K. Hari and D. K. Hema Hari are authors, research collators and founders of Bharath Gyan. They may be contacted through email: [email protected]
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