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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

Conserving water to offset drought

Posted By: Kavita Khanna
Date: Wednesday, 12 April 2000, at 1:07 a.m.

In Response To: Ethics of drinking water. (R Sudarshana)

Due to the failure of the 1999 monsoon in several areas of Gujarat, there is a serious drought. Summer is a good four months away, and already there are reports of acute water scarcity. Women and children dig deep holes in the drying bed of rivers in the most affected areas and walk long distances to gather water from either village ponds or supply trucks. Many traditional sources of water have completely dried up, including the protected lake of Bhavnagar, which is a major coastal town. Most water reservoirs in the Saurashatra region in southwestern Gujarat have only 9% of their storage capacity, this will last for only two months. The region received a mere 365 mm in 1999 (up to 30th October), as against an average of 530 mm.

Given the unreliability of the Indian monsoons in this region, the seasonal nature of surface water sources and the expenditure involved in the supply of piped water, water conservation measures can play a useful role in meeting the survival needs of the people. While the Government of Gujarat has initiated an ambitious water supply scheme and the laying of pipelines has started on a modest note, it will take years before the water problem is effectively mitigated.

Under the circumstances, water conservation activities have to take root in social culture in order to provide sustainability in a growing population. Small scale measures, such as roof top water collection, soil conservation and water recycling have to start at the rural and domestic level in order to succeed in an arid environment such as this one. Even after the beginning of municipal water supply from elsewhere in a few years time, the socio-cultural habits of water conservation could become an example of wise practice to arid coastal regions.

Kavita Khanna.
Science Teacher,
Welham’s Girls School, Dehra Dun, India.

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