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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

Local solutions: recharge of wells / Kathiawar-India.

Posted By: Vidyut Joshi and H. C. Dube
Date: Tuesday, 13 July 1999, at 3:47 p.m.

Key words: artificial recharging, groundwater, non government organisations, saltwater intrusions.

" The rivers..... all discharge their water into the sea. They lead from sea to sea, the clouds raise them to the sky as vapour and release them in the form of rain....."

- from Chandogya (The Upanishads - ancient Indian texts dating back to 1000 BC).

BACKGROUND: Kathiawar is the peninsular part of Gujarat State (India) which juts out into the Arabian Sea. It forms the northern tip of the Western Coastal Plains of India. These coastal plains stretch from the hot and semi-arid Kathiawar peninsular in the north to the humid Malabar Coast of Kerala State in the south.

Named after the once famous Kathibreed of horses and the valorous Kathi Rajputs (warrior clan), Kathiawar is today a drought ridden, water starved land. In the past however, Nature was more forgiving and man much wiser. The erstwhile rulers of Kathiawar saw to it that every village maintain a water reservoir and forests and wildlife were well protected. Sufficient green cover enhanced the process of rainwater percolation, which in turn replenished the ground water aquifers. Water was found close to the surface and there were numerous wells which yielded sweet water (makes one wonder whether a benevolent ruler can do a better job than a chaotic democracy!) Our ancestors were well aware of the hydrological cycle, as is clear from the above extract quoted from the Upanishads and knew that milking the land was more sustainable than sucking her dry.

All good things come to an end and the British rule in India marked the beginning of the end. Most of the village tanks in Kathiawar fell into disuse and neglect. Forests shrunk. This resulted in a mark decline in rainwater percolation and recharging of ground water reservoirs. The above process coupled with over exploitation of ground water led to a sharp decline in ground water levels and widespread salinity ingress along the entire Kathiawar coastline.

DESCRIPTION OF THE WISE PRACTICE - RECHARGING WELLS: Today Mother Nature has lost her recuperative powers and needs to be nursed back to good health. One of the ways of doing this is by artificial recharging of groundwater as was successfully demonstrated by two NGOs-one is the Swadhyay Pariwar, who worked in the coastal district of Junagadh, and the other NGO being VRTI in Bhavnagar, another coastal district of Gujarat state. The recharging method followed by Swadhyay Pariwar involved diverting the runoff rainwater, using the natural drainage pattern, from fields into a 5x4x6 feet pit or tank. This pit is dug about five feet from the well, which is to be recharged. A pipe is placed about two feet below the ground, connecting the pit to the well. As the rainwater collects into the pit, the silt and the mud settle at the bottom of the pit and clear water from top flows from the pipe into the well. It was seen that by recharging a single well, the wells in the neighbouring fields also showed a rise in their water levels. In addition, by this method, a number of wells with saline or brackish water began to give fresh water.

A slightly more sophisticated method of recharging bore wells was carried out by VRTI in Rupavati village of Bhavnagar district. This method too was found to be equally successful, as was proved by a study carried out by Shri K. G. Mehta of Bhavnagar University. Shri Mehta concluded that this type of recharging of bore wells may be extremely useful in coastal alluvial areas provided the general water table conditions are prevailing within 30 to 40 m depth. Today Kathiawar has about 7 lakh wells and 500,000 bore wells. Out of these hardly 5% are recharged. This problem is compounded by unbridled salinity ingress along the entire coastline. In this grim scenario the importance of artificial recharging of wells cannot be over emphasized.

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