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Heat Wave Has Increased Awareness of the Urgency of Water Conservation Efforts | Bharat Dogra

Saturday 22 June 2024, by Bharat Dogra


As heat waves intensified over a vast part of the country, Niwari district of Madhya Pradesh was repeatedly found to be among the more severely affected parts of the country. Amidst the increasing difficulties of the people here the only saving grace that people were increasingly discussing the urgency of the task of water conservation.

The ravages of global warming apart, a part of the credit should also go to the water conservation and sanitation volunteers called Jal Sahelis. Linked closely to the water conservation efforts of a voluntary organization Parmarth, these rural women volunteers have been consistently working to raise public consciousness on water and sanitation issues and to check any wastage of water.

Naina river is an important tributary of Jamni river. People’s life in villages of about 17 panchayats is closely related to the proper flow of this river and the recharge of wells and other water sources provided by this flow. Due to several factors the flow of this river had been adversely affected in recent years. To check this deterioration, jal sahelis and other activists of Parmarth mobilized the people of several villages like Bahera and Naampura to take up cleaning and de-silting work in the river on voluntary basis. In Bahera village, for example, there have been two such efforts and in the latest such effort about 75 people had participated. In Naampura such an effort is to be appreciated even more because people came forward despite some serious problems in the village.

To increase the possibilities of such efforts for river protection, it can be helpful to create proper places where people can gather for meetings on the river-bank. Ghurari river lacked such a place. This is an important tributary of Betwa river. At a time when the heat wave was almost peaking, Pushpendra, an activist of Parmarth, used to come here on daily basis to complete the work on a place of community gathering.

Just close to this a big mobilization took place for clearing aquatic weeds. These were impeding the river flow and becoming a serious risk for fish and other river-life. While on big cluster was cleared, another one which has very big boulders was difficult to clear. Later eight buffaloes died after getting badly entangled in this. After this tragic incident people are thinking of what they can do about this thick cluster of weeds, which is close to where the Kaner tributary joins this river.

In Sendhri village two check dams had been constructed earlier on two rainwater draining nullahs of Bagdan and Kulaar. However over the years these check dams had been damaged badly. Parmarth with the help of villagers here has repaired these damaged structures so that more rainwater can again be conserved for this village.

Some schools are also affected by water shortages, and this can be very difficult for students who are already burdened by the increasing heat. In the school of Bahera village, first a well used for watering plants dried up, and later a bore well also experienced the lowering of water table to such an extent that it was not possible to get any water from this. In such conditions Parmarth implemented a roof-water harvesting scheme here. As teachers here stated, it was also like an environmental lesson for students who watched the ongoing work. In another school in Churara village students took a keen interest in the tree planting work which was assisted by Parmarth and helped to protect the growing up plants. Parmarth has been using popular games like football with a few changes made in them to popularize water conservation work among children in interesting ways.

To facilitate better use of waste water flowing from kitchens and bathing places, jal sahelis in some villages have been promoting kitchen gardens, also adding to the nutrition of several households.

These and more water conservation efforts will be increasingly needed as the heat waves are projected to intensify further in the coming years in these times of global warming. People are worried about these possibilities and are increasingly discussing these issues in several small gatherings and meetings.

(Author: Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Man over Machine, Protecting Earth for Children and India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food.)

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