Niti Panel urges plan
05, Sep 2018
Prelims level : Mains level : Paper – III Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation
NITI Aayog constituted group of experts has urged the government to set up a dedicated mission to salvage and revive spring water systems in the country’s Himalayan States submitted their report.
NITI Aayog, constituted a Working Group on “Inventory and Revival of Springs of Himalaya for Water Security” as one of 5 thematic Working Groups for Sustainable Development of the Indian Himalayan Region.
- The broad objective of setting up of this Working Group was to take stock of
- The magnitude of the problem (drying of springs, spring water quality).
- Review related policies across IHR to ascertain adequacy and gaps.
- Review existing initiatives and best practices including inventorization and spring revival by different agencies across IHR
- Ascertain to what extent learning from all the best practices and some of the step-wise methodologies is being integrated into spring-related work and ways to strengthen it.
- Springs are natural discharge points of the aquifer that provide access of water to people in their natural, often pristine state.
- Mountain springs are the primary source of water for rural households in the Himalayan region. For many people, springs are the sole source of water.
- For instant, a major proportion of drinking water supply in the mountainous parts of Uttarakhand is spring based, while in Meghalaya all villages in the State use springs for drinking, irrigation and for livestock.
- There are five million springs across India, out of which nearly 3 million are in the IHR alone.
- Spring discharge is reported to be declining due to increased water demand, land use change, and ecological degradation. High dependency on one hand and an increasing sensitivity to depletion on the other, make Himalayan springs greatly vulnerable.
- With climate change and rising temperatures, rise in rainfall intensity and reduction in its temporal spread, and a marked decline in winter rain, the problem of dying springs is being increasingly felt across the Indian Himalayan Region.
- Besides, water quality is also deteriorating under changing land use and improper sanitation. • Spring depletion has not only affected people, but has also had serious impact on forests and wildlife. The problem, therefore, transcends the entire spectrum of dependents and dependencies, rural and urban to forests and wildlife.
- Any change in spring hydrology has clear ramifications on river hydrology, whether in the headwater regions, where springs manifest themselves as sources of rivers, or in the lower-reach plains of river systems where they contribute almost invisibly as base flows to river channels.
- A large share of the groundwater flux ends up in springs and consequently in rivers. River rejuvenation will be incomplete without a clear focus on spring revival
- Rivers are kept alive throughout the year, particularly in a monsoonal climate, primarily due to discharge from groundwater as springs and seeps along their river channels. Hence, spring water depletion, without our knowing it, affects flows in rivers and their revival holds great significance in the rejuvenation and restoration of rivers such as the Ganga, the Narmada, the Krishna, the Godavari and the Cauvery.
- Himalayan culture attributes a high value to springs and many cultural activities are still prevalent around spring water. Any further inaction will not only lead to physical consequences in the form of spring depletion and contamination, but also to the erosion of the rich culture and heritage around springs and spring water across the entire Himalayan landscape.
Policy and Knowledge Gap:
- There is misunderstanding of what constitutes springs, and how they are recharged, led to overall policy neglect of springs.
- Most of India’s water policies were designed around the ‘development’ of water, whether in the form of large structures such as dams or in the form of sinking wells into the ground to create access to groundwater. Spring water emerges on to the surface naturally and therefore did not receive much attention.
- It may be obvious to many that springs represent groundwater discharge. However, they have hardly found a place in mainstream education that was as important as that accorded to wells and other aspects of groundwater. Hence, knowledge on spring hydrology remains limited to some centres, mainly in the ivory towers of higher education in different discipline. springs did not feature in the mainstream assessment of groundwater resources.
- There is deficit in understanding of traditional practices and culture around springs both of which have significant socioeconomic and governance dimensions.
- While there is significant traction on the impacts of climate change and variability on water resources in the Himalayas, long-term data pertaining to both climate parameters and spring discharge at high granularity is missing until now.
- Similarly, documentation of various initiatives and institutions working on the multiple aspects of spring management is also missing.
- There is also an urgent need to take up a national level initiative focused on rejuvenation, restoration and management of Himalayan springs.
- The success of spring restoration, and of the Springs Initiative hinges on the enthusiastic participation of all the entities concerned. Handholding by and support of State and local governments are of crucial importance.
- There are the communities that use springs. It is important that they are convinced of the need to conserve their springs, understand how it is done, and are willing to assume responsibility for managing their springs therefore, the demand for spring restoration needs to come from such communities.
- Programmes have to be of participatory, involving local communities, NGOs, CSOs and implemented through a science-based management approach.
- Spring shed management is need for an hour. For spring revival, the appropriate unit is the spring shed – the unit of land where rain falls (recharge area), and then emerges at discharge point, the spring. a paradigm shift from watershed to spring shed as an appropriate unit of intervention in the IHR.
- The most important recommendation of the group is to launch a National Programme on Regeneration of Springs in the Himalayan Region. The programme will entail several short, medium and long-term actions.
- The sustainable management of spring water is clearly linked not only to multiple disciplines such as hydrogeology, social systems, economic trade-offs, gender and equity dimensions, but also to the interdisciplinary nature of responses to some of the crises surrounding spring water. • Establishing a clear relationship between climatic factors and spring depletion is difficult to obtain at the moment, it is important to develop a knowledge base that could facilitate and encourage workers in the region to take up groundwater resource augmentation and protection ventures with regard to spring water
- Systematic mapping of springs across the Himalayas is critical. Creation of a web-enabled database/web portal on which the springs can be mapped/tagged. All State Government Departments, R&D institutions and NGOs working on springs and springshed management will upload data on the web portal.
- Springs have provided water to the mountain communities for centuries and the revival of this traditional source of water is extremely important for the region’s sustainable growth.Depletion in spring discharge is not just a one-dimensional problem it is of multidimension in nature which will impact entire ecosystem.so systematic and scientific based approach involving all stakeholders is need for an hour.