Whenever natural calamity strikes, it ultimately affects the poor populace of poor countries. Among the countries that suffer from adverse effects of such natural calamities Asia leads the world and India inevitably tops the list in Asia.
Of all the natural calamities, drought is the most destructive one. Many areas of the country come under the grip of drought invariably once in four to five years. It is more so in case of Bundelkhand region, which is spread over 11 districts of the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, with an area of 73,000 sq km. Southern part of this region is 1,500 metres above the mean sea level whereas the northern part is 500 metres above the MSL. The quantum of rain decreases from south to north. The southern part receives about 100 cm of rain annually on an average, whereas the northern parts receive about 80 cm. The region exhibits various types of soils such as red, yellow and sandy types. These soils possess very little in situ moisture conservation capabilities. The terrain being inclined, the rain water discharges quickly into very deep ghats of rivers on one hand, whereas the high temperature being 30-40 degrees C, the evaporation rate is unbelievably very high. These natural situations in turn give rise to the terrible conditions of drought, even though the terrain has perennial rivers like Ken, Betwa, Dhansan, Jamini and Mandakini, which flow towards north through slim and deep gorges and bush forests and drain into the Yamuna river.
The results of drought can be classified into three categories: lack of foodgrains, lack of water and lack of fodder. Unfortunately, the rural masses of this region have to bear the burden of all these concurrently and simultaneously.
Generally, the rural people depend on agriculture and animal rearing for their livelihood. During drought period, though the government tries to provide some relief, it is usually limited to human beings only. The landless populace dependent on livestock for livelihood try to migrate to those areas where fodder is available. Nevertheless, the locals of the new area consider these migrants as unwelcome intruders and create problems for them as well as animals too. The government has plans on anvil to provide relief to men as well as animals during such situations, though it is not put to practical use as yet.
The main causes of drought are as under:
- More than 50 per cent of the terrain being inclined, about 60 per cent of rain water drains away rapidly.
- Rocky terrain and high temperature have proved to accelerate the evaporation rate.
- Regular deforestation has affected the underground water level.
- Irrational usage of ground water has decreased the ground water table. Even excess number of bore well in a place has also increased this effect.
- Silting of lakes and reservoirs has reduced the holding capacity of these water bodies. Desilting is rarely taken up to increase the water holding capacity.
- Incessantly increasing population and unauthorised occupation of areas of lakes and ponds are regularly decreasing their size and capacity.
- Though some big dams for rainwater harvesting have been built, yet to provide local relief micro-level actions have not been taken up.
- With the blind race to go for eucalyptus plantation, the quality of soil and ground water level too have done down.
- The uncontrollably growing unwanted aqueous plants have helped in silting of lakes and ponds.
- Irrigation is being undertaken on the neighbouring high lands of lakes and ponds has in effect increased the soil erosion, which in turn reduced the capacity of lakes and ponds by increasing silting.
Conservation and Management of Water
Multi-dimensional usage of water with changing times in households, industries, business, agriculture and energy production has taken an upward turn. The ever increasing demand for water has brought forward the importance of conservation and management of water, which calls for testing, controlling and development of water resources. Conservation and management water resources in Bundelkhand can be done effectively by following the under mentioned suggestions:
- The most important aspect of water conservation and management lies in controlling and harvesting the flowing water. Teach the running water to walk and walking water to stand still.
- A novel trail exercise can be undertaken in Bundelkhand region by erecting water dividers along the rivers and use the water for irrigation purposes.
- Reforestation in highly inclined hilly and plateau regions would control the flow of water. This in turn would reduce the soil erosion, increase the in situ moisturisation capacity and effectively control floods.
- Irrigation on hills should be on the pattern of platforms, which though reduce the speed of running water yet allow the water to percolate into earth, which gives rise to underground water level.
- Reforestation and improvement of grassland pastures shall be taken up on a larger scale which would increase the absorbing capacity of land and increase the underground water level.
- Contour plantation of lakes and ponds shall be taken up so that the evaporation rate can be reduced.
- Rational use of underground water shall be made inevitable.
- Usage of underground water shall be limited to minor irrigation only.
- Farmers shall be provided with proper awareness about the quantity of water each type of crop needs. This reduces the wastage of water usage. Further farmers shall be taught to opt for corps that consume less water.
- Purification of polluted water shall be taken up. Strict imposition of water sources shall be made mandatory.
- The legal aspects of rights and price of water should be determined in order to effectively implement water policy 2001.