Prakash Kumar: The impending crisis in India for water is very much foreseeable in next 5-10 years. The crisis is not going to happen because of shortage of water but its poor management. The same is true for the Himalayan region the “water kingdom” of the world. Slowly we are robbing this once mighty water kingdom by inflicting poor management of water by pollution, wastage, over extraction, making fundamental changes to its catchment and other developmental activities that affect its century’s old character of collection, storage and automatic renewal.
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It is true Himalayan region not only limited to India but in other countries have started witnessing shortage of water and the problem in coming years will manifold and make water a scarce commodity in Himalayas. Why this is happening? Who is responsible for it? The answer to these questions cannot be straight but the community living in Himalayas are equally responsible for this state of affairs.
We fail to disseminate that water is not a standalone sector but it is a cross cutting resource and requires an integrated planning for its collection, storage and usage. The situation has not surfaced at once but it culminated due to consistent miss-adventure of poor government policies, planning and implementation and partially in collaboration with some of the influential members of the community in the last 30 years.
Equally responsible are other development partners who implemented small half baked pilots and left in the middle. The government policies are like elephant, slow to come but when they come it is difficult to remove. Therefore some of the half cooked strategies comes very late and being implemented are very hard to stop, replace or change. The rigidity makes it difficult to refine with the learning.
In my opinion the most important reason of this state of water affairs in the Himalayas is consistent systematic abandonment of traditional/conventional practices used in Himalayas for centuries. The entire notion of water has been changed in this region. The systematic abandonment of old practices leading to water conservation and usage has been wiped out from the community mind.
The rooted map of water has not been passed to the next generation and the result is that the new generation in Himalayas do not know how to manage water. The older generation who inherited the rooted maps from the earlier generation become confused due to mindless application of external technology that takes nowhere and makes situation worse.
What is to be done?
The first thing is to restore the faith of community and make them access their rooted maps about water. How they manage water in older times and how best they can adapt old practices with the modern techniques. The conjoint effort is needed in Himalayas for the management of water, old traditional way of managing water couple with new modern disinfection techniques.
There is urgent need to reinvent traditional ways of water management. Children need to be involved from the beginning. Mass awareness program with use of modern technology should be initiated in the region. Water needs to be integrated with sectors like health, nutrition, education, irrigation, agriculture and climate change. We cannot afford to wait for another decade to integrate issues of water with climate change. It is happening climate change is taking toll of already worsening situation of water and it is wake up call, wake up or sleep forever.
Water needs attention from all including scientific and research community to develop economical and simple technology to store surface water in rainy season for use in winters/summers. We need millions and millions of Oak trees to store water. Large scale replication of embankment recharging, bank filtration technique needs to be employed with local adaptation.
Long term approach for addressing availability of water and water quality in Himalayan region is needed. Water is free; the time has come for that notion to go. Water is a resource and it requires contribution from community as water fee to manage it properly and safely.
Who is suffering?
The inhabitants of Himalayas are at receiving end, they need to be proactively stand together and manage their resources properly so that their future generation will keep living in Himalayas otherwise it will become a mountain desert devoid of mankind. The repercussions of the loss of water kingdom in Himalayas will not affect its inhabitants only but it will reverberates across a vast section of India affecting millions of population in the plains dependent on the spirit and water from Himalayas.
Guest Author: Er. Prakash Kumar has written this article as Climate Himalaya’s Guest speaker. He lived and worked in Himalayan region for many years and Himalayas remain forever in his heart.
Prakash Kuamar is Deputy Team Leader at DFID-SWASTH, B-TAST project at Patna (Bihar, India). A Chartered Civil Engineer on Ecology & Environment he worked over twenty four years in the field of civil engineering, water, environment and sanitation in urban / rural sectors in India, Bhutan and China. His experience includes policy support, program development, planning, designing, tendering, implementation, contract management, networking, co-ordination, monitoring & evaluation, action research, operation, maintenance and expansion support, capacity building, knowledge management & dissemination and evidence based advocacy for sustainable development with publication of several articles on Water & Environmental sanitation including ecological sanitation. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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