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Fresh Water woes of Dehradun

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By S Paul
I was ashamed and alarmed by the news published in a national daily on 26 April that after Bengaluru, Dehradun is facing potable water shortage. It ought to make the Uttarakhand Government, using Dehradun as temporary capital of the state, the MDDA, and Doon’s administration ashamed for this situation in the valley which has been known for its ample water sources and green cover.
The news also gives the statistics that the 283 bore wells (a short cut for the unscrupulous to draw water) and three natural spring water sources have become grossly inadequate to take on the burden of the burgeoning human population load of this unfortunate valley and its surroundings, including the exclusive hill station Mussoorie. The green is being rapidly replaced by the grey of cement concrete and the water sources are drying up mainly because of overuse of aquifers, and catchment areas being encroached upon by habitations. The trees and sprawling fields, which attracted moisture and humans and sustained fauna, too, have been denuded. Doon Basmati is history. Tea gardens have disappeared. Litchi orchards have been replaced by unplanned human habitats. Are these not some of the factors that should have been considered while inviting the realtors to urbanise this salubrious nature’s gift? The realtors have been permitted to prevail upon our government, our development authority and made our once proud ‘Doon Niwasis,’ who owned large scathes of densely growing fruit and flowering trees and shrubs around houses in the town, to succumb to the lure of huge monetary gains. For this calamity our erstwhile very vociferous environmentalists who had been so successful in stopping the ransacking of Mussoorie hills for their calcium stones have become meek and disinterested. Some NGOs with all those very fancy names just appear to pick up some polythene garbage or paint walls and have it published in news media, have been unable to make appropriate noises to unnerve the authorities and make them come out of their slumber.
The Jal Nigam, a collection of experienced technocrats, who could have forewarned the government of this crisis and make them finance some very achievable schemes to augment our water supply system have procrastinated. How have they planned supply of potable water to those multi-storeyed apartments, commercial buildings and private colonies?  Most of them have their own water supply based on tube wells bored in their compound. All these uncontrolled systems have caused the subsoil water levels to recede even beyond the reach of the greens which are drying up rapidly. The valley is drying up. This has been caused by us insensitive human beings.
There is still time to execute measures to retain whatever is left and even reverse the disastrous trend. Water being the basic elixir of life, every one up and down the system ought to work on it on utmost priority.
Our valley is blessed with two major rivers of the nation, Ganga in the East and Yamuna in the west. Can’t a project be worked out to link these rivers with a canal system running through the valley? If it is not pragmatic now at this stage of development in the valley then why not pump their water up to a suitable height on Mussoorie hill range and then feed the valley by gravity through large pipes via water treatment plants; Ganga for ‘Purva Doon’ and Yamuna for ‘Pachhwa Doon’. They may also be interlinked by running a pipeline across the valley along the foothills. Seal all the tube wells and draw only from springs, rivers and rainwater catchment systems. Afforestation should also be done more judicially to help enrich the soil and keep the atmosphere moist. In celebrating ‘Harela’, there should not be haphazard planting of trees in urban areas. Scathes of large parks with thick foliage cover may be chalked out for inhabited areas. Where the existing forests have been denuded, more rain inducing tree cover needs to be planted. I would also suggest that more of fruiting trees be planted within the forests so that animals and birds have more to eat and the carnivores are also given their game within the forests instead of visiting human habitats to forage for food. This would re-establish the natural food chain. My plea to all to recognise this emergency and act NOW.

(S Paul is aretired Military Engineer. He was part of a team to provide potable water to Port Blair A&N Islands, called the Dhanikari Scheme; worked on impounding natural springs and river for water in a new Cantt in Arunachal Pradesh; tapped Chenab river and natural springs to provide water to a new Cantt in J&K.)