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Govt to revive drying springs in Himalayan region, pilot study begins in Dehradun

The government plans to hold a national workshop involving 12 states in the Indian Himalayan region to discuss issues related to the sustainable development of springs and strategies for their renovation, rejuvenation and augmentation.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2018 17:51 IST
Toufiq Rashid
Toufiq Rashid
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Himalayas,Himalayan springs,Jammu and Kashmir
A view of the Himalayas from Darjeeling. The government’s move to revive dying Himalayan springs is crucial as mountain springs are the primary source of water for rural households in the region.(Mint file)

Thousands of dried up springs across the Himalayan region will be revived as part of the government’s programme aimed at recharging groundwater and ensuring safe drinking water in villages where these bodies are the primary source of clean water.

The Union ministry of water resources and Central Ground Water Board are planning to hold a national workshop involving 12 states in the Indian Himalayan region to discuss issues related to the sustainable development of springs and strategies for their renovation, rejuvenation and augmentation, officials said.

A spring is a point from where water flows out of aquifers or the body of permeable rock which contain groundwater and transmit it to the earth’s surface.

The workshop will be followed by a study in selected areas to generate data.

“The study will monitor spring discharge and spring water quality,’’ the water board’s chairperson KN Naik said.

The government has already started a pilot study in Uttarakhand’s Dehradun. Naik said the board signed a pact with the Geological Survey of India’s state unit office in Dehradun for the study on the sustainability of springs in parts of the hill state’s Almora district in December last year.

“For two years, the study would focus on the preparation of spring development and rejuvenation plans through investigations on the characterisation of the springs. It will also study how to the factors controlling recharge and discharge of the springs as well as its water quality,’’ he said.

The revival programme will be gradually extended to the entire Himalayan region to include the ten hill states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland. And, two partial hill states of Assam and West Bengal will also come under its ambit.

The National Institution for Transforming India, also called NITI Aayog, constituted a working group in June last year on the “Inventory and Revival of Springs of Himalaya for Water Security”.

The working group was set up to take a stock of the magnitude of the problem of drying springs, quality of their water and review the related policies across the Himalayan region.

The report by the working group in December 2017 says there are five million springs across India and out of which nearly three million are in the Himalayan region alone, which is home to nearly 50 million people.

“Mountain springs are the primary source of water for the rural households in the Himalayan region. For many people, springs are the sole source of water. For example, 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 and/or irrigation,’’ the report says.

The government of Sikkim has already presented a successful example as it has taken up the revival under its water security scheme. The recharging of the springs was started in 2012 in the northeastern state and has proved to be a great success.

The villages situated on the top of the hills from where rainwater was draining off through steep slope were chosen. The groundwater was recharged by digging new dug ponds, tanks and trenches that stored the rainwater. Saplings were planted along the trenches to stop soil erosion.

The recharged groundwater, according to experts, helped revive the springs.

Experts say the revival will primarily depend on the health of the catchment area of the springs.

“Life in the mountains depend on springs. They are not just part of the heritage but the health of the rivers also depends on the health of the springs,’’ Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network on Rivers, Dams and People (SANDRP) said.

“It requires seriousness on the part of the government. As the springs are directly related to the health of catchment areas as well as forestation,’’ Thakkar added.

First Published: Apr 25, 2018 17:50 IST