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Jaipur: Waterless in five years?

What a foreign consultancy firm had predicted about five years back has now been confirmed by an official study - that Jaipur could go dry in the next four to five years, rain or no rain. The ground water department has concluded that the water level in the city has been going down by an average of 8.33 metres every year.

india Updated: Jul 07, 2003 13:43 IST
PTI

 
Even good monsoon may not suffice to meet the city's demands in the near future.

What a foreign consultancy firm had predicted about five years back has now been confirmed by an official study - that Jaipur could go dry in the next four to five years, rain or no rain.



Taking into account both normal monsoon and drought years from 1984 to 2002, the groundwater department has concluded that the water level in the city has been going down by an average of 8.33 metres every year.



Groundwater situation: The depth of bedrock in the city varies from 50 to 100 metres, while the existing water table has already reached the depth of 25 to 40 metres, according to department officials. It was five years back that a foreign consultancy firm, Tahal, hired by the government, had predicted the drying up of ground water here by 2007.

When queried, S M Kanwar, superintending engineer, groundwater department, conceded that the situation was 'critical'. "But our records are based on estimates only. We are now doing groundwater modelling taking into account all variables like bedrock, population, rainfall and recharge of water. Any conclusion could be drawn only after we get the results," he said.

Available alternatives: According to officials, there are only two alternatives left to avert this crisis: first, reduction in the consumption of water and planned recharge; second, development of surface water.

There were discussions to bring a legislation to regulate the use of water but nothing concrete has come out so far, according to official sources.

As for recharge, the government made 15 rooftop harvesting structures in government buildings including the State Secretariat, Raj Bhawan, and Chief Minister's residence, to serve as an example for the people.

Officials have, however, no idea about the success or failure of these structures because they were for 'recharging' and not for 'conservation'. All the rainwater that was supposedly harvested through these structures went into the ground and it could not be measured, they said.

They, however, asserted that if rainwater in Jaipur (average 600 mm) were to be harvested, it would meet the requirements for at least 240 days in a year. "Our water harvesting structures were meant to be a model for the people to follow and not something that would recharge the groundwater for the entire city," said officials.

Rooftop harvesting: In 2001, the government prescribed that the Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) should make rooftop water harvesting mandatory for any building covering 500 square feet of land. As it is, JDA officials have no idea whether the prescription was followed at all.

The city is today 'saturated' with buildings and the JDA prescription for new harvesting structures do not seem to go beyond symbolism.

Officials said that the only thing that can be done now was to get peoplestore rainwater from their rooftops and put it into the ground so that groundwater could be recharged but the government was yet to wake up to this.

Jaipur's main source: Until a few years back, the main source of water supply in the city used to be Ramgarh dam, which 'dried up' this year, thanks to the continuous decrease in the inflow of water during monsoon season. From 1384 million cubic feet in 1983, the inflow came down to one million cubic feet in 2002.

Rain gods may have been partly responsible for the decreasing inflow but it was mostly man-made, as any visitor to the dam would know. Over the past one-and-a-half decades, encroachments in the catchment area kept on increasing but the authorities remained indifferent.

Worse still, the government itself became instrumental in blocking the inflow of water. During the same period, about 25 big anicuts were built in the catchment area in drought relief works.

Officials conceded that it was these anicuts, which were responsible for the decreasing inflow of water and the present status of the dam.

All hopes are now pinned on Bisalpur dam, located about 100 km from Jaipur, for supply of water through pipelines to the city.

D K Singh

First Published: Jul 07, 2003 13:31 IST