Sukhna is dead, can be revived, says Waterman of India | punjab | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Sukhna is dead, can be revived, says Waterman of India

At a Panjab University conclave, Rajendra Singh suggests scientific ways for desilting the lake.

punjab Updated: Apr 23, 2018 11:52 IST
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Water conservationist Rajendra Singh during a regional conference on environment at Punjab University on Sunday.
Water conservationist Rajendra Singh during a regional conference on environment at Punjab University on Sunday.(Sikander Singh Chopra/HT)

Chandigarh’s Sukhna Lake is dead because of excessive silting but can be rejuvenated, said Dr Rajendra Singh, a water conservationist who is popularly known as ‘Waterman of India’.

A Stockholm Water Prize awardee, Singh was at the Panjab University to attend the first regional conference on environment.

Talking to HT about ways to save Sukhna, Singh, who has rejuvenated 11 dead rivers in the last 35 years, said the man-made lake is easy to rejuvenate, but the problem needs scientific solutions.

Why is the lake dying?

“The soil in the catchment area of the lake is fragile. As there is no greenery at the catchment area, whenever it rains, soil erodes, which is why the lake area is ecologically sensitive. The administration has not been able to understand this issue, thereby failing to prevent soil erosion, which is why the lake is almost filled with silt,” said Singh.

Against the needed depth of 10 feet, the Sukhna had shrunk to a mere 1.75 feet in May last year. (HT File)

“The soil erosion from the fragile catchment area leads to accumulation of silt in the lake, which in turn dries the lake up. The lake will become dead when its water holding and water recharging (underground) capacity will be lost due to this silting,” he said.

Pointing out that the lake had been beautifully made an important location, Singh said it was very important to keep it alive.

How to save the lake
  • Rajendra Singh suggested rejuvenation of subsurface and underground aquifers as the permanent solution to the lake’s problem
  • Singh said instead of de-silting the entire lake, which will consume a lot of money, the administration should dig up at least 20 de-silting pits in a way that the underground fractures get connected.
  • He said the process will recharge the underground aquifers (bodies of permeable rock which can contain or transmit groundwater), and water storage in the lake will also increase
  • Singh also advocated spreading water literacy by starting a movement to spread awareness among the bureaucracy and the public on water conservation

What is the solution?

“If we want to restore the lake’s vitality, we will have to understand the mapping of aquifers (bodies of permeable rock which can contain or transmit groundwater), and de-silting in order to connect it with nature,” said Singh, adding that the authorities should first understand the character of underground aquifers and the lake’s geo-hydro morphology.

“The administration should de-silt the lake in a scientific manner. Instead of de-silting the entire lake, which will consume a lot of money, the administration should dig up at least 20 de-silting pits in a way that the underground fractures get connected,” said Singh.

He said, “With this, underground aquifers will be recharged and water storage in the lake will also increase. Hence, Chandigarh will have a subsurface and underground water level reserve bank.”

Singh emphasised that rejuvenation of subsurface and underground aquifers is the permanent solution.

When asked if water from the Bhakra dam can be added to the lake, he said, “They can add Bhakra’s water to the lake but to ensure that the biodiversity of the lake does not get impacted, the administration should first analyse how much water can be added. This is a very sensitive issue.”

‘City needs to conserve water’

Singh believes that the way Chandigarh has been planned, it is possible to make the city self-reliant when it comes to water. “But this will happen only when every drop of water is conserved and efficiently used, and also rain water is harvested at micro and macro level, he said.

Singh also advocated spreading water literacy by starting a movement for which three types of groups are needed.“The first group is for teaching water management to elected representatives and bureaucracy, the second is to ensure that academic institutes teach water conservation, linkage of crop and rain pattern to students, and the third is for inculcating a sense of responsibility among the public,” he elaborated.

“Apart from these three, two more groups are needed — one to diagnose the problem of water sources and another for the treatment of those problems,” said Singh.

“We have been running such water literacy movement in Maharashtra successfully for the last three years. The movement can be successful in Chandigarh as well,” said Singh.