Water Scenario and
World Water Scenario:
About 97% of the total available water on the earth is saline; this might be a well-known fact. However, we feel that the remaining 3% is enough for us. Fifty years back, this assumption was not an issue when the population was not as high as it is today and when other needs and requirements, mostly generated due to so-called development processes, were not competing with the basic requirements of water. However, now it is of the utmost importance. The fact is that out of 3% of fresh water, 68.7% is in form of ice as ice-caps and glaciers, 30.1% is stored as groundwater, surface water and other forms are only 1.1% of the fresh water available globally. Interestingly, out of the 0.3% surface water (in liquid form), only 2% is in rivers, the rest remains in lakes (87%) and swamps (11%).
If we consider the usage pattern, after having a look at the water distribution, we will find that the miniscule amount of available fresh water is required to meet a range of human demands: 69% for agriculture, 22% for Industrial use, 8% for domestic use, and 1% for recreational, environmental and other applications of the total use of water. Out of this, agricultural use is almost completely consumptive. Industrial usage is a mix of consumptive and non-consumptive usage. Domestic usage, again, is more or less consumptive in nature. Thus, the emerging scenario shows that while agriculture is the most heavily water-consuming sector at the global and local levels, unfortunately, water resource use in agricultural and domestic consumption is highly inefficient.
Availability, Accessibility and Quality Issues in the Bundelkhand Region:
India, as it is among the most populous countries of the world, places high pressure on its national water resources and is susceptible to large-scale water scarcity, with major pressures arising sooner than in other countries. Further, water resources are being exploited in developing countries because of loose control and governing structures over common resources. Thus, water scarcity is augmented whenever demand is out of balance with availability. The latter generally occurs when water storage (on surface or in aquifers) is reduced, or when demand increases. In the Bundelkhand region, the scarcity of water resources is due to low rainfall and rocky surfaces giving insufficient opportunities for water to penetrate into deep aquifers capable of supporting demand. The scarce and uncertain rains and encroached water bodies are not allowing water to be stored at the surface in most parts of the Bundelkhand region. Wherever surface reservoirs exist, higher temperatures are reducing their availability throughout the year. Higher run-off (due to undulating topography) and unfavorable geology (having rocky substrata), reduce the chances for water to infiltrate deep aquifers. Geological formations are once again an obstruction to water exploration due to high variability of water outlets points (fractures) and low yields. Considering the above factors, the Bundelkhand region needs a specific strategy to deal with the precious water resource.
After availability, accessibility is another major concern from the demand-side perspective. Accessibility is of special importance for household and agricultural activities. When perceived as the economic accessibility of a resource, the accessibility of water does not seem to have a significant impact on the industrial sector. Household accessibility issues can be broken down into physical and economic aspects, including time and travel involved in fetching water for domestic purposes. Agricultural accessibility comprises issues of physical accessibility (surface water, wells and bore wells), tools and means (pumps, power etc) and economic aspects, (cost of power to fetch water for agricultural purposes, mostly in the form of diesel costs for pumping water). Quality is the third dimension of water-related issues in addition to availability and accessibility. The characteristics and admixtures of water should not make it unsuitable for its intended purpose. Water quality is of the utmost importance where human consumption is concerned, and also has significance for agricultural use.
Development Alternatives’ Approach:
As discussed earlier, the agricultural sector has the highest levels of water consumption alongside the greatest lack of efficiency in terms of production per unit of water input. There is significant potential for improving water use efficiency in agriculture. Traditional water application methods (flood irrigation) are inherently inefficient, and the problem is most pronounced in the Bundelkhand region, due to its undulating topography and light-textured soils. Secondly, the conveyance losses in the case of irrigation by canals are also quite high due to the light texture of Bundelkhand’s soils, unlined canals and the deliberate breaching of canals.
Development Alternatives, which has been working in the region for last twenty-five years, has taken up a holistic approach to the use and conservation of water. Considering Bundlekhand’s predisposition to water scarcity and the high demand for groundwater in the agricultural sector, hidden competition between agricultural and domestic water use has been observed. Unfortunately, in the latter case, the water is needed for life, and in the former case—for securing livelihoods. When water resources are exploited for agricultural purposes (livelihoods), a scarcity of water for domestic purposes (life) can be expected, especially in drought years, which spurs distress migration in the region. The use of water in the agricultural sector has also been ineffective, inefficient and unsustainable.
In Bundelkhand, Development Alternatives has taken up an approach towards water resource management that takes into account all of the aspects of water use mentioned above.
Annual precipitation in the Bundelkhand region varies from 700 to 1200 mm, with very high variations in annual values. The increasing frequency of drought, undulating land and light-textured soils adversely impact the infiltration of water into aquifers. The watershed approach to water management operates in such a way as to enable most of the access water to be stored underground instead of flowing away. Development Alternatives has taken the lead in initiating watershed projects in an area comprising approximately 21,000 ha in and nearby direct intervention areas. In last two decades it has also have built more than 150 water harvesting structures in the region. At the household level, approximately 100 rainwater harvesting structures have also been set up over the last few years. Increasing water storage is one way to ensure availability; the second way is to reduce the extraction of water from storage systems.
This is being promoted by increasing the efficiencies in agricultural sector. There are, again, two ways of improving the efficiency of water usage: i) reducing the application of water while still ensuring that crops receive adequate irrigation and ii) reducing quantity of water required for the same levels of production. Technically, these two can be termed as improving water application efficiencies (better application methods) and water use efficiencies (water-smart crops). Both are being promoted through recourse to improved irrigation systems such as the sprinkler and drip irrigation methods for reducing the application losses, and improved appropriate farming systems as well as high-yielding crop varieties that have low irrigation requirements. DA has taken up an intensive approach in this regard and covered roughly a 3,500 ha area through improved and resource-efficient agricultural practices. There is potential for increasing crop productivity by approximately 30% and reducing water application in water-intensive crops (such as wheat) by a minimum of 30%, thus increasing water use efficiencies (production per unit of input water) by 60 to 80%.
If applied at scale, this approach can greatly improve water resource management. In the pursuit of improving efficiency, sprinkler and drip technologies have been promoted through demonstration, training, awareness and exposure visits for the farmers of Bundelkhand. Government schemes have also been leveraged through Panchayati Raj Institutions for promoting micro irrigation systems. Further, focus has been placed on improving the approach to cultivating the most widespread water-intensive crop: wheat. Improved low-water and high yielding varieties of wheat have been promoted in Bundelkhand (swarna, poorna, vidisha, naveenchandausi and others): these varieties require 3-4 irrigations as opposed to the 6 irrigation cycles needed by less water-efficient cultures and their yield tends to be roughly 30% higher than that of traditional wheat varieties. During Kharif (Rainy Season Cropping period), fast-growing and high-yielding groundnut varieties such as TG-41 and TAG 37 have also been promoted. Encouraging results from farmers’ fields also reflected the high-scale replicability of the practices and varieties in the region, positively affecting the status of water availability.
Accessibility of adequate water for domestic use is a crucial issue, as fetching water over long distances consumes a great deal of time and human resources. As in most part of Bundelkhand surface water sources are not available, most of the rural population is dependent on hand pumps for meeting their domestic water requirements. As the availability of water is reduced significantly during the hottest times of the year, especially in view of the increased frequency of droughts, most hand-pumps go out of service during the summers of low rainfall years. DA has taken up the approach of setting up community-managed piped water delivery systems and improving the effectiveness of hand pumps by making communities aware of the institutional and other mechanisms which exists to serve the purpose of ensuring uninterrupted hand-pump operations. During the current year, the accessibility of water for domestic use has been ensured for over 5,000 households in four direct intervention villages of Development Alternatives: Pahuj, Orachha, Niwari and Datia.
In the case of piped water supply systems an impact study has found that the time spent on fetching water was significantly reduced, and that the average distance from household to water source has gone down to less than 100 metres in comparison to the former distance of over one kilometre, which earlier had tended to be the norm, especially in summers. Reducing drudgery for women and girl children who are usually responsible for fetching water for their households is reflected by the increased attendance of girls in schools, and especially in middle schools,based on the "Integrated Domestic Water Management in Five Villages of Bundelkhand" report which drew on an impact assessment study conducted by Econurture Consulting under the Arghyam Project.
Priority has been placed on spreading awareness of the issues of water quality to target communities. Members of rural settlements have been trained to test water quality from village sources regularly and to interpret the results. Whenever water quality is found to be unsuitable (most common contamination was found to be of biological origins), purification options have been suggested and promoted among the communities of Bundelkhand. Options suited to regional peculiarities and types of contamination were also implemented. These include the consumption of boiled water, promotion of JAL TARA and domestic Bio sand filters. To increase water quality awareness among children, JTFs have been provided for schools at six locations. Thus, concepts of water quality assessment and management have been promoted among local communities. A model for providing safe water services through the entrepreneurial mode has also been tested. This option has not yet been welcomed by local entrepreneurs; however, one entrepreneur has taken the lead and shown that there is potential for earning up to eight thousand Rs per month through providing safe water in peri-urban areas. Despite high potential for the success of similar ventures, lead time will be required for such services to become commonplace in Bundelkhand.q