Environmentalists urge political parties to focus on water harvesting to conserve land, cite Karnataka model

'Land Restoration, Desertification & Drought Resilience is the theme for the WED', NatConnect Foundation pointed out in an open letter to all politicians and said water conservation is the first step towards that.
Last Updated : 03 June 2024, 12:59 IST
Last Updated : 03 June 2024, 12:59 IST

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Mumbai: Ahead of the World Environment Day (WED) celebrated on June 5, a collective of green groups and environmental activists have called upon all political parties to sink their differences and focus on water protection, conservation, and harvesting, thereby enhancing the green cover to protect the precious land, taking a cue from the Karnataka lift irrigation model.

"Land Restoration, Desertification & Drought Resilience is the theme for the WED", NatConnect Foundation pointed out in an open letter to all politicians and said water conservation is the first step towards that.

The action must begin from the top and ensure that the message of #JalNahinKalNahin flows from Parliament to Panchayats, NatConnect director B N Kumar said. 

Alliance for Rivers in India (AFR), Watchdog Foundation, Kharghar Hill and Wetlands and Save Belapur Hills joined the drive #HarvestWaterToConserveLand.

"It is said that our politicians do not realise the importance of hills that help us in rainfall and holding water", Kumar said.

"We need good officers and firm decision makers", said Indore-based Sanjay Gupta, Co-founder of AFR.

Rainwater harvesting is a critical measure in combating water scarcity and by capturing and storing rainwater, we can reduce dependence on depleting groundwater sources, Godfrey Pimenta of Watchdog Foundation, said.

Political ideologies have separated the politicians during the just concluded and bitterly fought elections, but environmental issues could unite them, post the results, he said. It is easier said than done, he said and asked: "don’t we breathe the same air, use the same water, land and enjoy the fruits of agriculture?"

As far as Mumbai is concerned, the entire metropolitan region should be treated as one comprehensive unit not for urban development but for environmental protection and to begin with, water conservation.

In this context, Kumar pointed out the lift irrigation project being successfully executed by the Karnataka Government by pumping water for about 70 km from Bengaluru’s sewage treatment plants (STP) to Kolar. The STP water is pumped into Kolar lakes which in turn help recharge groundwater tables and then for irrigation. The State government is now planning to extend this scheme to all its major cities and recycle used water for irrigation.

Mumbai collects over 1700 million litres per day (MLD) and Navi Mumbai about 450 MLD and Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation about 210 MLD. While most of the treated water is drained into the sea which is a sheer waste, NatConnect said and suggested to the Maharashtra government to take the first step towards the effective issue of every drop of water.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) has 18 urban areas including nine municipal corporations and the urban development must focus on effective use of recycled water.

Similarly, India has over 310 cities and 5,100 towns which all need to look at water conservation and recycling seriously. This is where the involvement of all politicians should flow from the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers, and down to their Ministers, MPs, MLAs, Zilla Parishad members and finally the Panchayat sarpanch and members.

The idea of rainwater harvesting must be top priority in  view of the current monsoon and the governments must execute it with missionary zeal.

Concurring with the idea, Godfrey Pimenta, director of Watchdog Foundation, said "our focus must extend to crucial initiatives such as rainwater harvesting, expanding greenery, and ensuring the sustainable management of our natural resources, including space, air, earth, and hills".

Increasing urban greenery not only enhances the aesthetic value of our cities but also contributes significantly to air purification, temperature regulation, and biodiversity, Pimenta said.

Land conservation must also be related to hill protection, said Himanshu Katkar of Save Belapur Hills forum. Hills must be strengthened with green cover and “we should not allow encroachments and hill cutting at any cost,” he said.

Amidst mega challenges and threats to the environmental protection efforts, we need good officers and firm decision makers, said Indore-based Sanjay Gupta, Co-founder of Alliance for Rivers in India (AFR).

Also, there is a need to mobilise the youth as responsible citizens and build a strong cadre which comes from the public at large, Gupta said. AFR works in association with organisations focused on water conservation across various districts.

Jyoti Nadkarni of Kharghar Hill and Wetland wondered if we really need these days and themes to remind us of our action and responsibility for the planet. It is time to act on checking land degradation and soil erosion because "our Land is our future", she said.

Published 03 June 2024, 12:59 IST

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