ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Seeking Viable Solutions to Water Security in Bundelkhand

Traditional tanks, village ponds, and farm ponds are time saving, cost-effective, environmentally benign, and viable solutions to ensuring water and food security in drought-prone regions such as Bundelkhand. Expensive mega projects with large reservoirs such as the Ken-Betwa link take decades to plan, design, and implement, and cause enormous environmental damage.

Two successive years (2014 and 2015) of less than normal rainfall resulted in a nearly unprecedented situation for water supply and agriculture in India. Newspaper reports focused on the steady decline of water levels in the major reservoirs, many well below the dead storage. For people to get relief from the government, 234 districts in 10 states were declared drought affected. As some states delayed the declaration or did not consider all affected areas, the matter was discussed in the Supreme Court, which analysed the definition, classification, and criteria for a drought in great detail, referring extensively to the 2010 National Disaster Management Guidelines for Management of Drought.1

A drought situation, with its multiple consequences, begins with a deficiency in precipitation from the expected or normal levels over an extended period of time. This is known as a meteorological drought. Such droughts are not new phenomena, but their frequency has been increasing in recent decades with changes in climate. The unpredictability of monsoon precipitation and a short period of rain are normal features of our climate. People in South Asia have lived for many centuries with the vagaries of the monsoon, which is still not fully understood by meteorologists. The traditional response has been water harvesting in tanks, which intercept the surface run-off and small lower-order streams. These tanks also served as flood control structures for downstream areas. Rainwater harvesting structures were innovated in many parts of India where rainfall was both erratic and scanty. More important were also the traditional water management practices that avoided wasteful use and pollution. Floods, whenever and wherever they occurred, were often considered welcome phenomena despite some losses because they recharged ground water and renewed soil fertility (D’Souza 2002; Singh 2008).

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