From Mrinalinee Vanarase, Ecological Society, Pune
Posted 19 April 2008
Ecological Society, Pune, is working on the ecological restoration of streams in three districts of Maharashtra with community help. The result would be demonstration units of stream restorations in three different bio-geographic zones. The restoration depends on the biogeography and ecological status of the stream but there are common points. The restoration will ensure the streams have a continuous flow of water and percolation takes place to recharge aquifers
During our survey, we found nearly all these streams have undergone major changes because their water has been diverted for crops and road building. Urbanization has increased the diversions and open spaces have shrunk.
As part of the restoration, we plan to regenerate, protect and nurture local vegetation and wildlife, including fishes. We will set up vegetation-based wastewater treatment areas, and solid waste management systems. We are also stabilizing the banks and slopes that are the catchments for the streams.
The response of the local people to the initiative has been overwhelming. They are helping to collect the ecological history of the streams and restore areas that are free of encroachment and diversions.
The challenges include a long gestation period for the measures of up to 10 years, for the measure to have an effect, depending on the extent of damage. Local communities have to assume responsibility to wait out this period and allow the stream eco-system to regenerate. The restoration sometimes clashes with work being done under government schemes such as NREGS. It is important to ensure the maximum number, including women, small farmers and the poor, participate in the restoration. Uniform processes cannot be applied because the watershed of each stream is different, so we have to learn anew for each stream.
I request members of the community to share:
We will compile these experiences into a guidebook and evaluate what principles can be applied in different contexts unique to India. This could become a guide for others working on similar projects.
Please see attachment below for the responses.