Yavatmal’s water security crisis

A study assesses the current status of the water harvesting and recharge structures in Yavatmal (Image: India Water Portal Flickr)
A study assesses the current status of the water harvesting and recharge structures in Yavatmal (Image: India Water Portal Flickr)

Water security in  Yavatmal district could be at risk if steps are not taken to revive and renovate water harvesting and recharge structures according to a study by Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC).

The report titled ‘Water Harvesting and Recharge Structures in Yavatmal District: A Status Check’ examines the current status of the water harvesting and recharge structures and measures their effectiveness based on an analysis of the hydro-geology of the area.

Using various mapping tools, undertaking field visits and interaction with communities, the report has assessed the current state of the structures and their effectiveness in recharging or storing water. Water bodies that have an area of more than 0.3 hectares have been mapped as part of the study.

“The main aspect of the research was to ascertain whether the water harvesting and storage structures in Yavatmal district have been constructed in appropriate locations in order to be effective for groundwater recharge or surface storage. A total of 686 structures comprising check dams (204 nos.), percolation tanks (211 nos.), ponds (175 nos.), water storage tanks, and reservoirs (96 nos.) were mapped across the district, with an indication of their location across recharge or discharge areas,” says Romit Sen, Associate Director – Water & Agriculture Program at ISC.

Yavatmal is a major agricultural district of Maharashtra. Meeting the water needs and future demands will be critical in the times to come. In 2018, data from the Central Ground Water Board, Nagpur indicated that Yavatmal is one of the districts in Maharashtra where the rate of groundwater decline has been around 4 metres.

Given this scenario it is important that water conservation and recharge measures in the district are undertaken based on the aquifer characteristics.

A total of 204 check dams lying within an area range of 0.7-2 acres, were mapped in the district. Out of these 117 check dams (corresponding to 57.4 %) lie in the recharge zone and 87 (corresponding to 42.6%) lie in the discharge zone.

Given the main purpose of constructing check dams is for enhancing groundwater recharge, on would argue that a higher number of check dams should have been constructed in the recharge zones in Yavatmal. Around 73 check dams were found to be damaged or encroached.

Of the 73 check dams, that are either encroached or damaged, 28 lie in recharge zones which should be prioritized for revival. Given the scenario of growing groundwater extraction in the district, efforts to revive and protect the damaged / encroached check dams need to begin immediately.

“A total of 44 reservoirs lying between 30-100+ acres were mapped in Yavatmal. These reservoirs store water, mainly across dams to meet the water demand for irrigation and domestic uses. It is satisfying to observe that 34 out of the total of 44 reservoirs, corresponding to 77.3% of the structures have been suitable constructed in discharge zones while none of them show any encroachment or damaged,” the report states.

The findings of the research indicate that more than 40% of the check dams have been constructed in discharge areas. Considering that the main role of constructing check dams is to enhance groundwater recharge, their construction in discharge areas does not serve the purpose.

Furthermore, the study highlights that more than 35% of the check dams, and  32% of the percolation tanks, are either damaged or encroached. Communities have pointed towards the poor operation and maintenance of the structures as a major reason for the current state.

Therefore, it is recommended that a comprehensive plan for repair, renovation and reconstruction of the water harvesting and recharge structures is developed for the district to ensure long term availability and sustainability of water resources. 

This should include a plan to ensure their maintenance, involving the engagement of the Gram Panchayat and the village communities. Emphasis should be given to repair and renovate the check dams  and percolation tanks lying in the recharge areas and the ponds in the discharge areas for ensuring long term water security for Yavatmal district.

“The analysis and findings will help prioritize the revival efforts of the various water harvesting and storage structures in Yavatmal,” says Vivek P Adhia, Country Director-India, Institute for Sustainable Communities. “It will help decision-makers plan for augmenting water resources in the district, added Vivek, emphasizing the need for community participation and creating mechanisms for effective operation and maintenance.

The full report is available here

 

About Institute for Sustainable Communities

The Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) is a global non-profit organization with a 30-year track record of supporting industry, cities, and communities to plan and implement environmental, economic, and social improvements. Since 1991, ISC has led more than 115 transformative community-driven sustainability projects in 30 countries including the United States, China, India, and Bangladesh. Learn more at https://sustain.org 

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