India Sand Watch platform launched to monitor sandmining in India

News this fortnight
15 Aug 2023
0 mins read
Sandmining near the Kaveri near Karur (Image Source: P Jeganathan via Wikimedia Commons)
Sandmining near the Kaveri near Karur (Image Source: P Jeganathan via Wikimedia Commons)

Technology and activism join hands to monitor sandmining in India

A West Bengal-based non-profit organisation has launched a new platform ­– India Sand Watch that aims at monitoring  legal and illegal sand mining operations in the country.

Sand mining is becoming a big business with sand increasingly being an essential component in the construction industry in India. The sand mining industry was valued at INR 150 billion (USD 2 billion) in 2019 and the sand market is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 6.2 percent between 2023 and 2028 in India.

There are no official estimates of how much sand is being mined in India, and how much of it is legal or illegal and the nor of the share of legal versus illegal extraction within the industry. Since sand from deserts and the seabed is not suitable due to its shape and strength, it is the rivers that are in the line of fire with major rivers like the Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada, Jhelum and Brahmaputra being dredged to extract sand for concrete. As if this is not enough, sand is also being extracted from smaller tributaries such as the Sone in Bihar and the Rambi Ara in Jammu and Kashmir, and smaller rivers like the Gaula in Uttarakhand. 

This is spelling doom for the health of rivers in the country by leading to eroded riverbanks and loss of biodiversity to disrupted sedimentation processes and altered river courses. A total of 124 people in India’s eastern states have died in accidents and violence related to sand mining.

Created by Kolkata’s Veditum India Foundation, India Sand Watch aims at becoming a one-stop destination for information on sand mining in the country and at helping people find sandmining locations, their legal status, their impacts on local communities and rivers, as well as any related legal aspects (Third Pole).

Centre of excellence on membrane technologies for desalination, water recycling and brine management launched

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, has launched a new Centre of Excellence on membrane technologies for desalination, water recycling and brine management along with the unveiling of the Centre’s new advanced instrumentation facility, as well as the website. The Centre aims at creating techniques and technologies for desalination, water reuse, and sustainable treatment, with the active participation of researchers from India and throughout the world. It will also aid the incubation and commercialisation of developed technology and products.

This marks a significant step towards ensuring safe, reliable and sustainable potable water sources for rural and urban India for industrial as well as domestic applications by using innovative membrane technologies. as the growing population, climate change, and rise in water shortages have increased the need for non-traditional freshwater sources.  In the future, seawater and wastewater will also be used to achieve the needed freshwater purity that is when desalination plants will be in demand.

Five IITs namely IIT Kharagpur, IIT Tirupati, IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, and IIT Hyderabad will collaborate with diverse sectors, NGOs, and other stakeholders to develop various desalination, water recycling technologies and brine management (News 18). 

Rock outcrops harbour unique biodiversity and need to be conserved, say studies

The northern Western Ghats and Konkan region of Maharashtra are composed entirely of Deccan flood basalts, except in the southernmost tip of the Konkan. Basalt is an igneous rock formed from the cooling of the Deccan Trap lava flows, which forms the base rock of the western part of Maharashtra. This in many areas, has hard layers near the soil surface which have very scanty soil cover and are often marked on topographic maps as rocky scrub, stony waste or sheetrock.

This geographical region lacks forest cover or enough vegetation and they have thus been classified as barren rocky or stony waste areas on the Wastelands Atlas of India. However, recent studies have found that this description completely overlooks the high biodiversity value some of these open natural ecosystems like rock outcrops hold. For example, rocky outcrops harbour unique life forms such as smaller crustaceans and insects and larger animals like snakes, crickets, grasshoppers that are unique and typical only to the rocky outcrops in the region.

Land use changes are threatening the survival of these unique animals. Availability of water is also found to be crucial for the survival of rock pool-dependent animals and change in rainfall patterns can have a lasting impact on these communities.

While habitat-level factors and evolutionary processes are important in shaping the diversity in this region, conservation efforts focused on the entire landscape are crucial to conserve the unique biodiversity in the region, warn the studies. (Mongabay, India)

Start-ups are helping 35 cities in India reach their water security goals

Seventy six start-ups  selected under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) 2.0 have started working with 35 cities towards their water security goals. After launching the “India Water Pitch-Pilot-Scale Start-Up Challenge” in March last year, the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry, along with the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) as its partner, had in September 2022 selected 76 start-ups. 

The selected start-ups are being given Rs 20 lakh and have been assigned to work with cities, either with municipal corporations or the water boards. The start-ups have begun their work on the ground that involves using satellite data and heat sensing for detecting underground leaks to deploying robots to revive defunct borewells with some results being seen during this monsoon season (The Indian Express).

Ruza, a traditional water harvesting system in the Northeast can provide an answer to water woes in hilly regions

Ruza, a traditional water harvesting system practised in Kikruma, a rainshadow village in Nagaland’s Phek district could provide an answer to the water woes of rain deficient hilly regions, say experts. This unique indigenous system of irrigation and agricultural practice, popularly known as Zabo, is a time-tested unique water management practice that has been yielding good harvests for nearly a century. Ruza involves impounding run-off water in ponds, using gravity-based irrigation. The water harvesting ponds are located at a higher elevation and are connected to the fields at the lower elevations through narrow drains. 

Zabo is a small pit dug within a paddy patch, ideally used for rearing fish. However, Ruza is a larger pond spreading to about 0.2 hectares, used for storing run-off water. The forest lands are the main catchment areas. The village residents cut channels in the forests and in catchment areas to channelise the rainwater to the ponds. Water flowing through the several steep village roads is also impounded by constructing speed breakers or placing stones and directed to the Ruza.

The Ruza or harvesting ponds are located at a higher elevation. These are connected to the paddy fields at the lower elevations through narrow drains, which are blocked with stones and earth until it is time to irrigate the fields.There are over 200 harvesting ponds in Kikruma and each is shared by multiple farmers to irrigate the adjoining fields.

The Ruza system is a communal practice and the water is shared among families and an integrated form of farming comprising forestry, horticulture, agriculture, fishery and animal husbandry is practised in the region. Adopting Ruza in other hilly terrains with limited rainfall could be a feasible and sustainable alternative in the agricultural sector, say experts (Mongabay, India).

This is a roundup of important news updates from August 1st to August 15th, 2023. 

Posted by
Get the latest news on water, straight to your inbox
Subscribe Now
Continue reading