Of forest and water in the world Harvesting rain water

March 21-International Day of Forests and 24 hours later, that is on March 22, World Water Day. Two days and surely the United Nations could not have chosen a better time than this month and observe two days which are intrinsically linked. So while Manipur too joined the rest of the Nation in observing World Water Day under the slogan, ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan : Catch the rain,’ not much was heard of how the International Day of Forests was observed at the State level, that is if it was at all observed. Water is life. It nourishes all life forms-humans, the animal kingdom, the plants, in fact everything and rain is the natural fresh water supply to planet earth. Relying only on rain water is however not enough, best exemplified by Manipur, which receives heavy rainfall, but is water starved whenever the dry season sets in. A condition which the State and her people are undergoing right now. Hence the theme for this year’s World Water Day could not have been more appropriate and that is how to harvest rain water. It should also be borne in mind that there is an ongoing debate on the correlation between forest cover and rainfall that a place receives and this debate can only be overlooked at the peril of mankind. Hence the question why no State level do was seen on the International Day of Forest. Just how callous the people have been can easily be seen from the large scale deforestation that one sees everywhere and this inevitably has had a direct impact on the water bodies, for which the valley area is well known. Large scale deforestation at the upper reaches has also caused extensive damage in the form of silt and debris deposition in the water bodies, leading to its precarious state, as former Chairman of JERC for Manipur and Mizoram, N Shyamsunder Singh noted in his article and which is being carried by The Sangai Express. Water bodies drying up means cutting off water availability to the people and today it is not only the natural water bodies, but even ponds, which once used to adorn the plot of every single household.
It should say something disturbing that a place like Manipur, which receives around 1,467.5 mm or 57,78 inches of rainfall in a year should reel under water scarcity once the dry season sets in, which can be any time between December and March or even April. Once again Manipur is going through such a phase and even getting water from private tankers has become a sort of a problem. The reason is not far to seek. Rivers which supply the raw water for treatment are running low, extremely low and this is a sure pointer to the fact that the there is no such thing as planning to harvest rain water. This is where the call of Prime Minister, ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan : Catch the rain’ becomes more and more significant. Rain water can be harvested at the individual level, no doubt, with each family investing some resources and working out the details to harvest the rain water, but how about the Government ? Is building dams lone enough or should there be more approaches ? The Government think tank must have started working on this, especially following the call of the Prime Minister, but it should say something that many households in a place which receives good rainfall should continue to depend on private water tankers. Plant more trees, let Green be the slogan of everyone and harvest rain water else Manipur will continue to stare at floods and dry periods with even the rivers running dry. This is a scary proposition but something which can be averted with the right application of mind.