Water Crisis

Almora in Uttranchal is facing an acute water crisis, which has been exacerbated by rapid, unplanned urban growth and the mismanagement of vital natural resources that has led to the drying up of natural sources of water. This summer, the Kosi river, one of the major sources of drinking water, may dry up. What’s worse is that while Almora and neighbouring villages are reeling, local hotels and resorts offer spring water in abundance to patrons by buying the land on which springs are located. This makes the crisis worse for local people.

Founded in 1563, Almora traditionally depended upon its naulas and dharas (seepages and natural springs). The area has shallow aquifers that feed its springs. But over the last 150 years the number of springs has declined from 360 to 60. Those that remain are rapidly becoming seasonal with low flows. What makes matters worse is that over time the amount of rainfall the region receives has dwindled.

Faced with a desperate situation, the government water department decided to extract groundwater by installing hand pumps along the town’s main road in 2005. Most of the pumps were hastily installed and by the end of the year, two or more of the 20 to 24 hand pumps in the town had gone completely dry.

Authorities are excited about the possibility of tapping glacial melt from the Pindar glacier for reviving not only the Kosi but also Gagas and Ramganga for Bageshwar, Kausani and Almora towns, by laying 150 km of pipelines. The project is likely to take 15 to 20 years to complete, by which time, all alpine glaciers likely to provide melts would have vanished.

The Kumaon and Garhwal Water Act passed in 1975 advocates the protection and conservation of Himalayan water by bringing all water sources under state control, but no initiative has been taken by either Peya Jal Nigam or Jal Sansthan to protect and conserve the declining spring sources. State apathy and popular alienation are scripting a big nightmare.

More Information can be found here at the India Environment Portal.