INDIA – DEHRADUN: Uttarakhand will replenish 67 natural springs in 30 locations which are drastically drying up. The move is meant to provide moisture to the ground to curb the spread of forest fires.
The springs have been identified in forest blocks classified as vulnerable since they have recorded maximum water stress in the past few years.
About 2.6 lakh springs provide 90% of drinking water to the state. Rapid deforestation and fuel and fodder demands have put pressures on these natural resources. Discharges of 500 water supply sources including springs, streams, ponds etc have reportedly reduced by more than 50%.
Jai Raj, head of forest force (HoFF), Uttarakhand, who issued the orders to replenish the springs this week, said, “The very first sign of climate change is water stress and water scarcity which is evident in these forest blocks. We chose springs in these areas and they will be replenished this monsoon. Thus, the forest land in these areas will retain more moisture to help curb forest fires.”
The 67 springs were identified by Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM), a Maharashtra-based organisation. In a month-long study conducted between March and April, experts visited natural springs to measure water discharge and quality of water.
The study was in continuation of previous research on water scarcity conducted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Rashmi Bajaj,state project manager of UNDP, said, “This is a three-step project initiated in Uttarakhand to mitigate the impact of climate change under our Strengthening State Strategies for Climate Action’ We conducted a Vulnerability Risk Assessment (VRS) measurement based on which ACWADAM mapped the springs. Forest officers will treat the springs this monsoon according to the treatment plan suggested for each by ACWADAM.”
Sidhharth Patil, senior scientist, ACWADAM, said, “One of the worst impact of climate change is not reduced rainfall but high intensity rainfall for shorter duration. This rainfall pattern causes water to sweep off quickly without percolating to the ground.”
Patil said that traditional methods such as contour trenching, vegetative plantation and making pits on slopes to harvest rainwater, will be adopted to increase groundwater recharge.
With no moisture in the ground, forest fires amass huge proportions. This year, forest fires in Uttarakhand were the worst in past 10 years in terms of financial losses. Uttarakhand witnessed 2,151 forest fire incidents since the beginning of the forest fire season in February this year. This led to 4,480 hectares of forest land being gutted leading to a cumulative loss of Rs 86 lakh.