Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Rainfall data of March 2016 and our dying springs.

Though the rainfall maps (top) and the data (above) indicate that the shortfall in precipitation has decreased (from around 80% to 14%) in March 2016, this does not represent the facts on the ground where changing rainfall patterns have resulted in winter rains almost vanishing. So what we have these days is an alternating cycle of abundant rain (5 months in the monsoon period) followed by 6-7 bone dry months.
In this situation, Kalimpong town is today facing an acute potable water crisis - water from the Govt PHE source is supplied only to certain parts of town that too, once in 6 days. The rest of the town and all hotels, many schools and homes are forced to buy water.
But it is in the rural areas all over the Himalayas that a major problem is looming with many natural springs drying up. In Almorah (Uttarakhand) the number of natural springs has dwindled from 350 to 60 in the span of 150yrs.
Some of the obvious reasons for this decline, besides the changing rainfall patterns are:-
  • Developmental activities in the mountains such as road construction and massive urbanization has resulted much of the rain water flowing off as surface run-off rather than percolating into the soil and recharging the aquifers.
  • Declining forest cover again enhances surface run-off whereas vegetation would reduce run-off and augment aquifer recharge.
Recently, in Sikkim there has been a government intervention at springshed management which have shown positive results but we will have to wait for the long term benefits of this initiative. Elsewhere, villagers are left to fend for themselves as far as finding water sources are concerned and to check the extent of the problem STH carried out a survey in a rural area (Bhalukhop village) on the western face of the Kalimpong ridge line (see map below).
 My guide for the survey of the health of springs in Bhalukhop was Man Bahadur Darji, 57, a denizen of Rai Gaon, Bhalukhop. The results are placed below in images, with coordinates of the springs in each image:-

Praful Rao,
Dist Darjeeling

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