What has happened?
Floodplains of rivers can provide a new source of water. They are a local, non-polluting, perennial and non-invasive source of water for urban centres. Our work and research on the Palla floodplain scheme which was launched by the Delhi Jal Board in 2016 is a tangible realisation of this idea. The scheme (on a 25 km stretch of the Yamuna) is currently running at half its potential and providing water to about one million people in the city — of a daily requirement of 150 litres per person
Conserve and use plan
- It demands that no more than is recharged by rain and floods each year can be withdrawn from this aquifer
- This ensures that the groundwater level in the floodplains remains steadily above that in the river in the lean non-monsoon months when the river is often polluted
- Drawing out any more water than is recharged can contaminate and eventually finish off this precious resource.
A new Scheme: Use of Floodplains as source of water
- Floodplains can be used as aquifer: If we conserve and use the floodplain, it can be a self-sustaining aquifer wherein every year, the river and floodplain are preserved in the same healthy condition as the year before
- Conserve and use scheme: A socio-economic-environmental scheme, can provide water to urban centres along rivers; it can also engage farmers by providing them an assured income and restore rivers to a healthy condition.
- Income for farmers: Farmers on either side of the river can be provided an assured and steady income
- Farmers can grow food forests: Farmers can grow a food forest, fruit orchards or nut trees but not water-intensive crops on this land. It would guarantee not only a good farming income but also great earnings from the water for the farmers without taking the ownership of the land away from them
- No Need of subsidies: The capital cost for building such a scheme would be minimal (a few hundred crores) and the revenue generated would be able to pay for the costs and for farmers’ income without any subsidy
- Prevention of erosion: Ecologically, a water sanctuary would prevent erosion, heal the river ecosystem, and restore the ecological balance in floodplains
- Rivers can be refilled when water levels decrease in them: Even after withdrawal, floodplains would have enough water to slowly release back into the river in a lean season
- Stop illegal extraction of water: This scheme would help curb illegal extraction of water, stop pollution by local agencies and industries and also encourage cities to be more responsible in their waste management.
This scheme will also help improve the quality of rivers, quality of life for citizens, and at the same time guarantee farmers a healthy fixed income. This is a new scheme of living. This is the philosophy of “conserve and use”.