CHENNAI MAY 21. As official agencies pursue a weak rainwater harvesting programme, there is now fresh reason for the average Chennai resident to feel jittery about — an alarming decline in groundwater quality, evidence of which comes from a case study on `Salt water intrusion in coastal aquifers of Chennai City' by the C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre.
The results of the study, released to the media on Wednesday, collate data from samples taken from 150 test wells stretching from Injambakkam in the south to Ennore in the north for over six years, and arrive at a conclusion that there has been a steep decline in water quality parameters, including total dissolved solids (TDS). The acceptable healthy limit of 500 parts per million (ppm) has been far exceeded in many parts of the city.
The samples collected from the wells were also tested for colour, odour, turbidity, pH, electrical conductivity, alkalinity, chloride, total hardness, calcium and magnesium content.
The TDS level in Mandavelipakkam has increased from 1,788 ppm in 1999-2000 to 3,277 ppm this year. In north Chennai, the worst affected place is Thiruvottiyur, where the TDS has increased from 2,015 ppm in 1998-99 to 3,217 ppm this year. In south Chennai, Indira Nagar has recorded a maximum of 2,037 ppm.
Other areas that have shown steep increase in the TDS include Thiruvanmiyur (from 673 ppm in 1998-99 to 1,439 ppm), Raja Annamalaipuram (from 970 ppm in 1999-2000 to 1,690 ppm) and Royapuram (from 747 ppm in 1998-1999 to 1,928 ppm). "The rate of deterioration of water quality is so alarming that one shudders to think what will happen in less than a decade in the absence of any sustained conservation,'' the honorary director of C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre, Nanditha Krishna, said.
The study finds central Chennai the most severely affected. "The increase in the TDS and chloride content clearly projects overexploitation of groundwater in the highly-populated residential area," the survey said.
The increase in the chloride content determined during the survey was a pointer towards ingress of saline water into the fresh water aquifer, said N. Muthukrishnan, who conducted the survey for the centre.
Ms. Krishna said even while the onus of constructing rainwater harvesting structures fell on the citizens, the Government should take concerted efforts to go back to traditional water conservation methods. Of the 35 temple tanks in the city limits, only 19 have water. "The role of temple tanks is pivotal to maintenance of fresh water aquifer. We must go back to the traditional ways of recharging groundwater."
Multi-storeyed buildings coming up without any proper planning for water only worsened the situation. Most of the apartments were overexploiting groundwater using high-power pumps and it was high time a holistic approach was taken towards development, researchers at the centre said. While there was no data to explain what would be the consequences of consuming water with a high TDS level, the researchers said intake of brackish or saline water would result in stomach problems.
TIRUMALA MAY 21. The Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam's Forest Department for the first time in the history has bagged the prestigious national award for its outstanding performance in the field of afforestation.A communication to this effect from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi, reached the TTD headquarters, Tirupati, on Tuesday night. It may be noted that the Indian Council of Forest Research and Education presents four national awards for remarkable performance in the fields of afforestation, research, forest-protection and forest extension every year.
The department was the recipient of two prestigious awards earlier — `Vana Mitra' and `Jala Mitra.'
The award is being presented to the department for its outstanding performance in creating a green belt along the Seshachalam hill ranges. The award carries a cash prize of Rs. 10,000 and a certificate. .
HUBLI May 21. Karnataka has its own reservations on the proposals made by the Union Water Resources Ministry on the interlinking of rivers in the peninsular region.
Confirming the stand of the State Government on the issue, H.K.Patil, Minister for Water Resources, told The Hindu here today that the State would like to make an in-depth study of the proposals before offering its comments. A committee under the chairmanship of B.C.Angadi, retired Engineer-in-Chief, had been constituted to look into reports and make recommendations, he said.
The National Perspective Plan (NPP) for inter-basin transfer of river waters provides for the transfer of surplus waters of the Mahanadi and the Godavari, where the full potential has not been exploited, to the deficit Krishna, Cauvery, and Pennar basins. The National Water Development Agency, which has prepared the plan, has estimated that 395 tmcft. of water from the Mahanadi and 530 tmcft. of water from the Godavari can be transferred to the water deficit areas through the different links envisaged.
Karnataka finds a mention at three places in the NPP — in the main plan, where the transfer of water through the linkage is to take place from the Alamatti Dam of the Upper Krishna Project to the Pennar in the main scheme of transfer, and two other sub-links of diverting waters from the west-flowing Bedthi to the Varada of the Tungabhadra sub-basin of the main basin of the Krishna, and of the waters of the Netravati, another west-flowing river, to the Hemavathi in the Cauvery Basin.
As far as Karnataka is concerned, the total supplementation of water to the Krishna Basin is put at 176 tmcft. and 57 tmcft to the Cauvery Basin, of which the exact share of water is yet to be determined, and 16 tmcft. of water is proposed to be transferred through the Alamatti-Pennar link. Transfer of more than 12 tmcft. of water has been envisaged from the Netravati-Hemavathi (Cauvery Basin) and the Bedthi-Varada link too.
The initial reaction of Karnataka was that the transfer hardly provided any relief to the State, which needed water badly but would not be able to use any of it because of the claims by Andhra Pradesh in the case of the Krishna Basin and Tamil Nadu in case of the Cauvery Basin.
Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are stated to have made it clear while responding to the proposals that they would like to claim a portion of the transferred water. As far as the Cauvery dispute is concerned, the Union Government feels that it should wait for the award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal which, according to Arjun Charan Sethi, Union Minister for Water Resources, is expected shortly. And the same thing cannot be said about the Krishna Basin, where a second tribunal is expected to be constituted soon to adjudicate the share of waters.
Mr. Patil said that unless the co-basin States agreed to forego their claims in the transferred water, the proposals made by the NPP brought no advantage to Karnataka.