- The drying up of important water sources in the Himalayan region will have a profound impact on people and the ecosystem.
- Springs are groundwater discharge points in the mountains where the water-bearing layers (aquifer) intersect with the ground surface and water seeps out of rock pores, fissures, fractures, or depressions.
- There are 5 million springs across India, of which nearly 3 million are in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) alone.
- Over 50 million inhabitants depend on springs in the Indian Himalayan Region.
- According to a NITI Aayog report, nearly 50% of springs in the IHR have already dried up or have reduced discharge.
- Further, nearly 40% of the rural population in the IHR does not have access to safe and adequate drinking water.
Reasons for drying up of springs in IHR
- Reduction in the long-term rainfall in the region
- While some places receive excessive rain that leads to landslides and floods, the average annual rainfall in the region has decreased.
- This deficit is irregular across districts.
- Change in land cover and land use.
- Some places in the Himalayan states have seen a reduction in forest cover and natural farming, due to both infrastructural development and land-use changes.
- Mass movements of rock, and debris tend to destroy springs
Impact of drying up of springs
- Himalayan springs form the base flow of rivers such as the Ganga, Yamuna, and Brahmaputra. Drying up of springs will cause, the base flow of the river channels to drop, especially during summer.
- Acute water stress in the IHR affects the livelihood of mountain communities dependent on spring water.
- The drying springs will further add to the work burden of women since they are forced to manually carry water from springs during the lean season.
- It also affects water security for wildlife inside forests and national parks.
Initiatives for Rejuvenation of Himalayan springs
- National Mission on Himalayan Studies (NMHS)
- Under the NMHS project, IUCN took an initiative to revive springs in the Himalayan states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim.
- The initiative involved digging of percolation pits, contour trenches, and plantation of suitable native species with the support of local communities.
- Water User Committees were formed at the community level to create awareness on the conservation and management of springs.
- “Resource Book on spring shed Management in the Indian Himalayan Region(IHR)” by Niti Ayog, in 2021 provides the following recommendations
- Formation of National Springs Mission(NSM) which will facilitate improved coordination, efficient execution and scaling up of spring shed management initiatives in India.
- Create a national digital database on spring-related data collected by various agencies.
- Create support for existing, state, and national-level science-policy-practice consortiums to facilitate capacity building amongst stakeholders.
- The Spring Water Atlas
- It is an initiative of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and United National Development Programme (UNDP)
- It is a repository of information on springs.
- The GIS-enabled Online inventory of springs will help in mapping springs, quality of water, discharge capacity and other physical, chemical and biological properties.
Springbox model for water security
- The idea of a spring box was conceptualized by Jared Buono, an American hydrologist working with Grampari, a non-profit organisation in Maharashtra.
- It was implemented in Villages around Panchgani, Satara district of Maharashtra, which has been facing a severe water crisis for a decade.
- Working Model
- The land at the site of the spring is excavated until the source is reached.
- A brick box is built around the eye of the spring and coated with cement to prevent contamination.
- Holes are made in the back wall to allow water to enter the box.
- An outlet pipe leading to the village was laid at the bottom of the box, with an overflow pipe at the top to drain out excess water during the rains.
- The spring box collects fresh spring water, which is carried to the village through the outlet pipe.