5 May 2014

Water Problem at Samudram Eri

Tamil Nadu is likely to face a severe water crisis in the next half century. According to experts, what will contribute to the crisis is the fast-depleting groundwater table, and the increasing pollution of water sources. The crisis in the making in Tamil Nadu would be as much about the quality of water available as its shrinking availability. Experts want Tamil Nadu to reduce its dependence on water from neighbouring States and formulate alternative plans. 

As well as the concern that many rivers are already badly polluted in the State, another area of concern is the general over-exploitation of groundwater. According to experts, too many farmers are cultivating water-intensive crops and are indiscriminately exploiting groundwater for irrigation, which has led to a steep fall in the water table. In this respect agriculture accounts for 85-90% of the total use of water in the State. Even by the judicious planting of less water intensive crops and gaining a 10% reduction in the agricultural sector, would considerably ease the impending water shortage situation. 

To read an excellent and comprehensive report on the Tamil Nadu water problem please go to this link here

Encouragingly at this time the Madras High Court has recently stayed 'in-stream' sand mining and mining using machinery at 18 quarry sites in Thanjavur, Tiruchirapalli and Karur districts. The Justices of the Bench while banning in-stream mining in their order, allowed that manual labourers could be used to mine the sand. 

It said the Tamil Nadu government, which had allowed four quarries to operate in March, should follow the Environment Ministry's guidelines in all quarries and not use machinery. It was pointed out that Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh governments were not allowing mining of sand with machines and had also banned in-stream mining. 

It is heartening that serious steps are being taken to address the water scarcity in Tamil Nadu. But it is important that we here in this Shiva Sthalam take the necessary steps to secure the future for ourselves and our community. 

Tiruvannamalai is a drought area, it has no river or natural water supply and depends almost entirely on the monsoon rains to replenish its ground water. Around the town of Tiruvannamalai are a number of reservoirs and holding tanks, of which the Samudram Eri is one of the largest and most important (approximately 750 acres). During the monsoon, water channels divert rain falling on the Hill into the Samudram, which very quickly turns into a deep lake. As is required the water being held in the natural reservoir is thereafter pumped into the town’s holding tanks. 

With the rapid urbanisation of Tiruvannamalai and fierce competition between developers, many of the channels diverting monsoon rain into the Samudram have been closed up. Water tanks have been filled in, so that land can be rezoned and sold by the parcel, trees have been cut down and vegetation destroyed. 

Government of India websites are supplying us with good information about how to combat desertification. View original narrative at this link here

Combating Desertification 

"Land degradation has far-reaching consequences that affect many realms of life, sometimes far away, but land is above all a powerful element of the solution to the major challenges of our time. The major process of land degradation is soil erosion (due to water and wind erosion), contributing to over 71% of the land degradation in the country. Soil erosion due to water alone contributes to about 61.7% and that by wind erosion 10.24%. The other processes include problems of water logging, salinity-alkalinity. 

Land degradation results in soil erosion, decline in water table, reduced agricultural productivity, loss of bio-diversity, decline in groundwater and availability of water in the affected regions. All these affect the lives and livelihoods of the populations, often eventually precipitating forced migration and socio-economic conflicts. 

Unsustainable resource management practices are often induced by population pressures and poverty. People affected by desertification often need to draw on their limited assets in order to survive, which accentuates their poverty. This constitutes a vicious cycle linking deteriorating natural resources to deteriorating livelihoods as people need to encroach further on fragile soils, sparse vegetation and limited water resources to meet their basic needs for food, shelter and livelihood. 

As per the Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India published by the Space Application Centre in 2007, about 32.07 % of the land is undergoing various forms of degradation and 25% of the geographical area is affected by desertification. About 69% of the country’s lands are dry lands and degradation of these lands has severe implications for the livelihood and food security of millions."


However it seems that in Tiruvannamalai, we are doing everything in our power not to combat desertification but to accelerate it. 

In this narrative, “Water Problem at Samudram Eri” I have posted “before” (around 2011) and “after” photographs of the current condition of our major water reservoir, the Samudram Eri where industrial level sand quarrying continues often for 24 hours a day with a plethora of heavy machinery. 

2011 and Before

Samudram Eri in dry season

Open area used extensively for grazing livestock

Samudram at beginning of rains

Thorny trees primary vegetation, can survive easily in flooded lake

Pristine Samudram beautiful homage to Arunachala

Current. April 2014

Samudram being mined by a plethora of heavy machinery

Already the area is looking like moon craters

This is the major water reservoir for Tiruvannamalai -- what could possibly go wrong?

Appropriate for 2014, Homage of capitalism and materialism to Arunachala!!!

For many years I lived in a “dry” house (i.e. one that had no independent source of water) so I am aware of the complications in not having water "on tap". What is currently occuring at the Samudram Eri is disturbing. What needs to happen is:

(1) STOP immediately all sand quarrying. 
(2) Reopen old water channels from Arunachala to the reservoir 
(3) Desilt and clean existing water channels 
(4) Plant trees and curb the further cutting of existing trees around the Eri Bund. 
(5) Ban the closing up of agricultural water tanks in the area around the Eri. 
(6) Increase vegetation around the Eri. 

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