Dr Fawzia Tarannum realized that due to the diversity of a nation like India, where culture, belief, values, sentiments and aspirations, change every 100 kilometers, the philosophy of 'one size fits all' could not be applied to water conservation programs.
For the past fifteen years, Dr Fawzia Tarannum, an assistant professor at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), has worn the mantle of a warrior - a water warrior. With a primitive interest in the conservation and rejuvenation pf rivers and water bodies in India, it pained Dr Tarannum to look at the collective wisdom of the country going to waste when it came to water conservation.
Within just a few years of working in the field, Dr Tarannum realized that due to the diversity of a nation like India, where culture, belief, values, sentiments and aspirations, change every 100 kilometers, the philosophy of "one size fits all" could not be applied to water conservation programs.
Ever since 2005, Dr Tarannum has tried to bridge this gap between India's rich heritage of water conservation and current programs and policies for the conservation of water. Despite no background in Mechanical or Marine Engineering, Dr Tarannum has worked closely on building of shallow water excavator dredgers for desilting of lakes, ponds and rivers across India.
Not one to stop at just introducing and trying out new techniques of conservation, Dr Tarannum has also taken it upon herself to teavh future generations the importance of water conservartion and sustainabality. For the past five years, the "water warrior" has been working as a faculty member in the Water Department at the TERI School of Advanced Studies, where she has sensitised over 3,000 young persons about water conservation practices and rainwater harvesting.
Dr Tarannum has also employed her expertise at local levels. She is an advisor to the GuruJal Society, established under the District administration of Gurugram since its inception and has advised them on the technology and the interventions required for pond rejuvenation in the Gurugram district.
As part of its Mission Paani iniative, News18.com got in touch with the water warrior to understand whether India is currently in the middle of water crisis and what it needs to do to meet the global goals of sustainability when it comes to water management and conservation.
Do you think India is currently facing a water crisis? If so, why and what can we do about it?
Yes, India is facing a water crisis. India has been water-stressed for over a decade now as the 2011 Census brought out that the annual per capita water availability in India was mere 1545 cubic meter. A country is said to be underwater stress when the annual per capita water availability reduces below 1700 cubic meter. The NITI Aayog report on Composite Water Index published in 2018 brought out that 21 cities in India shall run out of groundwater in 2020. The finding is echoed in the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas released by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in 2019 which placed India at the 13th position among the world's 17 'extremely water-stressed' countries. The Chennai drought, the day zero in Shimla, the alarming decline in the groundwater in the breadbasket region, the prolonged droughts in several states and the suicides by more than 60,000 farmers in the last 5 years, all bear testimony to the looming water crisis in India...
The Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) has shelved its plans to concretise four Aravalli creeks lying upstream of Golf Course Road (GCR)
The Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) has shelved its plans to concretise four Aravalli creeks lying upstream of Golf Course Road (GCR). Spillover from the creeks was identified as one of the major reasons for the unprecedented waterlogging on Golf Course Road last year. The plan to shelve the concretisation was taken at the recommendation of experts from the TERI School of Advanced Studies, who recently conducted a hydrogeological study of the area at the behest of the city-based NGO, IAmGurgaon.
VS Kundu, CEO, GMDA, said, ‘We met with TERI last week and took their recommendation to retain these creeks as kachha (natural) drains. As per our detailed project report for drainage in Gurugram, which is still being executed, these channels were to be concretised as box drains. But since they are natural waterways that can aid in recharging groundwater, they will be left as is and cleaned thoroughly before the next monsoon. This will mitigate the risk of flooding on GCR.”
An interim report produced by TERI in November last year recommended a range of sustainable solutions to conserve rainwater and prevent urban flooding of GCR and neighbouring localities. The measures include building recharge wells along the length of the Wazirabad bundh, establishing green corridors along existing drainage channels and reviving naturally existing catchment areas to hold run-off water during monsoon. TERI’s study, titled Blue Green Interventions for Addressing Flooding Along Golf Course Road and Neighbouring Sectors in Gurugram, was undertaken in the wake of unprecedented waterlogging in Gurugram on August 19, during which GCR was among the worst-affected areas.
A central part of TERI’s study was the assessment of four drainage channels that originate in the Aravallis just above the GCR, and traverse its carriageway before draining into a water body that collects along the nearby Chakkarpur-Wazirabad bundh. The first of these natural creeks, which is also the lowest lying, runs through Sector 26, while the other three are located in sectors 42, 54 and 56. These are classified as creeks 1-4, respectively.
As per the GMDA’s detailed project report for drainage, these creeks were to be concretised and covered. However, in its final report presented to the GMDA last week, researchers at TERI wrote, “It is to be noted that creating box drain drastically reduces the cross section and carrying capacity of the erstwhile channels, and also prevents groundwater recharge. This also adversely affects the natural greenery and biodiversity in the surrounding area of the channels.”
Fauzia Tarannum, of the School of Regional Water Studies, TERI-SAS, said, “Leaving the drains as earthen structures is definitely a sensible step to take. Once cleaned up, they can play a significant role in mitigating flood risks and conserving rainwater in the project area. A large amount of waste and construction debris has been dumped in these creeks, and some restoration work has already begun. It will be important to ensure no further dumping of waste is allowed to take place there.”
TERI’s final report also calls for increased protection of the Aravalli hills located upstream of the GCR. “Gurgaon is highly concretised. This is especially true along the GC Road, where the green belts have been sacrificed for road expansion and the projects along the GC Road have a high level of paved areas which generate higher levels of run-off,” the report states, adding that the Aravalli hills above the GCR are an important groundwater recharge area and a green zone for the city.
“These should be earmarked as a forest and recharge zone where no construction is allowed, as any further construction and concretisation in the Aravallis upstream will increase the storm water run-off and increase the flood risk downstream,” researchers have noted.