Water conservation

Record Rains in Delhi Help Increase Groundwater by 2.5m Along Yamuna Flood Plains | Latest Delhi News

The devices installed by the Delhi government to measure the groundwater level in an area of ​​four square kilometers around a reservoir created along the Yamuna flood plains near the Palla district, located in the northern outskirts of the city, recorded an elevation of 2.5 meters this year, the highest in three years with the capital having recorded record rainfall this monsoon.

With the project having completed three monsoons since its pilot phase in 2019, the government will now begin writing a report from October 1, which is supposed to be submitted to a committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), said a senior government official. “The government is supposed to ask for the continuation of the project, the extension of the 26-acre reservoir and the acquisition of more farmland for it in the coming time, only after obtaining the approval of the court,” said the responsible.

In July 2019, the Delhi government launched a water conservation project along the Yamuna River, which the official said was aimed at recharging depleted groundwater levels in the nation’s capital. The project involved creating a reservoir to collect excess water from the Yamuna during monsoon flooding and give it enough time to recharge groundwater levels. The government was supposed to record project developments during three monsoons and prepare a report, which is to be shared with the panel appointed by NGT, to take a new appeal.

The government acquired 40 acres of land along the Yamuna floodplains near Palla – not far from the Delhi-Haryana border in the village of Singhu – in 2019 for the project. Of the 40 acres, 10 were owned by gram sabhas in the area and 30 acres were acquired from farmers on three-year leases. The government then created a 17.6 acre reservoir.

The following year, the size of the reservoir was increased to 26 acres. In an area of ​​four square meters around the reservoir, which includes Palla, Bakhtawarpur, Tigipur, Sungarpur, Bakner, Mamorpur and a few other villages with vast expanses of rice fields, the government has set up a network of 33 piezometers – devices that can measure the depth of groundwater.

“In 2019, the devices showed that the groundwater level had risen to 1.3 meters, and last year the maximum recorded elevation was 2 meters. This year, the machines recorded a maximum climb of 2.5 meters, ”said the senior government official, who did not wish to be identified.

It is estimated that the reservoir collectively contributed 4,350 million liters to the underground aquifer in 2019 and 2020. “The assessment for 2021 has not yet been completed. It will be integrated into the final report. The government plans to submit the report to the committee appointed by NGT in another two months, ”the official said.

The government intends to expand the project to an area of ​​1,000 acres extending as far as Wazirabad, a second official from the government irrigation and flood control department said. its fruits, we have to look at the precipitation data, because the rain plays the main role here, ”said the official.

According to data from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Delhi typically receives 653.6mm of rain during the monsoon. In 2020, the city recorded 648.9 mm of precipitation and 404 mm of rain in 2019. This monsoon, Delhi received 1,169.7 mm of precipitation until 8 p.m. Sunday, the highest since 1964 (1,190, 9 mm).

“The idea of ​​the reservoir seems feasible given the type of soil in Delhi, which allows for rapid percolation of water. If the government does not take action to recharge the water tables now, things can get worse. Chennai has a serious problem of groundwater depletion. Delhi should not become another Chennai, ”said Sanjay Singh, national coordinator of Jan Jal Jodo Abhiyan, an advocacy group that works on access to water, conservation of water bodies, water recharge. underground and water security through community participation.

Farmers in the region, however, highlighted some concerns. “There are problems with paying rent in accordance with the lease. These need to be resolved. Farmers who donated their land have no other source of income, ”said Ritesh Rana, a farmer and resident of Bakhtawarpur village.

When HT visited the villages near the reservoir this week, several farmers pointed out why they were unsure of the project’s effectiveness.

“Most farmers have water pumps and pipes that go down to 40 feet deep. During the monsoon they don’t have any problems anyway. We are not very sure about the evolution of the water table level. We learn about the changes from data that is sometimes shared by government teams visiting the site, ”said Pappan Singh Gahlot, farmer and resident of Tigipur village.

There are also a lot of uncertainties. “What if the government plans to abandon the project next year?” The whole area has been dug up and farmers cannot cultivate this land without government help. In addition, if they plan to expand it, they should notify farmers before the planting season. The last time they had to cut some half-cultivated paddy to make room for the reservoir. Farmers in the region still feel that they have not been adequately compensated for the loss of harvest, ”said Rai Singh Tanwar, a farmer from Sungarpur.

The office of Delhi Water Minister Satyendar Jain said: “The impact assessment of the project is carried out by the joint committee appointed by NGT. All data relating to groundwater levels, amount of water recharged and rainfall in the region are shared with the joint committee. The study of the water table is in progress with the network of piezometers in the alignment of the pond area and the non-pond area and the required information will be available … It is expected that the Joint Committee will submit its report to NGT by the end of this year. “

Regarding the amount of land leases worrying farmers, Jain’s office said, “Landowner rents are paid on time … Lease rent up to year 2 has already been paid by online payment and the payment of the 1st quarter of the 3rd year is in progress. Nevertheless. there was an issue with some farmers due to the bank merger and the change in the details of the IFSC, which was worked out with concerned landowners.

On what will happen to the land if the project is abandoned and other uncertainties, an officer from Jain’s office, who is also in charge of the irrigation and flooding department, said, “In accordance with the terms and conditions of the Rental agreement, if the project is not continued, the farmers’ land will be returned to them by filling the land with the excavated soil and bringing it to the same elevation as the soil near the reservoir site. The lease is paid to farmers from the day their land was taken for the project. This means that the harvest of the first year is also compensated. The lease was set by a multi-departmental committee of the Delhi government and took into account all eventualities to the extent possible. Otherwise, if the project is successful, the lease term will be increased accordingly or as directed by the Delhi government.

Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, a civil society consortium working for the protection of Yamuna, however, raised some concerns mainly regarding the challenges to fair appraisal of the project.

“The project was created in a floodplain. Floodplains have an organic relationship with rivers. During monsoons, rivers feed on the floodplains. Water seeps in and recharges aquifers, which can stretch for miles. During the dry months, aquifers feed rivers and help them maintain base flow. Being a perennial river, Yamuna is one such case. So much of the water refill process is automatic here, ”Mishra said.

“Second, in the absence of wells in the area and residents still having access to water using water pumps during the monsoon, they would have a hard time seeing changes in groundwater levels and l The assessment would become completely dependent on government readings. carried to piezometers. In addition, 40 acres of land is too little to carry out such a project and record visible changes in water levels, ”said Misra.

He added, “For a fair and more efficient assessment, the government should consider creating a reservoir in the passive floodplains, ideally across the river bank, instead of the active floodplains. This process will not work with the natural overflow of the river and will automatically feed the reservoir during monsoons and would require the government to put in place arrangements to fill it. This can give better results in terms of the evaluation of such a project.

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