Conservation and Management of Water Resources:
Mitigating depletion of ground water table and heavy metal
contamination through improvised rain water harvesting.
Freshwater issue continues to be a cause of concern for humanity owing to both anthropogenic and natural factors. One of the biggest challenges of our time is the disappearing water resources, which is leading to unprecedented water crisis around the world with as many as 10 countries, home to over 60% of the world population having no access to clean water.
Besides depleting ground water table, deteriorating water quality is largely contributing to water woes world-wide. The contamination of ground water sources particularly due to heavy metal is leading to major environment and health complications. Heavy metal contamination has not only impacted health and environment but the crippling effects of fluoride and arsenic toxicity is transforming to become a major public health issue today (Source: https://fluoridealert.org/news/heavy-metal-toxicity-and-water-contamination/). With rapid concretization everywhere and increased impermeability of the ground/surface, recharge potential of ground water aquifers has decreased drastically.
As solution to this, an improvised Rain Water Harvesting System developed at Centre for Water Resources at Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad has been proposed to install in select project areas on the basis of the need. This installation will open up new ways of addressing water scarcity issues and heavy metal contamination problems in a much simpler way than one could have expected. By introducing injection well into a normal rain water harvesting system, successful ground water recharge is possible and it will also remove ground water contamination through dilution across. Multiple projects undertaken in the states of Telangana have successfully attained both the objectives. This success is monumental and based on the same, it is now proposed to undertake this intervention in parts of northern India, where water scarcity and heavy metal contamination are prevalent.
Waterbody conservation and lake restoration through sustainable technologies.
National and Strategic Alignment: National Water Mission | SDG 6: Clean Water
There are wide variations in the availability of water across the country with the drier regions having greater fluctuations in rainfall thus increasing the vulnerability of people to water scarcity. In the meanwhile, the water demand is increasing and the water availability is declining over the years (Kumar et al, 2005). On the other hand, although the self-cleansing of water bodies occurs naturally but it is slow enough to combat the heavy load of pollution emanating due to anthropogenic reasons including urban, industrial and agricultural activities. This is in turn, will compromise waterbodies’ ability to support biodiversity. The conventional treatment methods and technologies are expensive, require high maintenance and are also energy intensive, thus sustainable technology-based and low-cost treatment systems are getting preference at various levels and are being tested successfully across multiple locations. Although such eco-technology or ecological engineering made a mark in the western world years ago, it took a while to become popular developing countries including India.
The conventional treatment methods and technologies are expensive and energy intensive and also require high maintenance, thus sustainable technology-based and low-cost treatment systems are getting preference at various levels and are being tested successfully across multiple locations. Although such ecotechnology or ecological engineering made a mark in the western world years ago, it took a while to reach developing countries including India.
This intervention may be viewed as artificially designed macro-ecosystems based on ecological principles in order to achieve desired degree of treatment. There has been growing appreciation for these technologies because of their multiple values and functions. The Subsurface Flow Constructed Wetlands (SFCW) are structurally manmade treatment systems built in an earthen or semi concrete depression, strategically filled with pea nut sized river gravel providing substrate for riparian plant species anchorage and slimy complex for bacterial film growth, with inlet and outlet arrangement. The SFCW promotes subsurface flow and wastewater is treated through permeable bed and dense stand of aquatic plants (Billore et. al., 1999). Another proven eco-technology is Floating Islands, which is an artificial floating platform vegetated with aquatic plants such as Cana indica.
Managing Waste: Promoting disruptive innovation towards solid waste management
Municipal solid waste is a significant environmental problem today, particularly in areas that lack sufficient infrastructure and useable land mass to process it in an appropriate manner. It is projected, over the next ten years, India will generate almost one billion tons of waste. Keeping in view of the same, Foundation is facilitating and supporting a community-based waste-management project that will help address 03 combined issues of water air and soil pollution. The nuisance that can be caused due to non-management/mis-management of solid waste can be put to rest through sustainable approach. This pilot testing will be done in a select community of Pune city. This intervention aspires to create a zero-waste society through segregation (1st level) at house-hold level, second level of segregation at community level and by selling of valuables (dry waste) to traders afterwards. The utilisation of wet waste for composting and bio-gas for electricity production that will power the street lighting system within the community is another major component of the project. This exercise will help reduce the waste going to the landfill significantly eventually creating a zero-waste society that will manage its trash in-house while generating revenue for the Resident Welfare Association. This intervention will facilitate RWAs, gated communities and private townships to adopt scientific measures to address waste issue through a sustainable model and also in accordance with the current legal mandate.
Sustainable Agriculture and Organic Food
Rampant use of chemicals in agriculture is not only causing health hazards, but also leading to far-reaching environmental consequences. As over use of chemicals resulting in low agricultural yield, illness including deadly cancer and also water pollution as over-flowing water that carries the chemicals pollute water bodies nearby. Furthermore, many chemicals also leave residual effect in the produce making it vulnerable for the human/animal-kind. In addition, the conventional farming practices un-aided with technology could be labour and energy intensive and could also cause pressure on the forest resources during both pre and post harvesting period.
Founded on the principle of ecological balance and sustainability, sustainable agriculture has the ability to sustain our natural resources while producing a decent harvest as required. The desire for a sustainable agriculture is universal and is promoted in concurrence with Organic Agriculture although not all organic crop may be sustainable. Thankfully with the emergence of sustainable/organic farming, the use of chemicals in farming has gone down significantly. Generally, both organic and sustainable agriculture contribute to meaningful socio-economic and ecologically sustainable development as they avoid propagation of chemical fertilizer/pesticides, consider local environmental and geological factors in crop selection, factor in water availability or unavailability, efficiently manage local resources (e.g. local seed varieties, manure, etc.). And in addition, there’s a need and scope for introducing sustainable technology-based solutions as a value addition; e.g. agro processing dryer for drying fruits and spices mostly that is low-carbon and energy efficient, such intervention will make agriculture furthermore sustainable.
Consumers’ concern regarding food quality and safety, as well as the protection of the environment, were the first to stimulate demand for organic products, thus it is important to roll out a comprehensive training and capacity development programme targeted at farming community and practitioners to prepare them to grow crops sustainably, practice organic farming, control quality, present and package them aesthetically, manage supply chain, get it certified, and most importantly establish market linkage (domestic and international).
Mountain sustainable development in the Indian Himalayan Region
Mountain ecosystems are one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world, which is under tremendous pressure for a number of factors. The Indian Himalayan Region, which is considered as the ‘water tower’ of Asia is also no different as it is facing pressure from all counters particularly changing climate that is leading to the occurrence and the magnitude of extreme weather events impacting the mountain livelihoods in a substantial manner.
Mountain peoples are however overlooked inspite of their stewardship towards this fragile landscape that supports over 10% of the Earth’s population and protect the watersheds that ensure freshwater supply for more than half of the global population. An estimated one-tenth of the human population derive their life-support directly from the mountains. At the global scale, mountains’ greatest value may be categorized as the sources of all the major rivers of the world (Mountain Agenda, 1998); yet they have failed to get the importance they deserve. Despite being ecologically rich, more than 1/3 of the rural population in the mountains suffer from hunger and malnutrition resulting in increased migration of the mountain population to nearby urban areas. According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, temperatures are predicted to increase further in most mountain areas, making it very likely that in the near future, disasters and extreme events will impact mountains even more.
To counter such long-term environmental change, which is compromising the mountain livelihoods, training and capacity development of local communities is being proposed. There is immense scope for value addition in food processing in the mountainous area since people trade their horticulture crops as well as traditional crops at a minimal price. However, the value of most agricultural yield can be improved with little value addition like grading, cleaning, packaging, and processing if done before they are being sent to the market. Dairy is another sector where processing of milk can be done to prepare cottage cheese, pasteurised butter looking at the market potential.
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