Study to enumerate urban waterbodies
By Our Special Correspondent
All the water bodies would be enumerated. "The data on their ecological conditions will also be collected to enable policy decisions on conservation of these lakes and ponds," he said, participating in a discussion on strategies for efficient water demand management, organised on the occasion of World Habitat Day. Noting that the cleaning of Ooty and Kodaikanal lakes had been taken up under the National Lakes Conservation Programme, he said the method of bio-remediation, adopted in the Powai lake of Maharashtra, was being applied in Udhagamandalam to tackle the problem of organic pollution. Expressing concern that lakes and ponds in urban centres were used as dumping storages of waste and sewage, Dr. Balaji said if they were properly protected, they would act as massive rainwater harvesting structures.
Highlighting the importance of wetland in controlling pollution, he said the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board made a study of the Pallikkaranai marsh and found 274 species there even in the present condition, which was only 10 per cent of Pallikkaranai's original size of 4,000 hectares. The species included 106 birds and 61 plants. Inaugurating the discussion, M.S. Swaminathan, chairman of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, said aspects of demand-side management of water had not received as much attention in the media as the supply-side had got.
Low water farms
He stressed the concept of low water farms, which involved increasing infiltration and retention capacity of soil through mulching, cultivation of low-water requiring and high-yielding crops, low-cost green house, and adoption of micro-irrigation techniques. Apart from regulation, education and social mobilisation were required to instil greater awareness of water literacy and a mass movement should be launched, Dr. Swaminathan said. M. Velayutham, executive director of the Foundation, called for minimising water loss in conveyance, scheduling of irrigation based on water requirements of crops, maximising benefits of poor quality water through conjunctive use of freshwater, and provision of adequate drainage in chronically water-logged areas. He also suggested formulation of a policy of incentives and disincentives, promotion of community efforts and on-farm training to farmers to ensure water conservation in agriculture. The Director of Madras School of Economics, Paul Appasamy, said water pricing and metering, leak detection measures and improvements in domestic connections would lead to economical and efficient water use in homes. In the matter of pricing, certain quantum of water could be earmarked as the lifeline or baseline, above which the supply could be charged. Moreover, when the charges were levied for the supply, they must match the quality of services provided. Geetha, additional secretary of the All-India Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam, said that with globalisation, the people's control over water resources was waning. The piped supply of water to slum areas was not given importance, but, instead, the supply was regularly done through tankers, which should have remained only as an interim measure.
T. Ramasami, Director of the Central Leather Research Institute, said wastewater generated by homes could be reused by industry. Many tannery units had drastically reduced water consumption for processing leather through recycling. The chairman of the Media Development Foundation, Sashi Kumar Menon, moderated the discussion.