Mountain springs are a major source of water supply for rural households in the Himalayan region. Of the 5 million springs in India, about 3 million are in the Himalayas[i]. However, spring water supply has increasingly become uncertain in recent times due to several reasons such as impact of climate change and anthropogenic agents such as change in land use, increased demand, and ecological degradation. Some of these change agents impact the rainfall pattern leading to high intensity rainfall with reduced spread. This naturally leads to increased runoff and reduced capture as ground water.
Four districts in the eastern Himalayas – Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, Kalimpong, and Darjeeling–started facing water crisis in recent years largely due to population pressure and rapid urbanization. In an effort to address this situation, Rajarhat based PRASARI (a developmental organization focused on water issues) along with Advance Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM) conducted a technical research on the existing springs of these regions. Findings from the study suggested a gradually declining discharge pattern affecting overall water availability.
Subsequently, national level organizations such as Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation (BRLF), realising the importance of springshed management, signed an agreement with the Government of West Bengal (GoWB), to initiate the “Jharnadhara” program under the MGNREGA scheme with PRASARI as partner.
Project “Jharnadhara” aimed to rejuvenate and increase the discharge of springs to ensure perennial flow through the development of 457 spring sheds in the following districts – Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri – with majority of them being in Darjeeling. Major components of the project included science-based aquifer mapping, and community engagement to ensure sustainable usage and utilization of springs.
Aquifer Mapping includes assessing:
- Vertical and lateral extent of aquifers
- Depth of water level
- Concentration of various chemical constituents
- Productivity of the aquifers
[i] “Inventory and Revival of Springs in the Himalayas for Water Security”, NITI Aayog, 2018