Our ancient religious texts and epics give a good insight into the water storage and conservation systems that prevailed in those days. Over the years rising populations, growing industrialization, and expanding agriculture have pushed up the demand for water. Efforts have been made to collect water by building dams and reservoirs and digging wells; some countries have also tried to recycle and desalinate (remove salts) water. Water conservation has become the need of the day. The idea of ground water recharging by harvesting rainwater is gaining importance in many cities. In the forests, water seeps gently into the ground as vegetation breaks the fall. This groundwater in turn feeds wells, lakes, and rivers. Protecting forests means protecting water 'catchments'. In ancient India, people believed that forests were the 'mothers' of rivers and worshipped the sources of these water bodies. Some ancient Indian methods of water conservation The Indus Valley Civilization, that flourished along the banks of the river Indus and other parts of western and northern India about 5,000 years ago, had one of the most sophisticated urban water supply and sewage systems in the world. The fact that the people were well acquainted with hygiene can be seen from the covered drains running beneath the streets of the ruins at both Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Another very good example is the well-planned city of Dholavira, on Khadir Bet, a low plateau in the Rann in Gujarat. One of the oldest water harvesting systems is found about 130 km from Pune along Naneghat in the Western Ghats. A large number of tanks were cut in the rocks to provide drinking water to tradesmen who used to travel along this ancient trade route. Each fort in the area had its own water harvesting and storage system in the form of rock-cut cisterns, ponds, tanks and wells that are still in use today. A large number of forts like Raigad had tanks that supplied water. In ancient times, houses in parts of western Rajasthan were built so that each had a rooftop water harvesting system. Rainwater from these rooftops was directed into underground tanks. This system can be seen even today in all the forts, palaces and houses of the region. Underground baked earthen pipes and tunnels to maintain the flow of water and to transport it to distant places, are still functional at Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh, Golkunda and Bijapur in Karnataka, and Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Rainwater harvesting In urban areas, the construction of houses, footpaths and roads has left little exposed earth for water to soak in. In parts of the rural areas of India, floodwater quickly flows to the rivers, which then dry up soon after the rains stop. If this water can be held back, it can seep into the ground and recharge the groundwater supply.
This has become a very popular method of conserving water especially in the urban areas. Rainwater harvesting essentially means collecting rainwater on the roofs of building and storing it underground for later use. Not only does this recharging arrest groundwater depletion, it also raises the declining water table and can help augment water supply. Rainwater harvesting and artificial recharging are becoming very important issues. It is essential to stop the decline in groundwater levels, arrest sea-water ingress, i.e. prevent sea-water from moving landward, and conserve surface water run-off during the rainy season.
Town planners and civic authority in many cities in India are introducing bylaws making rainwater harvesting compulsory in all new structures. No water or sewage connection would be given if a new building did not have provisions for rainwater harvesting. Such rules should also be implemented in all the other cities to ensure a rise in the groundwater level. Realizing the importance of recharging groundwater, the CGWB (Central Ground Water Board) is taking steps to encourage it through rainwater harvesting in the capital and...
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