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Water- the foundation of the universe

Water- the foundation of the universe
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Water- the foundation of the universe

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Water, and with it, the rain that brings it to us, have become so much an integral part of day- to - day life of human beings that, from nursery rhymes to songs in movies they are a recurring theme

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Water, and with it, the rain that brings it to us, have become so much an integral part of day- to - day life of human beings that, from nursery rhymes to songs in movies they are a recurring theme. While children learn the catchy 'rain, rain go away come again another day…', or chant the popular "vana vana vallappa" in Telugu, people of my generation recall with great fondness numbers such as 'zindagi bhar nahi bhoolegi woh barsaat ki raat…' And the unforgettable lilting melody penned by Hal David and Burt Bacharach 'raindrops keep falling on my head…' from the film 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid'.

The twin resources gifted to us by nature, water and rain, have a specially significant role in the process of growth and development of India's economy. Firstly agriculture, the mainstay of more than two-thirds of the workforce of the country is substantially dependent on the rain that the monsoons bring to us, twice in a year. While it still remains a mystery how precisely rain is formed, the fact remains that the country, and its population of over 1.2 billion were, for a long time, fortunate to enjoy a predictable rhythm of the arrival and withdrawal of the monsoons.

That gift of nature, however, has been mauled, in recent decades, by the onset of phenomena such as global warming, climate change, and atmospheric pollution. As a result, the behaviour of the monsoons has become erratic and extreme weather events have become commonplace. It is no doubt, true, that the monsoons in India occur over a very short period of time during which most of the rainfall of the whole year occurs. Even given that, the substantial change in the behaviour of rainfall in the two seasons is to be regarded as something worrisome and a challenge. Year after year one sees a large part of the country ravaged by severe droughts, while, in several other regions, there are floods, causing unacceptable losses of lives and property.

The Sanskrit expression of 'athivrishti, anavrishti' (meaning either too much of rain or none at all), has now become reality! While even drinking water is difficult to think of in some parts of the country, it is, at the same time, literally raining 'cats and dogs' elsewhere!

During my days as Joint Secretary, in the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, Kamal Pandey (Secretary, Agriculture), fondly called me 'the Anantapur groundnut man', as I frequently referred to the travails that district went through in times of droughts. Also because groundnut was the principal crop grown in the district.

It is indeed paradoxical that years later, first as Secretary to the Governor, I was among those who participated in the ceremonial send off to Governor Sharda Mukherjee. She was given an inter-services guard of honour in pouring rain! And, again, much later, as Chief Secretary to the Government of Andhra Pradesh I spent a good deal of my time organising rescue and relief operations in the wake of the flooding of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad following heavy rains.

And it is not as though the scores of flooding is a phenomena peculiar to Hyderabad alone. We have all seen the acute disruption of normal life and the extensive damage caused by flooding following heavy rains in metropolises such as Bombay and Chennai year after year.

One method of meeting the challenge of frequent and unpredictable changes in the pattern and quality of rainfall distribution, over space and time, appeared, at least for some time, to be that of 'cloud seeding'. It was, in fact, tried in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh when I was the Chief Secretary of that state. Whether the method is effective or not however, remains an issue on which the jury is out.

As part of the National Policy on the subject, the government of the composite state of Andhra Pradesh piloted the enactment of the Water, Land and Trees Act (APWALTA-2002) with the basic objectives of:

Promoting water conservation and tree cover.

♦ Protecting and conserving water sources, land and matters connected therewith and

♦ Regulating the exploitation and use of ground and surface water.

While the law is very comprehensive, its implementation has remained inadequate and needs attention in the future. Measures of conservation of water are increasingly being built into the technology regime of buildings, in urban areas in particular. Growing kitchen gardens and decorative plants inside homes, particularly in multi-storied apartments, is rapidly catching up, not only as a measure of water conservation, but also as part of the effort to 'green' cities.

In our own case, we are fortunate enough to have a small patch of a lawn, the fact that our flat is in the first floor notwithstanding. And thanks to the green fingers my wife Usha possesses, quite a collection of flower and fruit-bearing plants have made their appearance over the last few years. I am, in fact, in the midst of designing an ambitious programme to promote and popularise such practises all over the twin cities.

I must share an interesting fact with the readers for over 50 years now, there has hardly ever been a happy event celebrated in the family of the Kandas without there being a cloudburst or a downpour disrupting the entire arrangements! The only consolation being that the event is seen as being auspicious!

Before ending this discussion it would be appropriate recall one of the oft quoted properties of time, namely that of it being a great healer. No matter how serious a wound, be it physical, mental or emotional, the passage of time invariably makes the pain abate, though, on occasion, it may leave behind a harmless scar as a reminder of the episode that caused the injury.

(The writer is former Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh)

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