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Govt has a concrete plan to recharge ponds: make walls around them

In a bid to preserve Delhi’s fast depleting waterbodies and recharge the groundwater table,the Delhi government had in July 2008 initiated a project.

Written by Geeta Gupta | New Delhi |
January 16, 2009 11:51:57 pm

In a bid to preserve Delhi’s fast depleting waterbodies and recharge the groundwater table,the Delhi government had in July 2008 initiated a project. The plan: 629 waterbodies were to be revived.

A half-year on,the government has successfully removed concrete encroachments and breathed life into some of them. In many others,ironical as it may seem,the government stuffed concrete and choked water in the name of beautification,or converting them into swimming pools.

Environmentalists say the project has completely negated the purpose of revival as water cannot percolate through cement and recharge the groundwater table. The deadline for reviving waterbodies is June 2009.

Now,the government is also looking at community participation in the project,officials said. “The agencies are looking to beautify and earmark them so that they are not encroached upon,” a senior official said.

Delhi Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta,confirmed the deadline given to “all land-owning agencies”: June 2009. “At least 90 per cent of waterbodies in Delhi are being developed by the Delhi Jal Board,the Irrigation and Flood Control Department and the Delhi State Industrial Development Corporation.”

He heads the HC-appointed monitoring committee on water bodies in Delhi. But the drive has come under fire from environmentalists who say they are being concretised in the guise of beautification.

V K Jain,who had filed a Public Interest Litigation in the High Court in 2000 seeking protection of groundwater resources,said a lot of money was being pumped into engineering works with no impetus on preserving the ecosystem. Most of these waterbodies are in the rural blocks,such as Najafgarh,Kanjhawala,Alipur,and Mehrauli,Jain said.

“By concretising a waterbody,the catchment area is being cut off from the aquifer. The waterbody then becomes a mere swimming pool and does not serve its primary purpose of recharging ground water,” he said. “It is surprising that all the water bodies,in rural areas as well,are being given concrete boundaries.”

The government,though,refutes the claims. Chief Secretary Mehta said only waterbodies in urban areas were being given concrete boundaries — to protect them from sewerage. “No waterbody in urban areas is being concretised,” he said. “In fact,stones are being put in rural waterbodies to facilitate movement of cattle who bathe in ponds.”

The government also plans to initiate community participation once the waterbodies are revived.

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