Sustainable Management Can Help In Conserving Ponds, A Cornerstone Of Water Security

Despite being frequently disregarded, ponds are an essential part of the freshwater ecosystem and have a variety of functions that contribute to ecological health and water conservation. They serve as essential natural reservoirs in addition to being aesthetically pleasing. They collect and hold onto precipitation to stop it from evaporating as surface runoff. Groundwater aquifers, a major source of water are refilled as a result of this captured water seeping into the earth Ponds release this stored water back into the environment during dry seasons, guaranteeing a consistent flow for home use, irrigation, and preserving ecosystem health.

In fact, ponds are nature’s own wastewater system acting as natural filters, improving water quality through bioremediation. Aquatic plants growing within and around the pond absorb nutrients and pollutants from the inflowing water. Microorganisms further break down organic matter, leading to a natural purification process that benefits downstream ecosystems.

Despite their ecological value, ponds in India are subject to human stress. These important waterbodies are physically destroyed due to encroachment for development and agricultural expansion. Pond water is contaminated by industrial waste discharge and fertiliser and pesticide-laden agricultural runoff, upsetting the delicate ecological balance. Deforestation in the vicinity of the ponds also causes soil erosion, which causes siltation and a reduction in the storage capacity of ponds. Together, these risks affect not only the security of the water supply but also the biodiversity and ecosystem services that ponds supply.

Govt of India has launched several initiatives to address the challenges faced by water bodies. Two major missions Jal Jeevan Mission and AMRUT 2.0 target water body conservation while offering better access to water. In addition to its goal of providing clean drinking water through tap connections, Jal Jeevan Mission, which is concentrated on rural communities, encourages sustainable water use through rainwater collection, greywater management, and source sustainability measures. AMRUT 2.0 aims to improve water supply, sewerage, and storm drainage infrastructure in urban areas including water body rejuvenation in its goals.

Mission Amrit Sarovar was launched on April 24, 2022, to conserve water for the future. The mission aimed at developing/rejuvenating 75 Amrit Sarovars (ponds) in each district of the country, totalling about 50,000. As of November 28, 2023, work on 68,119 Amrit Sarovars was completed. (PIB 2023) Also, the Repair, Renovation & Restoration (RRR) program complements the Jal Jeevan Mission’s focus on source sustainability by directly addressing water body health. As of now, 1869 water bodies have been restored under the program. (RRR Dashboard) The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) provides funds for de-silting and renovation of ponds, creating employment opportunities in rural areas while promoting water resource management.

 The Housing & Urban Development Department, Govt of Odisha has undertaken significant efforts, such as the “Ama Pokhari’ programme, which addresses ecological regeneration and water security at the local level. It was started in 2023 to restore and protect almost 2,000 big bodies of water throughout the state’s 115 Urban Local Bodies by engaging Mission Shakti Groups.

Community-led pond management is a viable solution for the revitalisation and long-term management of ponds. This strategy gives local stakeholders, youth in particular the ability to take on the role of pond stewards. Youth-led organisations can design and oversee citizen science initiatives that educate nearby communities about the value of ponds and the necessity of their rejuvenation and sustainable management. They can involve the neighbourhood in pond-related activities such as gathering data on health, organising cleanup campaigns, etc. to foster a sense of respect and responsibility for the ponds.  Similar initiatives can be carried out in schools, colleges and other educational institutions to educate students and prepare them to become ambassadors. Through social media, the younger generation can also raise awareness to a larger audience. They can lead crowdfunding programs for restoration projects. The youth can also volunteer with community-based organisations working in water body rejuvenations and provide necessary technical support to these organisations.

To conclude, ponds provide important ecological functions and are essential to the ecosystem’s general health and water security. In addition to revitalising the current water bodies, steps should be taken to create a sustainable management system for them, ideally involving local people. Including young people in these initiatives would not only assist them in developing their talent but also elevate them from being ordinary participants to leaders for a water-secure future.

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