There is an urgent need for people in rural communities to change the way in which they view, and subsequently treat, community ponds. From being seen as a community dumping ground, to being viewed and valued as an abundant community resource, we must reignite the interdependent relationship between people and ponds.
In its optimum state, a pond is a giver – of water, of livelihood, of life. It contributes to local groundwater recharge, and when in a state of abundance, it becomes the lifeblood of the community – a place for gathering, worshiping and protecting. Community elders, many of whose ancestors built these traditional water harvesting structures, know the value a good pond can bring, and find great pain in seeing the current state of affairs, with so many ponds polluted and in disuse. Younger generations, used to seeing water piped in from Government pipelines, often see no value in these dirty dumping grounds, which silt up and fall into disrepair.
India is endowed with diverse and distinctive traditional water bodies – of which a pond is just one. They support its large population and complex biodiversity, but are under continuous stress and threat, caused primarily by the people they are there to serve. As a result, there has been a stark decline in both the quality and quantity of pond water, thanks to improper monitoring of these water bodies.
Historically, people in rural India have had a deep connect with their water bodies like ponds. A common property of the community, a pond can be used for a multitude of purposes, including irrigation, bathing, washing, and collecting water for domestic use as well as for cattle. Ponds are also a habitat for flora and fauna and a source for recharging the ground water. They mitigate droughts and act as shock absorbers in flood-prone areas.
But in so many rural communities today, the pond has fallen by the wayside. It is undervalued and even disrespected. Pollution is a key factor with solid waste discarded by local villagers and even industrial effluent, diminishing the ‘gifts’ a pond can bring its community.
Pond catchment and storage areas have been encroached upon reducing both the water availability and quality. Many ponds have simply disappeared – filled in and built over the top of. With the country in the throes of a water crisis, it is criminal to think that these once beloved ponds have been tossed aside.
And industry is also to blame. Industrialization and its subsequent effluents and catchment area degradation, chemical intensive agriculture, illegal mining activities and cultural misuse have all played a role in the destruction of these once bountiful ponds.
If we are to restore them to their former glory, revive them, and harness them to meet the water needs of a community, it is the people who must drive the change. Yet so often, the community’s expectation is that government should do all the work. This attitude has to change if pond pollution is to be controlled at source.
Non-profits and CSR bodies have a great role to play in making people aware, especially the young generation, about the importance of these water bodies. Thus, collective effort should be directed towards making people understand the long term benefits of conserving and managing these ancient and life-giving water bodies.
- Thoughts by
Brajeshsingh Tomar, Vertical Head, Water