A project led by 300 women and supported by experts and government departments has helped revive 99 springs in 89 villages across 11 districts, benefitting 12,000 households across the state.
Nagaland recieves an average annual rainfall of 1,800 mm to 2,500 mm. However, despite falling in a high rainfall region, the villages in the state suffer from acute water scarcity. This is mainly because unlike the mainlands, hilly areas do not allow scope for sustaining substantial natural water bodies such as lakes or ponds. The population living in the far-east side of the country depends primarily on springs and river streams for their survival. According to the North East Initiative Development Agency (NEIDA), these sources of water have started drying up in recent years. Construction work, development, and massive deforestation have led to decreased water discharge from spring, and have changed the course of these water bodies. Talking to a news portal, Imtitula Imchen, a geologist with NEIDA, says that it has been estimated that around 40-45 per cent of the springs have dried, or are on the verge of drying. “The Niti Aayog Report in 2018 identified about 7,500 springs in the state. There may be many more which remain unknown. The anthropogenic activities on the upper sides of the mountains, as well as an increase in settlements have added to the stress on the springs.” Describing the water dynamics in the region, Imtitula adds that around 30 households depend on one spring. If a spring dries, the population moves to another spring, where a specific population already relies on it. “Thus, it adds to the stress on the freshwater body. Even the water tankers depend on rivers and springs. Overexploitation reaches such an extent during summer months that even the water tankers cannot fulfil the demand immediately and have a waiting period of 2-3 days,” she says.
To bring a sustainable solution, a pilot project was conducted in 2015 to identify one spring each in 11 villages, and take up the revival work. The current conservation project has been underway since 2018, and stakeholders such as NEIDA, People Science Institute (PSI), Land Resources Department, Rural Development Department, Government of Nagaland, Advanced Center for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM) and others have joined hands to rejuvenate the springs. The project included spring shed management and geological survey, mapping of the springs with the help of hydro-geological experts, and contour measurement. Women in the villages received training in terms of capacity building. The community members learned the concept of water conservation and the technicalities involved in watershed management. The women dug trenches, carried plantation work, and demarcated lands to prevent damages to the spring, among other activities, to arrest water. Experts further conducted scientific mapping of the area to identify aquifers and recharge them with the water conservation works. All the springs were not only revived, but also and showed continuous improvement, making it easier for women who would have to travel to far off regions in the hope of finding water. After the success in 11 villages, the exercise was extended across 11 districts. So far, the work has helped cover an area of 130 hectares.
*Image for representational purposes only.