Micro-level water-resources engineering—7: Dealing with the [upcoming] summer

Last monsoon, we’ve mostly had excess rain-fall in most parts of Maharashtra, even over India, taken as a whole.

Though the weather in Maharashtra still is, for the most part, pleasantly cool, the autumn season this year (in India) is about to get over, right this month.

Therefore, right now, i.e. right at the beginning of February, is the perfect time to empirically check the water levels in all those check-dams/farm-ponds you have. … That’s because, evaporation is going to happen at an accelerating pace from now on…

Between end-October (say Diwali) and March (say Holi), every solar year in India, the reduction in the levels of the stored water is dominated by the following two factors:
(i) seepage (i.e. the part which occurs after the rains cease), and
(ii) usage (i.e. the irrigation for the “rabbi” (i.e. the winter agricultural) season).

But from now on, the dominant factor is going to be the third one, namely, (iii) evaporation, and it is going to be increasingly ever more important throughout the upcoming summer, i.e., until the arrival of the next monsoon.

As I had earlier pointed out in this series  [^][^], in Maharashtra, the losses due to evaporation are expected to be about 5–8 feet (or 1 to 1.5 “puruSh”) deep.

Don’t take my word for it. … Go out and actually check it out. (Take snap-shots for your own record, if you wish.)

The beginning of February is also the perfect time to start executing on your plans for any maintenance- or new construction-activities on any check-dams/farm-ponds/residential water conservation that you might have thought of, in your mind. If you start executing on it now, you still have a very realistic framework of about 4–4.5 months left, before the next monsoon rains are slated to arrive [give or take about a half month here or there].

…Just a reminder, that’s all.


Keep in touch, best, and bye for now…


[As usual, I may come back and edit this post a bit after its publication, say, after a couple of days or so… I don’t know why, but things like that—viz., thinking about what I did happen to write, always happen to me. But the editing wouldn’t be too much. … OK. … Bye [really] for now.]

 

Micro-level water-resources engineering—3

The deccan trap basalt as the most widespread feature of the geology of Maharashtra:

The geological map for India shows a large uniform portion for the deccan plateau. It consists the hard basalt rock, and not soft or sandy alluvial soils. The deccan trap basalt portion goes over Maharashtra, MP, Karnataka, and the adjacent areas from other states. (To my surprise, it seems that the geologists do not include the south Karnataka region in the same deccan trap basalt region.)

As far as regions of water-scarcity go, there is a very wide continuous band in India. Take India’s map, and mark two slanted lines: the top one going across Rajasthan, MP, Orissa, and the bottom one going across Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and AP, even Tamil Nadu. Statistically speaking, the greatest number of the most severe droughts seem to occur in the regions falling in between these two lines.

The area of my interest is in Maharashtra. The worst drought-prone regions of Marathwada, South Maharashtra and parts of Vidarbha and Western Maharashtra all fall in between those two lines.

If Maharashtra is seen at a large, national, scale [say, 1 cm:100 km], the topmost geological layer is comprised mostly of the deccan trap basalt.

The water-seepage characteristics of the deccan trap basalt:

Speaking in general terms, if you take, say, a 10 cm X 10 cm X 10 cm cube of basalt, you will find it to be a hard, impermeable rock. You might therefore conclude that it is not very easily conducive to groundwater seepage.

However, when viewed at a larger scale, even a top-layer of basalt is not uniform either in composition or in shape (i.e. in terms of its surface morphology). First of all, there are inhomogeneities introduced and fissures formed right at the time of formation of these geological layers aeons ago. Then, there are earth-quakes, introducing cracks and fissures. Further, there also are some very slow processes that nevertheless make their effects felt over the geologically long time-scale of tens, even hundreds of thousands of years.

Due to the inhomogeneity of their composition and morphology, the daily thermal expansions and contractions experienced by the surface layers of rocks are inhomogenous. These inhomogeneities lead to thermally induced mechanical stresses. Over the geological time-scale, the repeated thermal stresses result in local fractures, especially near the surface (where the temperature gradients are the greatest). Further, the mechanical effects of erosion due to water flow leads to deposition of sand; it also serves to erode the fissure openings. The chemical action of dissolved minerals and chemicals lead to enlargement of fissures and opening of cavities at surface as well as deeper layers. Even in a nominally hard rock like basalt.

Thus, due to fracturing and weathering at the surface layers, if you consider relatively bigger patches, say those at the scale of, 10 m to a few hundreds of m (or bigger), even a top layer of a nominally hard rock like the basalt, can begin to act like the more permeable alluvial layer.

Since the cracks are highly irregular and elongated, percolation from a surface water body into the deeper underground layers is highly inhomogeneous and anisoptropic.

In the above discussion, we have considered the seepage from the surface layers. As far as the underground flow through aquifers goes, there is a presence of local sub-layering within an overall top layer of basalt. Further, fissuring and cavitation also has occurred deeper underground. Therefore, local underground aquifers are observed to exist even within an overall basalt layer. Such aquifers often are quite directional, and not too criss-cross. Hence, anisotropy (or directionality) to the local underground flow is only to be expected.

As an example of a locally restricted fracturing/fissuring, observe the groundwater falling over the passing trains and buses in the tunnels of the Khandala ghat on the Mumbai–Pune routes. (BTW, in case you have ever wondered whether these fissures/fractures pose risk, don’t worry!  Their presence is already factored in, while designing for tunnels—fracture mechanics, by now, is a fairly well understood technique.)

One notable reference here is by Prof. Deolankar of Uni. of Pune: Deolankar, S. B. (1980) “The deccan basalts of Maharashtra, India—their potential as aquifers,” Ground Water, vol. 18, no. 5, September–October 1980, pp. 434–437 [(.PDF) ^]. Note the comparisons to the basalt layers elsewhere, and the quantitative estimates for parameters such as porosity, yield, transmissivity and specific capacity.

To conclude, (i) a top layer of basalt layer also allows for seepage of water, even if (ii) the effect varies greatly from place to place (due to the inhomogeneity of fracturing) and the flow is directional (due to anisotropy).

Therefore, groundwater seepage, and therefore artificial groundwater recharge work, appears feasible even in the deccan trap region of Maharashtra. However, it is only to be expected that the seepage aspect won’t be as pronounced as in the regions having a sandy alluvial top layer.

The importance of the local geology:

Due to the local inhomogeneity and anisotropy, there also arise certain difficulties or challenges.

The main difficulty is that unless a detailed geological study of the local hydro-geology is carefully conducted, it would be impossible to tell whether any underground water recharge work would at all be feasible in a given village or not.

Artificial groundwater recharge work may lead to very impressive results in some village or a cluster of villages, but it may not at all give economical returns even in some nearby  villages—even if all of them fall under the same governmental administrative unit of a taluka (or even a block). [The same Collector; the same Block Development Officer! … Two results! (LOL!)]

Thus, in Maharashtra (and similar regions), it becomes crucially important to know what kind of local geology there is—the surface geology, as well as the geology and morphology of the underground strata.  The depth to which these features should be known would vary from place to place; it may range from 10 m to even hundreds of meters.

Unfortunately, the geological surveys in the past were conducted only at much grosser scales. The relevant geological data at the micro-level of villages (i.e. covering just 5 km X 5 km areas) are simply not available.

If experts (say GSA) are asked to conduct such surveys at the micro-level for the entire country, it would be a very time-consuming and costly process.

However, realize that what you need for the water-conservation work is not the most elaborate kinds of surveys. You don’t need surveys of the kind that GSA or the mining engineers make. You aren’t really interested in things like detailed rock-compositions, percentages of minerals, etc. Your main interest is things such as: what kind of strata run where underground, what kind of intermediate layers occur in between the layers of hard rocks and at what depths, the depth and the direction at/in which the local fissures and aquifers run, whether a given fissure extends up to surface or not, etc.

Some of this data (concerning the local geological strata) can be gathered simply by observing the traditional wells! Often-times, the wells are either not at all covered with walls, or even if there is a masonry work, it does not extend beyond a certain depth, and so, the underground layers stand adequately exposed at the traditional wells. Other data can be had by observing the exposed surfaces of nallahs, rivers, hill-sides, etc.

And, of course, data about the local underground strata can always be had by drilling observation bore-wells (though it would be a costlier method).

The economic relevance of computational modelling:

In places like Maharashtra, since the groundwater seepage, flow, and water-holding characteristics crucially involve local variations and directionality, 3D computational models should prove to be of definite use.

Use of 3D computational models would not only streamline the collection of data, it would also lead to far more accurate predictions concerning economic feasibility of projects—ahead of spending any money on them.

A case in point, here, is that of a small check-dam built at the initiative of the IIT Bombay alumni. More details can be found at the CTARA Web site. As a measure of the difficulty in making predictions for underground water flow, notice that in spite of certain geological studies (of conductivity measurements etc.) conducted by the IIT Bombay experts prior to building of this check dam, it still has not resulted in any enhanced ground-water seepage downstream. Chances are, if a 3D model were to be built by drilling observation bore-wells, either a significant amount of money could have been saved, or deployed at a more suitable location.

An apparent counter-case in point is that of the success of the Shirpur pattern, at its original location, viz., near Shirpur (where else?). No detailed micro-level 3D computational modelling was conducted for it. Still, it was successful. How come?

The local geology of the Shirpur region as not being representative of the entire state of Maharashtra:

As it so happens, my father, a retired irrigation engineer, had worked in the Shirpur area. (I thus happened to have had a considerable stint of my school education in and around Shirpur.) I had discussed the issue with my father quite a few years ago. From whatever I now recollected, he had mentioned that the local geology there indeed was more conducive to underground seepage. There were sandy soils at the top level, and some hard rock well underneath. Both these factors lead to better seepage characteristics. The strategy of deepening and widening of the nallahs, as followed in the Shirpur pattern, therefore is a good strategy. As to the rest of Maharashtra, the local geological characteristics differed, he had mentioned it.

[I guess we had this conversation some time in 2007 or 2008. I have been having this idea of not getting discouraged if there is no water at a bore-well location, but instead turn the situation on its head and use the out-coming data regarding the underlying geological strata, to build better predictive computer models at a very fine level of granularity. I have been having this idea since at least 2008, and so, our conversation must be that old. As to the appreciation of having to carefully build 3D models, I owe it to my training in materials engineering, in particular, stereology.]

Anyway, in the recent weeks, I therefore checked the local geology for the Shirpur region, consulting some of the references listed in my earlier post in this series. It turns out that the depth to the water level near Shirpur is at roughly 20–30 m bgl (i.e. below ground level); see ref. here: Aquifer Systems of India, Central Ground Water Board, Plate XXVII on page 58 [(34 MB) pdf ^]. Now, this is a region through which Taapi, a major river, flows. As any school-boy in Shirpur would know, the river has enriched the top layers with a rich black soil. What is the official geological nature of this top layer? Turns out that it is “alluvial.” The black soil does not have the best permeability. However, in the Shirpur region, the alluvial deposits also are sandy in nature, esp. as you go below a certain depth (of 1 m to a few meters). Next, check out the distinctive yellow patch of the alluvial region in this map, standing in sharp contrast to the green patch for the basalt layer for the major parts of Maharashtra [(370 kB pdf) ^].

A top layer of alluvial soil, esp. if deeper than 10 m, if it is then also supported underneath by a highly impervious layer (e.g. basalt in Maharashtra), then the approaches that seek to enhance ground-water seepage do make good sense.

In contrast, if there is a top layer of basalt itself, then, in general, it is less conducive to groundwater seepage; it is more conducive to construction of check-dams for water storage (as in contrast to water percolation/seepage), or for the Kolhapur-type weirs for both storage and redistribution, etc.

As an inevitable conclusion, the local geology holds very important implications for selection of effective water conservation strategies.

Naturally, you can’t just go ahead and apply the Shirpur pattern everywhere in Maharashtra.

“Give me the funds for a few Poclains per taalukaa, and I will make everything green,” is a statement therefore strongly reminiscent of “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.” The point is not that the whole world won’t be moved; the point is the natural difficulty in providing the guy with a place to stand (complete with air to breathe etc.), not to mention the engineering difficulty of supplying him with a strong enough, and long enough, a lever. And, of course, the difficulty of arranging a place to keep the fulcrum of that lever.

Dramatic statements, both!

I will go ahead, stick my neck out, and say that the Shirpur pattern—inasmuch as it incorporates the seepage mechanism as a strategy—is not likely to be the most optimum solution at any places other than in the Tapi and the Purna river regions! Check out the map if you have not done so already [(370 kB pdf) ^]!

The idea of small dams as storage—and not seepage—devices:

Come to think of it, then, with all the due qualifications—i.e., speaking only in general terms, and only for most parts of Maharashtra (not all), and ignoring any fracturing present in the local geology—the idea of small-dams or check-dams as storage devices, rather than as a seepage devices (or as a groundwater recharge devices), has begun to make much better sense to me. …

[… Yes, the famous government-funded Poclains, and the government-funded work to be contracted out to some of the local parties, and the government funds to be timely released only to some of those parties…. The whole she-bang does stand to be applied also here; more on it, later, if at all necessary. …]

…For the time being, here is an exercise for you.

Exercise:

Take a smallish river (or a bigger nallah), say, 50 km (or 10 km) long. Build an enormously simplified geometrical model of the river, by assuming a rectangular pyramid for its water-carrying volume.

Thus, ignore all the bends in the course of the river and instead assume that the river looks like a long, acicular triangle in the plan (i.e. in the top view). Further, assume that the vertical cross-section of the river remains rectangular throughout; it goes on linearly increasing in area from zero at the origin of the river to a certain value at the end of the river.

Assume typical figures for the dimensions of the river/nallah: how about a vertical cross section that is 50 m wide and 2–3 m deep at the mid-length of the river (i.e. 25 km downstream from the origin)? Assume also a suitable slope for the river, so that water does indeed flow downstream: how about a fall in the height of the ground level of, say, 50 to 100 m, over its 50 km length?

Now, if a series of check dams were to be built on this “river” such that they would submerge some 75% of the total river area present in the plan view into water-holding areas, calculate how much total volume of water would be made available. Compare this volume to the storage capacity of a single conventional dam known to you. …

[While making your calculations, realize (i) that the max. height of the dam cannot exceed the depth of the river bed (because only the river area would go under water), (ii) that the bottom of the river slopes down, and therefore (iii) that the depth of river bed below the water surface goes on decreasing as you go upstream from the check dam location, coming to zero at some location upstream. The third factor severely delimits the total volume of water that can be held via the series of check dams.]

To put the water volume in context, assume that the per-capita consumption for daily individual consumption is some 135–150 liters. Using this assumption, determine the size of the town/city whose needs could be met by this series of check dams. (Note, this figure does not include demand for agriculture and industrial usages.)

Then, consult a practising civil engineer and find out the current cost of construction of all these check dams. Compare this cost with that of a single conventional dam.

Think about any advantages the series of check dams may have; consider water distribution, flood control, and sedimentation and maintenance aspects.

Include the costs of canal construction in the conventional approach. Include the costs of lift-irrigation schemes in the check-dams approach.

Include the fact that since check-dams won’t have a great height (say 2–4 m), the evaporation losses (estimated at about 20–30% in the conventional dams) may even lead to this circumstance: all the water in a check dam plain evaporates in the thin air even before the next summer season approaches. Realize here that, as a rule of thumb, evaporation losses over the eight non-monsoon months are as high as about 1.67 m of height loss per square m of the average of top and bottom surface areas in the plan. [To help put this figure in some kind of a context, the average annual rainfall in Maharashtra is about 110 cm—if no rainwater were to be lost to seepage, runoff or evaporation, and if all of it could be collected, a tank with a square meter of bottom surface area would hold a water body 1.1 m tall.]

Include the economics of maintenance and mechanization in the regions where there is no traditional “Rajasthan culture” of water conservation, but instead people expect government to bring them everything wherever they are.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

I will come back later with some further notes and observations (including those on software) on this topic of micro-level water-resources engineering. In particular, I want to make a few notings related to the GIS software. However, I belong to those old-fashioned kind of engineers who, in their practical life (as in contrast to their avatars in blogosphere, for instance) always first do a quick back-of-the-envelop calculation before they switch on a computer to do any computational modelling. If you are like me, you should finish the above exercise first, so that the exploration of software is better grounded in reality.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

A Song I Like:
(Marathi) “gangaa aali re, angaNi”
Lyrics: G. D. Madgulkar
Music: Datta Davajekar
Singers: Jayawant Kulkarni, Sharad Jambhekar, Govind Powale, H. Vasant, Aparna Mayekar

[Minor updates done right on 2015.04.08 after posting the very first version. Guess I will not make any significant revisions to this post any further. May come back and correct typos and grammatical streamlining; that’s all—no new points.]

[E&OE]

 

Micro-level water-resources engineering

1. Introductory:

It’s the “Holi” day today—one of the two Indian cultural reminders that the summer is almost at the door-step. [The second reminder is the “Gudhi PaaDawaa,” the Indian lunar new year’s day, which follows after a lunar fortnight.]

The hottest—and the most water-scarce—days of late-April, May and early-June are in the coming.

This period also is the last opportunity in the year to undertake any appropriate water-conservation work.

Those who have browsed my personal Website would know that surface-flow and ground-water seepage has been a topic of some definite research interest to me. [Off-hand, I think I also have passingly mentioned about it on my blog in the past.] … That way, I haven’t actually pursued any concrete research about it; it’s just been in an exploratory stage. I do plan to do something about it once I get some right kind of students to guide along these topics, preferably ME students (from several different disciplines; see my research description at the end of this post). [BTW, even though currently I am jobless, I do anticipate to get a job in the next cycle of academic appointments that occurs sometime around the summer vacations or so.]

In the meanwhile, I have been going over some popular as well as scientific writings on the subject, thinking over the issues involved, and bringing some clarity as to what in particular I can do about it. My research would involve only computational modelling. In particular, I wouldn’t at all be interested in the sociological/governmental aspects of it, though one must be aware that they exist, and one must have at least some background kind of a sense of what they are like.

There has been a lot of coverage in the media about some of these initiatives/work. Three stand out, in the chronological order: (i) Rajendra Singh’s work in Rajasthan, (ii) Anna Hazaare’s, in Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra, and (iii) Suresh Khanapurkar and Amrishbhai Patel’s, in Shirpur, Maharashtra.  As usual, media’s coverage of these efforts is mostly superficial, partial/incomplete, and skewed.

Here are some of my notes after browsing about these three efforts.

1. Rajendra Singh’s work:

Rajendra Singh has by now become something of a celebrity among the NGO-type of social workers; today he even attracts the wide-eyed young (and mostly clueless) volunteers from the urban areas.

I would strongly suggest you to pursue your own browsing about Singh’s work, starting, e.g., here [^], before reading further.

Please do that first, in order to realize the extraordinary perceptiveness of this piece, written by Amanda Suutari and Gerry Marten, here [^]. I don’t know who the authors are, except for their profiles here [^]. The main article at both the links is the same.

IMO, this piece is the best among all the articles available on this topic on the Internet. Yes, this piece, too, has some pinkish shades at places. “Commercial mines” is far wider a term that seems to have deliberately been put to use here; the mines actually were relatively small, shallow, and only for the marble stone, not for other minerals. That said, still, the aforementioned pink is rather rare in that article, and it occurs mostly in some minor places that are fairly well isolated. I mean, the entirety of the article itself has not been deliberately painted with a background pinkish wash of sorts. And if you go through the article ignoring these isolated streaks of the pink, then there is a wealth of accurate observations, and minute but relevant detail. The article truly stands out from the crowd.

As far as Singh’s main work goes, from an engineer’s point of view, here are some of my unanswered questions or points:

The remote rural area of Rajasthan that Singh famously went to (and stayed in) is not in the Thar desert, but in the Aravali mountains. From the Google Earth perspective, this location is just about a stone’s throw from Jaipur—and also from the then still surviving forest park. The “before” photos, too, show some greenery on some hills—not those seemingly endless yellow and wavy sand dunes flatly spreading everywhere up to the horizon. Why must every media report emphasize “Rajasthan” as a whole, when they talk about Singh’s work? Why don’t they say the half-green Aravali parts near Delhi and MP? Two further sub-points:

  • How effective would the collection of the falling rain be, if the region weren’t to be mountainous?
  • To what extent does the geological structure of the mountains and the flatter land help make Singh’s approach successful? The upper layers there are alluvial.

The usual criterion of repeatability or replicability: Singh did achieve repeated success in other villages too. In fact, in hundreds of other villages—800+ villages, in fact! Good! No, Great!!

Still, notice, all these villages lie in the same region—a comparatively very small part (area-wise certainly less than 5%) of the entire state of Rajasthan. Did Singh, especially after the Magsaysay award (2001), try something about 400 km west? at least about 200 km west? Why not?

Why does the media still insist on saying that it was a success in the arid lands of Rajasthan—as if all the representative parts of Rajasthan had been successfully demonstrated to benefit from the scheme?

In summary: Singh did demonstrate the very feasibility of this micro-level approach, going against the then existing engineering wisdom. Congratulations! Singh also did replicate his initial success at hundreds of other locations in Rajasthan—though not at a majority of places—or even a representative minority of places—in that state. Our optimism should be guarded. [Also, though I didn’t mention it, observe the government tried to spoil Singh’s work. When governments enter the economy, they are like that, regardless of who peoples the government.]

2. Anna Hazaare’s “Work” in Ralegan Siddhi:

Ah, Anna Hazaare! … I have written about this fellow before. Regardless of that, let me say, it’s impossible to hold a lasting grudge against this guy. The main reason is that one doesn’t hold grudges—there is no need to do that if you are willing to pass your moral judgements. The other reason is supplied by his personality: his appearance, mannerisms, language, “thoughts,” actions (remember him running after breaking his fast in Delhi?)… All such things included. …

… Hazaare’s is a personality of a very exceptional kind: he is a walking & talking, breathing & living, caricature. And he also is very forceful about what he does. … A forceful 3D living caricature that is busy building castles in the thin air at all times. How would it even be possible to take him seriously? Not unless the media makes an elephant out of him, and then insists on using the TV to make it sit in the room—your living room.

But let’s keep that aside, and let’s try to look at his water-conservation “work” in Ralegan Siddhi. How successful has the effort been, given its geographical and other contexts? A few notes of mine follow:

What is the extent of the greening that has been effected in Ralegan Siddhi? How does it compare (keeping all other factors equal or comparable) to the average greenery within an area of 50 km radius? Or even the other drought-prone region right in the same district? Answer: not at all impressive—if you are an honest observer, that is.

If Hazaare were not to arrange to divert water from the conventional irrigation canal running nearby to Ralegan Siddhi, if he were to rely only on his local, micro-level, water conservation schemes, how successful could he have been? About 25–30%, at the most, of what you presently see there, some engineers estimate. If he now were to agree not to take any water from the nearby Kukadi project canal, how long would it take for the existing Ralegan Siddhi greenery to turn yellow/brown? My estimate, after discussions with some engineers: about 5 to 10 years, with the lower side being much more likely. Note, this is a period far shorter than the one for which Hazaare has been continuously lauded in the media (and in the successive state governments) for his water-conservation “work.”

Replication: The Maharashtra government has wasted 100+ crores on this “Gandhian”‘s hopeless dreams. Why couldn’t they achieve success anywhere else—not at a single site elsewhere? Hazaare’s and media’s answer: It’s all Maharashtra government’s fault. (LOL!)

Note, Singh did succeed in hundreds of other villages—initially (and for a long time), without taking a single penny from the government funds. Hazaare did not succeed in a single other village, despite hundred+ of crores.

Summary: Idiocy, hypocracy, and media hype. Plus, shameless loot of the credit actually due to the conventional irrigation engineering.

3. Suresh Khanapurkar and Amrishbhai Patel’s work in Shirpur:

OK. With sections 1. and 2., we are already done with the notable works done in the 20th century. Both were (or at least have been called) “Gandhian.” Now, we enter the 21st century, and the matters do get a bit more more complicated—also, better funded, better documented, and on the whole, more interesting, anyway.

Summary: Khanapurkar is a geologist, and has retired from a government job. He has been an RSS guy. Amrishbhai Patel always has been an Indira Congress guy, an MLA too. But, he is a Patel. [Aakar?] As to their work: as (almost) always (at least in Maharashtra), when it comes to some secular/non-religious kind of a social work, first, someone from the Congress leads the way; if successful, The Family is given the entire credit; then, the “jholawaalaa”s eagerly follow; then some RSS guy enters the scene and attempts some improvement on the original theme, which often is unsuccessful, or at least, it is not just as successful; then the pinkos use the RSS guy’s failure to attack the RSS; then the RSS/RSS guy make(s) deal with the government/local powers; around this time, the RSS recedes into the background and the RSS guy finally begins to shine in the limelight; then more funds follow; then some more critical “jholawaalaa”s follow, and, simultaneously, the other pinkos and the reds wait and watch.

With the pressure of providing a very short and succinct summary being out of the way, we may now look at the situation from the engineer’s perspective.

While covering Hazaare’s “work,” I did not care to provide any link. The resources are over-abundant, and, as expected, none covers the ground reality the way it should be. For example, none discusses the extent of contribution of the Kukadi project canal; none mentions the hundred+ crores already wasted by the successive Maharashtra governments on Anna’s day-dreams “thoughts.”

In contrast, for the Shirpur pattern, there is an objective need to provide links. Reasons:

  • The Shirpur pattern has been tried elsewhere with some success, e.g., at the initiative of the NCP in the drought-prone areas in southern Maharashtra.
  • There is a BJP government in the Center, and a BJP-led government in the State.
  • The new BJP budget at the Center has announced thousands of crores for micro-level water-resources management: Rs. 5,300 crores nationwide, i.e., about 850 Million US dollars—say, almost a billion dollars.
  • The Shirpur pattern is open to a critical scrutiny, and not just of the same kind as Singh’s work invites, viz., the relevance of the geological factors, and the feasibility (perhaps with local adaptations/changes) or otherwise of replication. In addition to those two factors, the Shirpur pattern also remains open to an additional serious criticism, one concerning the undesirable and highly under-appreciated side-effects. And, this point acquires urgency because of the first three points.

Hence for the Shirpur pattern, I sure wish to provide at least some links. These follow, with a few notes of mine:

Here is a typical introductory sort of an article on this topic that would appear before the state/central governments began supporting the idea: [^]. I anticipate that much better written (and better-formatted) articles would arrive in the near future.

The model seems to work also elsewhere: [^].

Again, a perceptive piece, despite the fact that it seems to come from someone with pinkish inclinations: [^]. The author for the preceding piece is one K. J. Joy [^]. His name means that he must be at least a pink if not a red. [Aakaar?] He is something of that sort! “Privatization can do more harm than good” [^]. OK. Humour apart, even if his understanding of the terms such as “rights” (i.e., more properly, “individual rights”) and “privatization” does not seem to be sufficiently clear, it still does not mean that his article itself isn’t studious or valuable. Do go through the article; highly recommended.

A well-informed criticism; note especially the important and relevant geological points: [^]

An article that cites some actual geological data. Though the data are far too coarse-grained to be of any direct use in any micro-scale schemes, the article at least cares to look into some factual data. … You are not surprised by the author’s background, are you? [^]

An indication of the kind of complexity there is, in implementation: [^]

An example of the usual “our region didn’t get its share” [^]; such things seem to have begun already! Note, the demand has been made without pausing to think anything about whether or how the approach might at all work in a given area. I am not saying that the approach wouldn’t work in Marathwada—another region of severe droughts. In fact one of the links I gave above already indicate some success for this approach in that region too. Here, I am just highlighting the kind of artificial tensions that come in whenever governments interfere with the economy. And, I am saying, without being cynical about anything: “more research is necessary.”

4. A word about my planned research:

Here is an outline of the way my planned research might go:

  • Initially, (i) build a computer model of the surface topology and the underground geological strata and structures for some area—this could even be an imaginary geographical area!; and then, (ii) develop/adapt algorithms to simulate groundwater seepage after precipitation in this area, running the simulation for, may be, a decade or so. The quantities for the precipitation and the surface flow would enter the model simply as assumed boundary data, that’s all.
  • Add features to incorporate small check-dams or other structures at various locations and scales, and study their effect on groundwater seepage and water-table levels.
  • Add the features of the surface water flow and study aspects such as flooding vs. seepage, etc.
  • Then, take a focus area—an actually existing drought-prone area—and study its precipitation and geological features, build models, run simulations, and make some recommendations for locations of check dams and other structures/features.

The above is a broad conceptual outline that I currently have in mind. In the actual research, some components of some of the steps may get mixed up, and some other steps may get added in, e.g., a step of: simulating the effect on groundwater seepage and water-table levels, due to closure of an aquifer that got exposed due to digging of deep trenches while implementing the Shirpur pattern.

The research should actually begin after I land a professor’s job. In the meanwhile, enthusiastic engineers with programming knowledge may feel free to approach me—but only if they are willing to work hard, and for free! … When I play, I play, but when I work, I really work. Usually, that means hard work, at least compared to many, many others. So, don’t approach me unless you already know what it takes to do hard work over a considerably long period of time—at least months. (As far as I know, no smart work ever comes before at least a certain quantum of some very hard work has gone before it.) Also, I have no money to support you—or, for that matter, as of today, even myself! But if it still is all OK by you, and you still wish to do something in this direction working with me, then do feel free to drop me a line. Use email or comment form (and feel free to mention that you want to keep the comment confidential—comments here are moderated). I am serious about this stuff.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

A Song I Like:
(Hindi) “yeh shaam mastaani…”
Singer: Kishore Kumar
Music: R. D. Burman
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

[I guess the post already is in a fairly good shape. I would update it only if I find some more interesting links etc.; otherwise, I would leave it alone as is. I mean, adding updates for streamlining and clarifying are much less likely here. Anyway, bye for now… ]

[E&OE]

.