The Municipal Assembly of Saku, Nagano Prefecture, in central Japan passed a draft plan for preserving groundwater and spring water on June 29, 2012. The draft defined groundwater as a valuable common property of the local community indispensable to citizens' daily life, and set forth restrictions on groundwater pumping so that citizens can continue to benefit from plentiful, high-quality groundwater into the future.
The city of Saku is dependent on groundwater for most of its water resources; it regards groundwater as public property and thinks it necessary to raise people's awareness on groundwater and to make efforts to preserve it. For this purpose, the ordinance sets down standards for requiring permission for or reporting groundwater pumping, and also a set of rules for setting up wells. The city intends to cultivate groundwater, protect it from risks, and make sure it can be passed down to future generations.*[i]
The Groundwater rules and regulations in Maharashtra are also in place, but so far my experience in working closely with rural communities in Maharashtra has showed that the rules are quite easy to surpass/override if the land belongs to highly influential rich people who are backed by politicians. Every day so many open wells and borewells are sunk in the hard basaltic rocks with or without permission.
The government role should be of more of an activist, a proactive role in protecting the precious water resource and the interest of the poor people. Well I am not writing to blame a particular group here, all the people are responsible including me and have an active role in preserving their water resources; it is just like a everyone having a bank account in a common bank. If all withdraw and don’t try to save or deposit in the bank (aquifers) then nothing will be left in the account and the result is bankruptcy.
Land belonging to poor people and having good amount of water are sometimes carried away by the greed of notes offered by people to buy and develop that land are not really the wealth – it the water that has real value. Money notes are in place just to make transaction easy but it should not substitute in valuing and protecting the real wealth. Hivre Bazaar is an excellent example where water is valued more than development.
During my work I realized that the village communities don’t even know that there is law to protect this precious water resource. The links below will be helpful to those who are working with the rural communities and active youths of the village.
Link to the Maharashtra Groundwater Law, 1993 and the recent bill passed in the state.
The copies of the Bill are available in the Office of all Zilla Parishads, Panchyayat Samitis, District libraries and the District office of the Groundwater Survey and Development Agency.
We should never forget that it was along rivers and streams that the civilizations began around the world. It is water that is the key to modern civilization, it this one resource more than any other that has potential to limit are ambitions. The fundamental limits of water cycle are still there but the lesson of history is that the most successful civilizations learn to adapt to those limits. The problem is more to do with us and that prospect may find you gloomy but the fact is shaping our future is in our hands and how we use our water resource.
[i] Japan to the World - Japan for Sustainability, retrieved on October 19, 2012 from <http://www.japanfs.org/en/pages/032282.html>