Wildlife and environmental issues seem to be finally getting due attention by the media, thanks to the alarming possibility of losing our wild fauna to poachers and developers! We have started a weekly column “ Press this week” which
gives a brief overview of the press reports in various newspapers in India. The column is written by Anuradha Sharma. Anuradha has a Master’s in Biological Anthropology from University of Cambridge, U.K. She has also worked as an intern with the Durrel Wildlife
Conservation Trust, Jersy Zoo, U.K. Thank you Anuradha for lending your expertise on a voluntary basis! Click on the button on the right hand side of the home page every Monday/Tuesday to keep yourself abreast with issues which have caught media attention.
A widely traveled Plantation Consultant and bird enthusiast, Ragoo Rao will write a column on Common Birds of India. His own observations in the field complemented by some beautiful photographs he has taken promise to be a treat for
all bird watchers-experts and amateurs alike. His first article appears in this issue.
Temperatures in Northern parts of India are soaring upwards of 40 degree centigrade. Can water shortage be far behind? Promila’s article on maintaining your garden with minimum use of water is timely and useful. Also read "Water-Return
to Tradition"a serious look at the water situation.
Saraswati’s trek on foot continues with more ground realities staring at all of us.
There is an addition to our NGO page. The World Pheasant Association, India chapter has recently launched a very informative website, a brief introduction to which can be read on our NGO page.Click
here to read it.
Presently, groundwater is treated as property of the overlying land owner in many parts of California. But, as population pressures rise, stresses on the environment mount, and the potential for long-term drought looms, science points
out that groundwater cannot be separated from surface water. Gradually, groundwater is being recognized in California as being within the spirit of public trust, if not within its legal scope. Legislative actions are being taken to encourage integrated management,
programmes for conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater, and establishment of monitoring stations. If one looks at the Chennai and Bangalore metropolitan areas, the groundwater situation is analogous to that of California a century ago. Economic considerations
are driving groundwater extraction. Because of the hard-rock geological conditions of these areas, surface water and groundwater are intimately interlinked. The people of these areas would gain much by following the lead of communities such as Santa Clara
County and Orange County to develop plans for integrated management of surface water and groundwater, complemented by artificial recharge, conjunctive use, conservation strategies, and public education.
From what we know of groundwater occurrence, it is unwise to engage in uncontrolled groundwater extraction. Although overdraft may initially provide some short-term relief, long-term societal costs will be high.
India has historical traditions of having respect and reverence for water and nature. Remarkably, the western doctrine of public trust is philosophically quite compatible with India's cultural past. India needs to formally recognize
the importance of water and have the will to articulate it. The judiciary and the government must have necessary authority to ensure that surface water and groundwater are managed wisely for the benefit of the people.
A logical first step is to amend India's Constitution to incorporate public trust in regard to water in a form that is compatible with the country's cultural history.
By T.N. Narasimhan
The Hindu | May 3, 2005
(The writer is Professor, Materials Science and Engineering Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California at Berkeley.)