Narmada Conservation Initiative
An initiative for Ecological, Economic and Social advancement of Narmada basin through grassroots level awareness and action for conservation of natural resources including soil, water, forests and biodiversity.
It is a humble initiative by a group of people committed to conservation of entire ecosystem of Narmada. Spread over an area of 98796 sq.km, Narmada basin, comprising of Maikal, Vindhya and Satpura mountain ranges and 41 major tributaries, is under severe stress due to various reasons. Rapidly increasing human population and fast depleting natural resources are posing unprecedented threats to this non-glacial river. The ecosystem of the river is changing fast due to man-made reasons. Enabling people to get right information about Narmada, before contemplating any corrective action, is our motto. We wish people to abstain from convenient half truths and dig deeper in issues at hand.
Narmada is a non-glacial river. Forests in watersheds of Narmada play a very crucial role in maintaining post-monsoon streamflow in her tributaries. In this sense the vegetal cover of forests can be considered to be analogous to a gas release regulator mounted on a LPG cylinder which facilitates regulated release of gas instead of sudden, one time release. Conservation of forested watershed in Maikal, Vindhyan and Satpura mountain ranges is closely linked to ecological security of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. It is the need of the hour to understand the delicate and complex connection between forests and water resources in Narmada basin before taking any corrective measures.
A substantial part of Narmada basin is still quite well forested. There are broad-leaved, Sal, Teak and miscellaneous forests comprising of a vast variety of species mix. Amazingly rich bio-diversity existing in forests of Narmada basin not only supports livelihoods of a predominantly tribal population; it is also a repository of rare gene pool, so valuable for the entire mankind. These forests, predominantly spread in Maikal, Vindhya and Satpura mountain ranges and valleys, govern the water dynamics in the entire region. The forest cover increases interception and infiltration of rainwater during monsoons, reduces surface runoff, enhances subsurface flow and sustains perennial stream flow in rivers. There seems to be a direct co-relation between forest cover and groundwater status in Madhya Pradesh, which is evident from official data and maps released by the Forest Survey of India, DehraDun and The Central Groundwater Board, North central region, Bhopal. (See Forest cover and Groundwater Maps of Madhya Pradesh)
The life of this lifeline of Central India is changing very fast. Studies on Narmada reveal that frequency and magnitude of floods during monsoons is on the rise, post-monsoon flow in the river and its tributaries is declining and duration of stream flow is shrinking. Demand pulls to meet the increasing needs of a burgeoning population, are escalating the requirement of water whereas the capacity of forests to hold water for longer periods and sustain post monsoon stream flow is declining. Forest cover of the basin, even if not shrinking in terms of area statistics, is undergoing qualitative degradation due to onslaught of wide spread poverty and unemployment. Blame it on whomsoever you may like, but the fact remains that hydrological functions of forests in Narmada basin are at stake and so is the life in Narmada basin in years to come.
This initiative is due to serious concerns related to future of Narmada. We wish people to learn from the past and act in the present to ensure a relatively better future. Having a scientific focus of looking at things and issues, we are committed to understand and highlight often overlooked and inconvenient truths trapped between divergent views on conservation and sustainable development. We also believe and reiterate that solutions to many problems of environment conservation lie in Indian traditions and culture. There is a need to remember, understand and revive these traditions to create an environment in which an informed society knowingly and willingly rises to the occasion and meets the emerging challenges in the best possible manner.