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Chandigarh, Thursday, December 24, 1998
 


Rain, seepage and snow water harvesting
by K.C. Verma
The concept of rain water harvesting is used in respect of torrents which crisscross the foothills and below the main hilly areas like the Himalayas.

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SCIENCE QUIZ

 
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Rain, seepage and snow water harvesting
by K.C. Verma

The concept of rain water harvesting is used in respect of torrents which crisscross the foothills and below the main hilly areas like the Himalayas. The run-off in these tracts finds its way in to sub-mountainous area and plains below causing erosion of lands and flooding them. The run-off in the major basins finds its way into the rivers which flow to the sea. Control and utilisation of the run-off of the rivers involves construction of big dams, tunnels and major civil structures across the rivers. While for foothills in the upper reaches, the dam may be of about 50 metres height, for the small torrents in the areas abutting the plains, the dam required to be constructed may be about 20 metres high. For the areas further below, small bundhs would be enough for small catchments. However, scientific studies are required for each type of basin and water shed. Engineering skills are required for establishing the boundaries and areas of the water sheds, assessment of availability of the run-off, peak run-off, its frequency, properties of construction materials, location of their availability in the vicinity of the site, outlet structures and water distribution system. The Punjab government has carried out a small project at village Nada, Distt. Ropar, management of which is being handled by the local people. After the department concerned completed the project, it handed over the activity of water distribution and collection of water charges as well as maintenance of works to a society constituted of the local people. This experiment is stated to be successful.

Punjab made a start for development of Kandi area by constructing middle size dams with the support of the World Bank. Sukhomajri in Panchkula Distt., Haryana is a pioneer project in this regard. Sixtythree water harvesting structures have been completed in Punjab. Total Kandi area in Punjab in respect of major torrents has been covered by 28 major watershed schemes out of which eight have been completed and two are under construction in the first phase and for the remaining project reports have been prepared for the second phase. The schemes so far completed are (i) Dholbaha, (ii) Janauri, (iii) Chohal, (iv) Maili, (v) Perch, (vi) Damsal, (vii) Saleran and (viii) Mirzapur. Siswan and Soonak are under construction.

Development of sources of supply of drinking water for the urban towns like Chandigarh (UT), Panchkula (Haryana) Nalagarh, Parwanoo, Baddi and Barotiwala (HP) which are far from the perennial canals and the rivers is time consuming and costly. Moreover rate of increase of population in such towns has been abnormal and thus planning for additional sources of water supply lags behind the fast increasing requirements. The location of these towns in the foothills where rainfall is heavy i.e. of the order of more than 1000 mm per annum, two modes of harvesting of rain water can be adopted: one is collection of rain water from the hill slopes and choes into a reservoir constructed on the toe of the foothills, second is to tap roof-top rain water of all the buildings, residential and non-residential, of the town and plan laying of a grid of the pipelines along all the roads and collect it in a pond or ponds located at suitable sites after carrying out a topographical survey. Water thus collected may generally be silt free. Panchkula town is developing new sectors on the left bank of the river Ghaggar. The location of these sectors seems to be favourable for adopting the concept of urban rain water harvesting. The rain water scheme could be planned with the initial developmental infrastructure. Roof-top drain pipes shall have to be directly connected with the grid pipelines water collecting system. For this purpose rules and bylaws will have to be framed so that the residents are obliged to incorporate the piping system within their plots for supply of roof-top water direct to the rain water harvesting pipeline grid system.

In the areas where there is heavy rainfall, some of the precipitation, which is excessive, could be conducted down to the underground aquifer, reverse tubewells could be provided conducting water by gravity or otherwise, if it is not possible to direct it to the rivers and ultimately to the sea. In low lying towns which have the history of getting flooded and marooned by heavy rains, this principle could be applied on a permanent basis.

Seepage water

In high hills, at the foothills of the Dhauladhars as well as in the foothills of Shivalik, rainwater which seeps down flows underground and when held up by an impervious stratum comes out into the valleys, on the hill side slopes of the roads cut in the hills and in the torrents and streams as seepage water. This seepage water in hilly areas is a great boon even for drinking purposes apart from being used for irrigation. In hills where nature gives ample water on the surface, the people of the area sometimes are not able to get it even for drinking. Such seepage water when properly harvested in the hilly areas can meet the needs of the villagers in the interiors of the hills for drinking as well as for irrigation of their fields through pipelines of kuhls (small water courses) laid along the contours. Such seepage water can also be stored in the valley by constructing a bund across it at a narrow site and then conducting it through pipe lines or water courses. Such seepage water can also be collected in the tanks where from it can be conducted through pipe-lines to nearby villages for drinking as well as for irrigation. In Punjab, the Department of Conservation of Soils in Kandi area has taken up projects for utilisation of such seepage water in the torrents since 1992-93. So far 31 such schemes have been executed. The pioneer project of this kind was at village Makkowal, Distt. Hoshiarpur which was commissioned successfully. Such schemes have covered an area of 2920 ha. and have resulted in additional food production of about 6000 tonnes per annum. The cost of these projects is estimated to be recoverable in 2 to 3 years. In Shivalik hills, there are some streams with perennial flows but water is not utilised as the command areas are at higher levels. Now the water is being lifted by constructing small pucca structures across these nallahs and irrigation is provided to command areas at higher levels. Thirteen such projects have been completed in Punjab to provide irrigation to 1031 ha producing about 2000 tonnes of additional food grains. Thus the concept of utilisation of rain water as well as seepage water in the hilly areas has bought about revolution in the living standards of the people living therein.

Irrigation canals, including branch canal and distributaries, in Punjab constitute one of the oldest irrigation systems in India and over many years of their running they have become a problem for water-logging as a result of seepage from them. Similar is the position in respect of hydel channels like Anandpur Sahib Hydel Channel, Mukerian Hydel Channel and UBDC Hydel Channel in Punjab. These hydel channels are in the sub-mountainous areas where the water table is already high. As such though these channels have been running for the last 15-35 years, have caused water-logging around them. There are two approaches to tap seepage water from the canals and hydel channels. One is to construct open gravity drain near and along these channels and collect water in sumps at locations along them and pumping it up into the canals back. Another approach would be to install tubewells at suitable distances from the canal banks or either side at a suitable distance, say 1-2 kms. In this way large quantity of seepage water would be retrieved which would help in enhancing the irrigation potential and resultantly food production.

Cloud seeding

Whatever resources have been gifted by the nature production of many of them has been enhanced by the ingenuity, research, development and use of technology. With reference to India, food production and milk are the glaring examples. Rain gods have their own statistics for granting us rain and technologists have not given full thrust to development of science and technology so as to have more rain water atleast in the catchments of the rivers so that irrigation and power generation does not suffer. Some research work in USA, Australia and Spain indicates that more rain can be generated by seeding of the clouds, which though has not so far blossomed into great success as in case of other technologies. India is bestowed with high hills where clouds are generated by the nature in abundance but sometimes atmospheric parameters like pressure, temperature, content of water vapour and nuclei which attract water vapour to coalesce and make rain, do not result in rain. Let the human mind work on it and if successful, it would be called real rain harvesting for the benefit of mankind. Materials like silver nitrate and common salt and some other salts have been used for cloud seeding. Hawan Samigri in proper proportions of its components could be tried as this material is said to help cause rain as per Hindu scriptures. Studies of the clouds are made by equipping planes with instruments for measurement of atmospheric and cloud parameters and finding out the condition by use of computers which may enable to seed the clouds to make rain for more harvesting. In case when nature causes more rain which results in floods causing damage to life, property and food production, the clouds should be deseeded so that it does not rain when we do not need it.

Himalayan ranges along the northern boundaries are the greatest source of water for India. Water, after snow melting, flows down to all the big rivers. The behaviour of melting snow depends upon the climatic conditions which are variable from time to time. At times, it may be possible that the process of melting of snow is slow and the reservoirs of the dams constructed across the rivers run short of water, as a result of which irrigation and power generation suffers. There is a need to carry out regular and intensive research in India in the snowy tracts where there is immense reservoir of snow for its exploitation for enhancement of water flows into the reservoirs when needed. There has been meagre research in USA by use of sprinkling charcoal powder, a black material which absorbs sun heat resulting in melting of snow. Cheaper and more effective materials could be found out for their actual sprinkling on the snowy slopes to generate more water. Concepts of use of solar heat by developing suitable technology can also be used for melting the snow.

The writer is a former Chief Engineer, PSEBTop


  quiz
 
  SCIENCE QUIZ

1. Till now, the earliest known fossil records indicated that multi-cellular animals had evolved about 600 million years ago. But a Calcutta-based geologist has found convincing evidence that such cells evolved about 1.1 billion (1100 million) years ago. Name this scientist whose stunning discovery has put life’s clock back and may lead to reinterpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

2. The first International Space Station will be four times larger than the Russian space station “Mir” and will shine as one of the brightest objects in the night sky when the station is completed in 2004. How many space flights have been planned to assemble this space station? Name the two modules which successfully locked together in the first phase of its construction on December 6, 1998.

3. Continuing on the subject, name the US astronaut and the Russian cosmonaut who made history by becoming the first spacemen to enter the International Space Station on December 11, 1998.

4. What is the general name of substances like Iodine-131, Phosphorus-32, Strontium-89 and Cobalt-60? What is their role in nuclear medicine?

5. Partial liver transplant? Doctors at an Indian hospital have recently achieved this feat by transplanting only 25 per cent of a father’s liver to his 18-month son and this hospital has become one of a few such centres in the world. Name this hospital. Who headed the team of doctors? Why is partial transplant possible in case of liver only?

6. “Dolly had a little lamb”. You know about the cloned sheep Dolly born in July, 1996. Name the lamb born to Dolly in a natural way in April , 1997.

7. Cicadas or “Jheengur” are known for their musical sounds. This is possible due to very delicate membranes they possess which vibrate like that of a loudspeaker or a telephone. Can you imagine how many vibrations per second can be naturally produced in these membranes?

8. Living organisms such as fire-flies, glow-worms and many sea animals produce light naturally. What is this phemomenon called? Which chemical substance present in the bodies of these organisms is responsible for this? Which gas induces the chemical reaction that produces light?

9. Which gas is naturally produced in fruits that helps in their ripening? Which gas is artificially produced by the fruit sellers for this purpose by the action of moisture (water) on calcium carbide?

10. About how many species of birds are there in the world? About how many are found in India.

ANSWERS1. Pardip K. Bose. 2. 45; Russian Zarya module and US Unity module. 3. Robert Cabana and Sergei Krikalyov. 4. Radioisotopes; these are used for radiation therapy of certain diseases. 5. Inderprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi; Dr M.R. Rajashekhar; because liver can regenerate itself if cut. 6. Bonnie. 7. 120 to 480. 8. Bioluminescence; luciferin; oxygen. 9. Ethylene; acetylene. 10. 8600; 1200.Top


  H
 
  NEW PRODUCTS & DISCOVERIES

Optical fibre weighs trucks

By using fibre-optic technology, Australian researchers have developed a new “weigh-in-motion” system to weigh overloaded trucks.

The system, which is the first of its kind in the world, was developed jointly by Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) and a Melbourne-based company, reports Ascent Technology Magazine.

In this new system, optical fibres are placed beneath the road surface. When a truck passes over the fibre, it changes the characteristics of the laser light emitted by the fibre.

The fibre, buried in asphalt or concrete beneath the road surface, is slightly deformed by the weight of the truck. The change in shape affects the quality of the laser light which is measured by a detector.

The current weigh-in-motion weighbridge system is electronics-based and is also used to gather road use statistics and, in some places, as a screening device to pick up overloaded trucks.

It uses a thin electrical wire with a very specific resistance.

The wire itself is very short, and reacts to the deflection of a culvert — a hollow concrete box structure that has to be built under the road.

When the wire is compressed or stretched, the culvert deflects and the reading is measured to determine the load.

But the optical fibre system does not need a culvert as the fibre is incorporated into the road material itself.

It needs little or no ongoing maintenance as glass it is not affected by moisture or corrosion, and there is no culvert to get blocked.

The accuracy of the system can be improved by taking an average reading from a number of fibres across the road.

The same optical-fibre-based technology can be employed to check underground gas-pipelines and to spot overloaded rail-wagons.

Novel glove

Russian researchers have come up with a multi-purpose handglove for cleaning and disinfecting smooth surfaces like furniture, windows, mirrors, faucets and files.

The environment-friendly glove, developed by researchers of Faberus Co., polishes smooth surfaces, removes dirt, superficial rust and static electricity from them and covers them with a protective film that stays on for a long time, reports RIA Novosti.

It takes first 15 minutes for it to wash a car. One glove can wash about 50 cars or polish 600 cars.

The new glove can make the use of polishes and anti-statics (agents to remove static electricity from the surface of a material) obsolete.

The glove does not need to be washed with water as it would disrupt the composition of chemical impregnator. It only requires beating to remove dust and dirt out of it.

One side of the glove is covered with dark soft hairs or naps, which are located at a certain angle, to accumulate dust. The other side consists of a specially designed corrugated cotton fabric.

The glove would be useful for museums and art galleries as it offers protection to showcases, exhibits, marble and floors against damage.

Librarians who are always busy dusting their books will also find the glove handy.

Hospitals, kindergartens and schools could also use such gloves for cleaning, dusting and disinfecting their premises, the report says.Top


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