DEHRADUN: A study by Dehradun based Centre for Ecology Development and Research (CEDAR), Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee and Forest Research Institute, Dehradun has revealed that the green cover in Nainital landscape has declined by 100 hectares (8.6%) in last three decades. Lead by Palash Raghava, the study outlines the importance of rainwater harvesting structures on hotels and residential buildings which can help in lessening down the stress during peak season on the Naini lake, the primary source of water for supply for the hill town.
Dr Vishal Singh, Director of Dehradun based Centre for Ecology Development and Research (CEDAR) commenting on the issue said, "Increase in built up area and decreasing forest cover is worrisome. Nainital is highly landslide prone and falls in zone IV of Seismic Zone Map. The population of the town has increased five folds since 1901, as this preliminary analysis points out the built up area has doubled in the last 3 decades. Restrictions imposed on vulnerable slopes have been blatantly flouted, even the directives of the apex court of the country have failed to deal with building mafia involved destruction of Nainital. If this trend is allowed to continue and strict mitigation measures are not taken immediately, horrific loss of life and property may occur - threatening the very existence of the beautiful town."
Earlier in 2017, the water levels of the lake dipped unprecedented 18-feet below zero mark (which is the optimum water level of the lake) in the summers raising alarm. One of the main reasons behind this reduction of green cover has been identified as concretization of the town.
"The rapid growth of population, tourism influx, and the development of the town as Tourist Hill Town has increased the built up area. In this period, rapid urbanization, as well as anthropogenic activities such as the construction of roads, parking areas, hotels, schools, and recreational sites, has contributed to an increment of the Built-Up area and making the town susceptible to landslides," the study stated.
According to the study, which was funded union Ministry of Jal Shakti, the green cover in Nainital town spanning around 12.19 square kilometres stood 56.86% of the total area in the year 1990, 60.75% in 2000, 59.74% in 2010 and 48.25% in 2020.
This implies that the green cover had increased between 1990-2000 but between two decades 2000-
2010, 2010-2020, the share percentage has declined.
The scholars and experts who were involved in the study stated that in the current scenario, a rainwater harvesting structure is necessary to meet up the water shortages in hilly regions.
"We should focus on 'Catch the Rain' programme of the government of India which entails water harvesting. The Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) structures can make the hill town sustainable in terms of water conservation and can help the authorities to maintain the lake level throughout the year," added Vishal Singh.
The study titled 'Impact of Urbanisation on Water Resources & Opportunity of RWH (Rain Water Harvesting) Structure in Nainital' aims to understand the relationship between urbanization growth and surface run-off generation, thus to explore the scope of rainwater harvesting potential in the study area of Nainital.
The study added that the rapid urbanization due to increased population, tourism, growth in infrastructure facilities has made the town susceptible to the risks of change in climatic conditions.
"The current challenge in this century is to control the shortage of water through Rainwater Harvesting Structure and making it sustainable as well as viable for the end-users. The study projects combine the approach of Remote Sensing technology and Geospatial techniques to understand the change in Land Use/Land Cover pattern of the tourist town Nainital between the years 1990 to 2020, " said Dr Anvita Pandey, on of the experts involved in the study.
The study said that water insecurity in the Himalayan regions has made the introduction of rain water harvesting (RWH) structures prominent in the Himalayan states.
"RWH structures can be installed at hotels, commercial buildings making them self-reliant in the hill town of Nainital, it will help in maintaining the lake level as stored water can be used for general purposes," stated the study.