Tuesday, April 8, 2008


"Catch Water Where it Falls"
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

Fig.1 Sufficient amount of water present in coal mines of NK Area of Jharkhand.

Fig.2 Other mine flooded with water

Fig.3 Satellite photo showing mine water in North Karanpura Coalfield of Jharkhand State.

Fig.4 Water in stone mine near Ranchi city.

Nature has been issuing warning signals like steep decline in water table, stoppage of base flow in streams and drying up of a large number of open wells and drilled bore wells.
In Jharkhand water underground few years ago had remained a precious resource to be tapped in times of need when all other sources of water had failed. This is no longer the case. The reckless way in which the people of Jharkhand are drilling more and more number of wells, drill deeper and deeper into the ground and withdraw water without exercising any restraint for domestic and commercial buildings and flats, shows gross abuse. Great damage has already been caused and any further abuse of this resource will result in water crisis.
Formerly the drinking water requirement of Jharkhand State was met by the construction of tanks, ponds and wells by the people themselves who also take care to keep these structures in good repair.
Tanks, ponds have been allowed to fill with silt and remain almost dry during the summer season and with no source of recharge, well become dry just after the winter season. You can easily imagine the situation in the peak summer season. Drying trend starts from February itself. Land in many parts are become bare due to depletion of ground water.
In the type of meteorological conditions prevailing in Jharkhand where rainfall is restricted to about three to four months in a year. Major dams are not capable of storing more than 10 to 20 % of the rain water that falls in their catchment area because of the filling up of silt and clay from last several years which has gradually shallowed the dams. The annual rainfall of Jharkhand is 1200 mm.
Taking note of the pattern of rainfall and geology of the state, water conservation through numerous large and small ponds is a much better alternative for storing rain water.
Idea is that catch rain water where it falls, store it and make use of it for your needs.
The State of Jharkhand, although claims to be a store house of minerals of India, is not so reach in water resources. Most of the area is occupied by the hard rock, which is in general protracted drought prone areas.
During my research in the coal fields regarding trace elements in coals, I saw many abandoned open coal mines filled with mine/rain water. All the mine waters are discharged into the near by Damodar river and its tributaries or left useless. All the communities especially tribal people are dependent on the most contaminated Damodar river water for drinking and other uses during peak summer season. Even the Damodar river get dry up during the summer season. Ground water levels are fairly deep, therefore scant availability. According to the reports millions of gallons of water have apparently flooded abandoned underground as well as open coal mines in the area while the coal filed is generally short of water.
Same situation I have seen around Ranchi city where there are sufficient numbers of abandoned stone mining filled with rain water and the local people use it for washing clothes and bathing. If proper management can be implemented like water quality monitoring and installing small filter plant around such mines at least local communities can be supplied with safe drinking water.
Regarding coal mines water, water can be used for both drinking and for irrigation. Especially during summer season, where every summer is a nightmare. Heat, coal dust and shortage of water create an unbearable cocktail in summer, when people in the coal field have to often walk several kilometers for a bucket of water, stand in long queues and occasionally fight with others for a just share of the water.
Only problem is the presence of suspended solids and heavy metals in the water. Water of the mines are not acidic as found in my research work. Heavy metals which were found in mine water in the north Karanpura coal field are arsenic, iron, zinc, manganese and fluoride. Among these arsenic was present in very trace amount. Problem is with manganese and fluoride which are in bit higher range.
It can also be used as the potential to serve as cooling water sources for electric power plants. Mine pool water will have to be treated to some degree, prior to use in a power plant’s cooling.
To me these metals can be minimized by primary and secondary treatment. When compared to Damodar river, these mine waters are more safe to consume after treatment.

Treatment technologies for pH adjustment, removal of TDS, dissolved metal ions, and variables found in mine water are well established.
An example of a treatment system that might be used for the treatment of mine water includes the following process units.
• Clarification to remove settleable solids
• Horizontal precipitator, coagulation, and flocculation for metals removal
• Multimedia filtration, ion exchange, and carbon adsorption if necessary to remove low

In a 1998 report, the Central Pollution Control Board of India classified the river as ‘D’, or heavily polluted. It means the water can only support some hardy variety of fishes, it cannot be used drinking or bathing. Damodar and its tributaries resemble large drain carrying black, highly turbid water. The total suspended solid (TSS) count at most places along the upper and middle stretches of the river is 40-50 times higher than the permissible limit.
In areas like Dhanbad, Giridih, Bokaro, Hazaribagh and Chatra, there is a tremendous requirement of water on the ground but perennial sources like river are very few and groundwater levels are fairly deep, therefore, scant availability. But water in the abandoned mines are within easy reach and can be turned to our advantage.
Regarding granite stone mines, there are many abandoned mines in Ranchi, Pankur, Palamau, Singhbhum districts etc. Rain water can harvested in such open mines. As compared to coal mine water, stone mine water are less polluted. It can fulfill the demand of local community. Joints and fractures present in granite mines can also help in recharging groundwater of the area.

There is no other way. ‘Catch Water Where it Falls’ should be the slogan. There is no need to go in search of water. It is there when you want it. Develop the ingenuity and skill to catch it, store it and make use of it wisely without wasting a single drop.
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

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