(Article) Situation of North-Vindhyan Region by Dr. Bharatendu Prakash


(Article) Situation of North-vindhyan Region with particular reference to present state of natural resources

This region has most serious problem of disease-like communicable commercial interests of the governments as well as wealth seekers of foreign/ Indian origin in mindless act of deforestation followed by severe devastation of hills through thousands of granite-stone crushers, spreading diamond- quarries and also damming and diversion- plans of rivers etc.

Looking at the way we understand status of natural resources of this region we find and visualize three distinct stages of the situation:





Looking at water as a natural resource we find that in ancient past everything in nature was so abundant that nobody could imagine a situation leading to any scarcity anytime anywhere. Most rivers of this region from Chambal to Son flow towards north-east and form ultimate tributaries to river GANGA. Since major area of this region is hilly and undulating there are thousands of rivulets and Nallas most of them seasonal draining entire rain water to nearby rivers. Recalling history of Bundelkhand we find over a thousand years ago visionary CHANDELLA-kings of this region felt necessity of managing surface- water and started building large water storages based on suitable regional topography and traditional knowledge of people, the move was welcomed and considered a managerial wisdom and far-sightedness of the rulers. Later BUNDELAS too continued to maintain and build new ponds / lakes. All this is remembered and admired even today. Forests in India were always respected as abode of gods and GURUS therefore there was no danger from people to them anywhere. Building wells, bavries and ponds had always been taken here as a generous holy act aimed towards everybody’s welfare . Builders of these structures had also personal interest expecting perpetuation of their names.

That was the first stage when collection of rain water in ponds and lakes started with a view to be of use to humans, animals including the wild ones and the forest vegetations. Lakha Banjaras are also attributed to have built sizable tanks at many places . Such a lake could be seen even today at SAGAR . The name of this city has been derived from the same sea size lake. In Jalaun district also reference of these banajaras having constructed big size dug-wells within forest area is talked about and remembered. In this region almost each village had at least one pond built mostly by villagers themselves serving as a multi-purpose storage. Many villages till recently used pond-water for drinking as well as cooking. Villages normally have had several dug- wells which served as sources of safer drinking water and also for multiple domestic usage. Some of these wells had been major sources for irrigation of selected fields and the garden- crops . Annual rains used to fill up these ponds as well as raise water level of the wells to serve people continuously. Not only villages but towns also had wells and well -constructed picturesque ponds to serve its inhabitants for all purposes.


The problems related to water started not really because of rising population as has been repeated by the governments, media and the intelligentsia but because of planned deforestation in this country with arrival of British as rulers. These foreigners having entirely different life style and cultural background considered forest just as a huge mass of wood . Thus their administration in the name of scientific management of forests, started systematic commercial felling of forests . To avoid any interference in this process they promoted killing of wild beasts in large numbers because wild life along with the local tribals were always believed to be the protectors of each other. The deforestation, so forced on the region , slowly started showing its impact by way of occurrence of frequent droughts in nineteenth century enhancing miseries of people . These events have been well recorded and are live still in memory of people through local folk- songs and tales.

British administration during early nineteenth century intercepted some of region’s rivers like Betwa, Dhasan and Ken also to build several barrages (weirs) and organize canal-systems for irrigation. The older bigger lakes / ponds of CHANDELLA- and BUNDELA- times were also connected to channels for providing irrigation to farms. This, to some extent, helped people and came out to be the new revenue-earner for the government.

Despite having supreme power ,the British during their tenure in this region, did / could not finish all the forests probably because of their sensitivity towards the role of forests in sustenance of environment and also because they understood a fact that forests of the hills and slopes are almost impossible to be regenerated . This left out task of finishing all available forest resource irrespective of its location was completed by the faithful successors who took charge of managing forests and the short-sighted fiscal policies of governments which came into being after 1947 . The 150 years of unsocial and (un)scientific deforestation, however, started to reveal its impact. The first crisis which was felt was change in the rainfall pattern and its uncertain nature and rise in atmospheric temperature throughout this region. The rivers were left with much less water-flow and the seasonal drains almost vanished beyond a few raining days. The number of days of rains also reduced considerably while the precipitation started occurring within few hours of the counted days of rains. This leads to flash floods and since FORESTS, the real rain-water conservators, are absent, strong flow of water on this undulating region starts washing off the fertile top soils . The floods earlier which contributed the forest-humus to the farms started bringing huge amount of sands to make it totally unproductive.


Failure of wells because of lack of recharge and canals affected by rivers’ own miseries encouraged short sighted planners backed by popular policies in adopting the wasteful technology of pushing water pumps to extract ground water. This added feathers to imbalance of nature . India-Mark II hand-pumps on deep borings became the flagship of development claiming these to be the chief sources of SAFE (?) DRINKING WATER. The tube-wells were put up to sustain water supply to towns and provide irrigation to farms. The uncontrolled drillings and extraction of already limited ground water sources affected the over all water-situation by way of furthering drying of the rivers and wells having been left thirsty themselves. This led to several areas within this region get declared as dark- and brown zones. In spite of all this, attraction of ground water partly based on misunderstanding of its reality , is persisting even now and the remote-sensing based satellite imageries are being pushed as a tool for searching sites for meeting region’s future water-needs .


After 1947 large scale projects of damming the rivers started in India which touched this region too. Quite a number of such dams came into being since then viz. Rangawa, Urmil , Benisagar and the recently built Kutni ( in Chhatarpur dist.) , Kamla Sagar and Pahuj (in Jhansi dist.) Matatila, Gobind Sagar, Jamni, Rohini, Sajnam, Shahzad and Rajghat (in Lalitpur dist.) , Barua, Bardaha, Ohan and Gunta (in Chitrakoot dist. ) Maudaha ( in Mahoba dist.) , Bila (in Sagar dist.) and Bansagar ( in satna dist. ) etc. are few projects which are capable to reduce their mother- rivers to mere seasonal Nalas . Such structures in the beginning of damming era were declared to be the new temples but as the time passed , their diminishing utility, vast damage of rivers and its impact on environment became quite apparent. But the craze for bigger and bigger projects probably to benefit financially certain favorable sectors is still alive. At a period when Americans are struggling to bring many of their rivers to its natural path by way of breaking even larger dams , our country - leaders are promoting this technology to extend benefits (?) to people .


In the pursuit of turning the region industrialized , mining of minerals and stones has been promoted by our quick-development minded popular governments . Mining started with a slow growth in the beginning but the rootless planning of this country, encouraging urbanization , multi-storey complexes and commercial cities boosting demand of cement, granite, and building materials like stone and sands etc. , led to mushroom growth of this sector. Since there are no limiting rules and controlling measures for the depth and extent of destruction of forests or hills for excavation of minerals, granites, marbles or the diamonds , whatever had been left of the earlier acts of resource- exploitation including bald-headed hills having some thing worth commercialization came under severe pressure. During the mining process use of big machines and explosions result in total destruction of everything natural in that particular area. The vegetation and top soils are the first prey followed by dynamite explosion , extraction of total available desired mineral / material even up to 300 feet below ground , pumping off the intercepted water and leaving the ground with multiple fractures to make any rain water collection impossible. Such deep ditches and large craters as seen on moon-surface , not of any use for next several centuries to come, are being left behind .

The selfish short-sighted mining and thousands of stone crushers have not only affected the rivers, farm lands, vegetation and village life of the region but also started killing people due to the pollution-borne diseases like silicosis , chronic asthma and T.B. etc. Consequently the rivers, ground water , remaining left-out forests and even the annual rainfall and its character all have been affected beyond imagination. Recent push for expanding coal-based thermal power plants to generate electricity , damming and diverting of the rivers at several points as a populist measure and the building plans of multi-lane roads , urban housing and commercial complexes , neglect of natural resources and the village-life , all together is leading people to an unforeseen destructive era hitting everything in environment including atmosphere, soils , food production and general health. All this together, is tending to take the region to a situation where human , animal or vegetation might be impossible to sustain . Farmers’ suicides and large scale migration of farm-laborers with family from this region has already rung the bells. People have started crying rightly that wealth of this region , itself, has become their real enemy.


The latest danger to the rivers and water bodies : the tanks and lakes etc. of this region also is from the so called cultural passion of recent phenomena of worship of colorful earthen images of goddesses , which after nine days of celebrations are thrown into the rivers or water bodies nearest to towns without caring for the effect of poisonous colors and the stuff affecting the quality of water and killing fishes and other living organism there. All this in the name of religious activity is overlooked by people but the resulting consequences are to be far more serious because of insufficient amount of water as well as very little flow of most rivers by the months of October & November.The water remains unsafe for next several months. Similarly even the most respected rivers like Mandakini in Chitrakoot or other water bodies adjacent to any famous religious place or temples are filled with all kinds of stuff including the flowers grown these days normally using chemical fertilizers and other agro-chemicals.


For survival of basic life in this region it is un-debatable fact now that strict conservational measure not only for water but all the natural resources , is the right way to move ahead. The indicators including turning of areas into dark zones, thinning of rivers , uncertain rainfall , steep rise in atmospheric temperatures, reduction of natural fertility of village-farms , increasing demand for poisonous agrochemicals and drugs , spread of new diseases, farmers’ suicides and the large scale migration as mentioned above, speak aloud the failure of technological interventions in solving environmental or people’s growing life-problems.


It is now crystal clear that future definition of development , so far based on higher and higher consumption of resources or energy , has to be totally altered to make it more and more conservation oriented. Understanding nature’s cycle by all is essential in order to change in one’s behavior towards natural resources and this must be given due importance. To make it more clear we must understand the cyclic nature of natural resources including soils , water and constituents of air particularly nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide on the basis of their importance for sustaining life on earth. Often breaking of the cycle has generated irreversible situations and rendered threat to very existence of life forms. It has to be understood clearly that conservation is the only simple process of keeping nature’s cycle intact and ensure everybody’s long-term well being.

Today’s dire need is therefore ,

1. Conservation of Soils: Since formation of soils is a long-time natural phenomena involving matter as well as micro-organisms one must see that nothing unnatural is mixed with it which may damage the process of self-generation of soil. The chemical intensive and modern machine operated farming has disturbed the soil cycle and its character by way of killing the micro-organism ( basic builders of soils) and pushing iron element to soils . This needs to be restored through organic matter based natural farming encouraging recycling of the resources. Not a single outside input is really needed in farming if one learns recycling of the entire stuff produced back to the soil in any form . The promoters of chemicals often repeat the lack of organic matter which is only a myth perpetuated by them for their selfish interest.

2. Conservation of Water: Conservation of existing ground water and efforts to replenish the losses incurred due to severe exploitation in past has to be given priority. In fact the deep ground water is not at all necessary to be exploited because if it rains properly, the surface storage and the absorbed moisture in soils are sufficient for keeping life-process intact. The long experiences of rainwater harvesting by people of rain deficient arid zones of Rajasthan are the best examples of the traditional knowledge having been used for centuries in conserving water for all purposes. The irreversible damage to soils ,water and atmosphere due to excess irrigation and the harmful chemicals by the states like Punjab and Haryana etc. is also before us which tells story of other side. There is world-wide consciousness now for proper rain water harvesting ; countries of north have already initiated such measures . Vindhyan region must be reminded of its historical tendency and contribution towards water collection and conservation in order to take up conservational path in future management of water resources.

3. Conservation of Forests and Hills: As mentioned earlier Vindhyan region has been one of the most green and wet areas in ancient days. The rivers here are based on the water oozing out from the ground water earlier conserved by forests on hills as well as planes. There is no Himalaya like source for these rivers . Thus water availability of this region needs fully conserved forests and sincere efforts of regenerating those on slopes of hills. In fact these are the forests only which normally attract clouds to initiate rains. Looking at the raining pattern from Damoh in south to Jalaun in north , the vast difference of annual rainfall could be attributed to the presence of existing forests only. Those who consider forests only a mass of wood must understand that the function of forests in keeping healthy atmosphere through cleaning air, providing water ,originating rivers , offer foods , fodder and manures (humus) , and helping to keep people free from diseases cannot be compensated by the revenue generated from it through felling and selling the trees.

4. Understanding Nitrogen, Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Cycle: Basic understanding of the air-cycle which mainly includes nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide is vey essential for everybody. The inter-relations amongst these gases is the key to life. The oxygen-carbon dioxide cycle in the presence of sunlight is fundamentally important in producing foods and replenishing the oxygen through plants. Nitrogen cycles involving atmosphere , plants as well as the soils is extremely important . Keeping the cycle of these gases intact is the right way to ensure environmental equilibrium. In this process importance of presence of vegetation( forests) , micro-organism within soil, contribution of sunlight falling on the leaves of the plants etc. , is doubly reinforced.


Above account of the situation which covered past and present day condition of natural resources including WATER must be kept in mind in visualizing the future of the region under discussion. If the present day consumption and destruction based on short-sighted policies and selfish interests continues the situation can be so dangerous that all life forms here will be disabled if not annihilated. Those who have once seen the kind of mindless deforestation, destructive mining operations , thousands of stone crushers spread all over exporting more than 50,000 metric tons of stone pebbles per day , exploitation of other minerals of industrial potential, vast area under diamond exploration and the extraction of enormous river sands from river beds could understand the possible dangers to which I am trying to bring attention of all in order to try influencing review of these decisions. Famous American Environmentalist & thinker Lester R. Brown of Earth Policy Institute recalls the fall of MAYA and SUMER civilizations as follows:

“ For the MAYANS , it was deforestation and soil erosion which followed clearing of lands for farming to support the expanding empire. The soil erosion undermined the productivity of their tropical soils and affected the region’s climate which reduced also the normal annual rainfall. According to scientists who studied the reasons of fall of this civilization believe that convergence of several environmental trends , some reinforcing others , that led to the food-shortages were the factors behind it. “

“ For SUMER , it was rising salt concentrations in the soil as a result of an environmental flaw in the design of their irrigation system . Because of rising salt concentration in the over-irrigated soils the yield of wheat and later the barley came down to almost nil and the fall of civilization followed “

Referring to American society he further adds:

“ Although we live in a highly urbanized , technologically advanced society , we are as dependent on the earth’s natural support systems as the Sumerians and Mayans were. If we continue with business as usual , civilizational collapse is no longer a matter of whether but when ?.”

The above observation is true for any society on earth including India and also the regions like where we are.

Let us not wait for the uncertain consequences which may reduce our life systems, like the annual rainfall, the soils, the forest & hills and entire atmosphere, to the extent of destroying itself . Forgetting these facts will be like accepting to commit suicide and nobody will term it sacrifice.

By: Dr. Bharatendu Prakash