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Life cannot exist or survive without water. That is why the likely existence of water in Mars has encouraged the scientists to investigate further. Man can live about one month without food. But he will find it difficult to complete three days without water. A healthy man is to drink about five liters of water everyday. About 65 to 70 percent of a man's weight is water. Body temperature is regulated by drinking necessary water. Other animals as well as plants, on which man rely for his food, too need water for survival. That multiplies the importance of water.
Approximately 1400 million cubic kilometer water is available on earth as per estimates. But unfortunately about 2.9 percentage of this alone is pure water. Further, out of this a large quantity is flowing to the sea or getting evaporated leaving still smaller quantity for living organisms' use. However, water is available consistently on earth because of the 'water cycle'. That is the cyclical process of water through rain, interception, flow of water, water conservation, evaporation and transpiration.
Water in Kerala
It is the rain which brings water on earth. Based on the observations made by the India Meteorological Department, continuously for hundred years, Kerala receives the maximum average rain (3070 mm) annually, compared to other places in the country. At the same time Kerala faces drought invariably every year in the recent past. This contrast must be seen as a result of the mismanagement of available water resources. The distribution of rain is not uniform throughout the State. It varies between regions within. In high lands it is more, where as, the same is less in coastal areas. A slight reduction in the average rainfall is reported during the last few years. This reduction is more noticeable in the case of rain during South- West monsoon (June to August). More number of low pressure occurrences in Bay of Bengal is resulting in more rainfall during the North – East monsoon period (October – November). Reduction in the quantity of rain fall is also because of the human interference in the forests and hills which affect badly the environment which otherwise help formation of rain–producing clouds in the region.
Evaporation and transpiration result in reducing the quantity of rain water that is being collected by earth. Almost about ten percent of rain water falling on the top of a tree get evaporated before reaching the soil at the bottom. Density of trees is comparatively more in Kerala.
About 75% of rain water collected on the soil flow to lower areas and join rivers to reach finally the sea. On the way some amount, about 10 to 15%, penetrate into the soil. But this penetration rate is decreasing because of deformation of the hills and paddy fields. Paddy fields are so prepared that the water inside every closed field (only a small passage will be left for flowing from one rectangular plot to the other) remains inside the plot allowing water to penetrate into the soil. Since such paddy fields have been removed in several parts (people have almost abandoned paddy cultivation in Kerala due to various reasons) water immediately flow to the bottom of the hillock without allowing penetration into soil. This highly affects the ground water storage. Sand mining from rivers is also causing harm to the water penetration. Sand can preserve water because of its grain like structure, where as the clay like soil left after sand mining can not store water.
Role of forest
Forest land also has the capacity to preserve water. Trees in forests are of different stature varying from very high trees to bush like ones. So when the rain fall on the trees it takes lots of time to reach the bottom. Even when it reach the bottom it is falling on a bed of leaves collected beneath every tree for a long period. So the water reaches the soil after penetrating through these beds, for which more time is required. After reaching the soil it slowly absorbs partly and also allows percolation or flow towards the lower area of the hill. All these processes need time and because of this water reaches the river only slowly. Even months after the rainy days water flow to the river continues under such a situation. By the reduction of the forest area as well as due to sand mining, definitely, the water storage capacity of the rivers have considerably reduced. This ultimately result in drought.
Ground water level is also seen lowering as per reports. It is the small holes or cracks in soils or rocks under the ground which store (such storages are generally referred as ground water aquifer) and supply water through wells. Originally it was the ordinary wells, dug manually, from which water was collected for everyday use. Now since more houses are there and space for digging wells is becoming scarce, people are going for tube wells. The lowering of ground water level is also a reason for digging tube wells, which sucks water from deeper ground. Since the number of such wells are increasing the depth of tube wells is also increasing. This drains the water in the traditional open wells and make it useless. Naturally people fill such wells with waste and hardens finally with soil to covert the same as a piece of land. These types of activities reduce the water sources for the people in Kerala.
In urban areas the authorities supply water through pipes which also are not consistent. Water shortage is always reported from most of the cities and towns in Kerala, especially during summer.
Quality of drinking water is also getting reduced day by day due to several reasons. Urbanization and inefficient waste management are main causes for this. Recently there were reports stating that the drinking water supplied in some of the towns/cities were contaminated with bacteria, mainly due to the mixing with the human waste. Even the bottled water has become unsafe for drinking purposes, since these are collected from the rivers very often.
Kerala has 44 rivers to its credit, out of which only four can be considered as rivers (Bharatha puzha, Periyar, Pamba and Chaliar). Even these are coming under middle level category when compared to Ganga , Brahmaputra, etc. There are 53 reservoirs, nine pure water lakes, more than 50 lakh wells (Kerala has the maximum number of wells in the country) and several other smaller water bodies which provide pure water to the people of Kerala. Even though the details show such a large collection of water bodies, during summer most of them become dry. Reasons have already been mentioned above. Availability of water is a right as per policies. Still the people of Kerala are not in a position to enjoy this right. Water security is something which the Kerala people have in papers.