Dropping water levels in Umiam (Barapani) Lake in the state of Meghalaya in northeast India are causing tension among competing water users. This lake was constructed as a reservoir for a hydroelectric project in the 1960s. It (and associated tributaries) provides water for power generation, agriculture, drinking water, and recreation.
Not only does this lake face dropping water levels – 39 feet over the last three years, to be exact – water pollution is also becoming a serious problem. Untreated sewage flows into the lake from streams and rivers that pass through the capital city of Shillong. Increased sediment enters the lake resulting from urban sprawl in Shillong. Construction of roads and buildings in the city cause soil erosion. And, because of the urban sprawl, poor farmers must change cultivation patterns which is also leading to rapid soil erosion. Lake problems are compounded by the fact that numerous stakeholders are responsible for different areas of management.
So, what is the solution?
One organization called People’s Learning Centre believes that bringing stakeholders together to plan integrated approaches for lake-water management might be the answer. On March 9 and 10, 2009, they hosted a conference (with the support of Arghyam) in Shillong to allow various stakeholders to discuss conservation strategies. Videos and presentations are now available on the India Water Portal.