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Rain Water Harvesting by Freshwater Flooded Forests

Rain Water Harvesting by Freshwater Flooded Forests

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Published by N. Sasidhar
This paper explains how fresh water flooded forests are instrumental in harnessing the water resources in India. There are vast areas of fresh water flooded forests in Amazon River, Mekong River and Meghna River (Bangladesh) basins. In these flooded forests, the flora & fauna is richer than tropical ever green forests and many tree species grow more than 20 meters in height. These forests are inundated / submerged by river flood water up to ten meters depth for 5 to 7 months duration at a stretch. The portion of forest under the water, remain verdant similar to the portion above the water level.
This paper explains how fresh water flooded forests are instrumental in harnessing the water resources in India. There are vast areas of fresh water flooded forests in Amazon River, Mekong River and Meghna River (Bangladesh) basins. In these flooded forests, the flora & fauna is richer than tropical ever green forests and many tree species grow more than 20 meters in height. These forests are inundated / submerged by river flood water up to ten meters depth for 5 to 7 months duration at a stretch. The portion of forest under the water, remain verdant similar to the portion above the water level.

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: N. Sasidhar on Jun 27, 2011
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12/21/2012

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UTILITY OF FRESH WATER FLOODED FORESTS IN INDIA
 N. Sasidhar.There are vast areas of fresh water flooded forests in Amazon River, Mekong River andMeghna River (Bangladesh) basins. In these flooded forests, the flora & fauna is richer than tropical ever green forests and many tree species grow more than 20 meters inheight. These forests are inundated / submerged by river flood water up to ten metersdepth for 5 to 7 months duration at a stretch. The portion of forest under the water,remain verdant similar to the portion above the water level.Many trees with commercial value yielding fruits, seeds, timber, fodder, herbs, biodiesel,etc are native to flooded forests. In flooded forests, the fish growth is also veryencouraging as they feed on tree seeds, fruits, vegetation, etc.
Amazon River basin:
 Nearly 100,000 square km (2%) of total five million square km forest in this river basinare occupied by fresh water flooded forests along the river course. The average durationof flooding is seven months in a year up to ten meters water depth. The tree species of theflooded forests are often distinct from those found in the upland forest, or terra firmealthough species pairs (i.e. one adapted to upland and the one to flooded forest) arecommon. More than 1000 tree species are found in these flooded forests. Flooded foresttrees can survive without flooding, as planting them in upland soils demonstrated. Butupland species cannot tolerate long periods of water immersion. Thus it seems thatspeciation evolved from flood plains to uplands.Rubber tree (Hevea spruceana)
 
is a native species of fresh water flooded forests. Rubber tree thrives in the Amazon flooded areas and reaches two to three times taller than that of upland plantation trees.
Mekong river basin:
The seasonally inundated forest of Lake Tonlesap is legendary. Acting as part of theMekong floodplain, the flood pulse from the Mekong River reverses the flow of theTonlesap River to inundate the forest surrounding the lake which expands in area fromaround 300,000 hectares to 1.2 million hectares at peak flood height (7 meters above theminimum level), inundating over 500,000 hectares of forest. As the water level of theMekong River drops after the six months long monsoon flows, the Tonle Sap River resumes its normal direction of flow and discharges the lake into the Mekong Delta.There are also flooded forests in flood plains of Thailand’s Songkhram River which is atributary of Mekong River.
Meghna river basin:
There is fresh water flooded forest in Bangladesh too. This fresh water lake is created bymonsoon rains and is called “Hakaluki Haor” located in Sylhet district bordering India.The lake’s water level rises by five meters for five months period during the rainy season.The lake occupies nearly 700 square km at its maximum level. Much of the thick flooded1 of 5
 
forest was destroyed during seventies by locals to convert in to paddy fields. Still theflooded forest tree species sprout from the lake bed but constantly destroyed by grazing.Pongamia Pinnata (Koroch) and Barringtonia Acutangula (Hijal) are the few pioneer trees in the flood plains of Hakaluki Haor. Koroch is a biodiesel yielding tree. Floodedforest restoration process is also taken up in few pockets of the lake.Floating rice is variety of rice which is cultivated in submerged water conditions up to 1.2meters depth. Floating rice is extensively cultivated in water submerged lands in EastAsia, Bangladesh, Burma, etc. In India also, floating rice used to be cultivated in KamlaBalan river flood plains of Bihar state. 
Utility of fresh water flooded forests in India:
The climatic conditions in Amazon, Mekong & Meghna river basins are similar to manyriver basins of India. The flooded forest tree species can be grown in our water reservoirsto increase the forest cover and also to enhance productive output from the water bodies.Flooded forests can be grown in the rim of reservoirs (major & medium) up to 10 meterswater depth. These reservoirs reach the dead storage levels after the cropping season andmost of the reservoir areas remain dry for four to five months till the monsoon rains fillup the reservoirs.There are nearly 30,000 square km of fresh water reservoirs used for irrigation, hydroelectricity and drinking water purposes. The reservoir spread area up to 10 meters water depth is normally submerged for 6 to 7 months duration only and later becomes exposedduring dry season when the water is used for irrigation, etc. Many reservoirs are yet to be built to harness the available river water fully. Whenever irrigation or hydro electric projects are proposed by building dams across the rivers, the major problem encounteredis submergence of forest land. Water reservoirs and forest can exist symbiotically in thesame area. The submerged forest area under new water reservoirs can be compensated bygrowing flooded forests in existing water reservoirs. Thus the land area can be used bothfor storing river water and growing flooded forestsAlternatively, Rubber, Koroch, etc (varieties native to flooded forests) trees can be grownin the water spread area of reservoirs up to ten meters depth. If Rubber, Koroch trees, etcare grown in the reservoir areas, it will make reservoir lands more productive and alsomitigate global warming. There is no detrimental effect to the reservoir water quality dueto flooded forest plantations.
Rain water harvesting:
The flooded forest plants/trees are very useful in rain water harvesting / ground water recharging anywhere such as house plots, farm lands, forest lands, open areas, river courses, etc. Rain water wherever available and needed are stored in small pits/ponds/tanks by growing ‘flooded forest trees’ which will earn income exceeding that of normalcrops /trees.1.
 Recharging rain water in the house compounds:
Make a pit of 1.5 meters depthwith sufficient storage volume to collect moderate fortnight rain fall. Plant the2 of 5
 
‘flooded forest trees’ in this pond area. When there is rain, the rain water collectsin this pond and slowly percolates in to the ground building up ground water.Thus trees can be grown and the ground water is recharged simultaneously for dryseason drinking water purpose.2.
 Recharging rain water in open lands of cities and rural areas:
Build a check damto store water up to 1.5 meters depth and plant ‘flooded forest trees’ in the water stored area. The entire area becomes woody area in few years and also the groundwater is recharged.3.
Water harvesting in farm lands:
 
Generally the time gap between good rains is 15or more days. It is very useful to store the rain water in a small area of the fieldand use it to water the crop till the next rain. Thus the crop yield is assured evenin erratic rain fall. Create a pond of depth 1.5 meters in 5% area of the field and plant the ‘flooded forest trees’. Thus the pond area land also contributes equallyfor agriculture produce and stores water for the needs of the crop.4.
Water harvesting in Forest lands:
 
On the small streams in the forest area,construct check dams of nearly 1.5 meters high and plant ‘flooded forest trees’ inwater spread area. The rain water collected by the check dam will enhance water  percolation in to the ground. The subsoil moisture will help the forest in preventing water stress during summer months. Thus the growth of the forest ishealthy. The forest animals also get drinking water and shelter during summer months.As explained above, all the lands are suitable for water harvesting without losing incomefrom the land by growing ‘flooded forest trees’. When above practices are intensively andextensively implemented in India, it will transform the countries landscape fully in toever green forest type.Till now, water storage reservoirs are constructed across the river valleys to store water tothe maximum depth for reducing the land submergence. With the flooded forests, water reservoirs/barrages can be located in plain areas also with average water storage depth of 8 to 10 meters. Flooded forests / plantations are grown for making the submerged landsequally good or better productive than existing forests / agriculture lands. Water storage barrage projects are also substantially cheap when submerged land cost is eliminated.India has nearly 2000 billion cubic meters (BCM) of river water resources out of whichonly 25% is presently used for agriculture, industry and domestic needs. We need tocreate flooded forest of nearly 150,000 square km area (5% of total) to harness the water resources’ fully to achieve 100% irrigation facility with three crops in a year withouteffected by monsoon vagaries any more.The main constraint till now is the submergence of land whether it is agriculture or forestlands. Multipurpose water storage barrages (irrigation, hydropower, fisheries, tourism,etc) can be constructed with participation of local farmers for growing flooded forests.The legal title of submerged land remains with the owner / farmer. Government/projectcompany/cooperative will pay yearly rental /lease for storing water on the farm land.Government will also develop / finance flooded forest plantations. The original owner of the land can enjoy the produce of flooded forest trees and fisheries on his land. Farmers3 of 5

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