Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has advocated a holistic approach to water conservation, instead of subsidising it for economic and commercial use.
Spelling out his concept of water conservation, the PM hinted at putting a price tag, at least on groundwater, and said all related policies have to be corrected if this vital natural resource is to be protected. He added that if a price is put on water, there should be a reward for those engaged in its conservation. “Water conservation and management can be done better through a package of incentives and penalties,” he suggested at the national conference on groundwater on Tuesday.
On the supply of water at a subsidised rate, he said merely pricing water will not serve any purpose unless corrective measures are taken in related fields. Quoting an instance, he said free availability of power to farmers had led to excessive drawing of groundwater through pump sets.
Singh suggested launching a movement to popularise water harvesting as a means of conservation. Hailing the city-based, neighbourhood-based strategy adopted in Chennai, he said every locality and town should have a rain-harvesting scheme depending on local needs and conditions. Panchayats must be engaged in renovating and maintaining traditional water bodies.
Water conservationist Rajendra Singh stressed on indigenous techniques of saving water known for centuries and criticized the government for hindering such initiatives. “The government should respect community initiatives and support such efforts instead of becoming a stumbling block,” he said. He also came down heavily on efforts to privatise water resources: “Communitisation, not privatization, is what we need.”
Eminent agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan said the water crisis in the country has more to do with mismanagement rather than scarcity. On the agricultural front, he suggested changing cropping patterns in flood-prone areas.
Water resources minister Saifuddin Soz said water should be managed on a sustainable basis.