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India needs long-term plan to overcome water crisis: Experts at HTLS

India needs a long-term plan to overcome its water crisis but inter-linking of rivers is not a workable idea, two American professors said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Saturday.

HTLS2016 Updated: Dec 03, 2016 19:09 IST
Dr. David Sedlak, Malozemoff Professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley and Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, university professor, Columbia University during Hindustan Times Leadership Summit at Taj Palace, in New Delhi.
Dr. David Sedlak, Malozemoff Professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley and Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, university professor, Columbia University during Hindustan Times Leadership Summit at Taj Palace, in New Delhi.(Virendra Singh Gosain/HT Photo)

India needs a long-term plan to overcome its water crisis but inter-linking of rivers is not a workable idea, two American professors said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Saturday.

Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University suggested that a pricing mechanism and smart engineering solutions to curb water wastage could solve one of the country’s biggest problem.

Also, he criticised the lack of “long-term planning” to solve the crisis.

His University of California counterpart, David Sedlak, said solutions offered in India such as inter-linking of rivers would not work. He also suggested long-term goals for efficient use of natural resources.

He said solutions, such as an affluent treatment plant for a group housing society, might appear expensive at the moment, but would become affordable once the scale of manufacturing increases.

Moderator of the session — titled “Global Water Crisis. What Next?” — Mihir Shah agreed with Sedlak that a study has shows river-linking can adversely impact India’s monsoon cycle as less water will flow into the Bay of Bengal.

India primarily agriculture-driven economy depends on the annual monsoon rain. Deficit rainfall triggers farm distress, which the country has recorded in the past two years with back-to-back droughts. Moreover, rising temperatures is claiming thousands of lives across the world and 2016 is set to be the warmest in recorded history.

India could contribute significantly to stop the climate change by moving from coal-fired technology to cleaner options, said Sachs, a former director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

His remarks came just two sessions after power minister Piyush Goyal, speaking at the summit, ruled out the possibility of India’s dependence on coal to fuel its power units and industries.

Sachs agreed with the minister that the developed world is responsible for the climate change and should now pay to clean up the mess it created.

“If India makes a spirited financial proposal I will stand by it. But India cannot hide behind the rhetoric that the developed world needs to act first,” he said.

Sachs criticised the political class for not acting on climate change and air pollution.

“These political leaders are irresponsible louts. They just want to stick with power and don’t do anything to ensure that my children and grandchildren breathe safe air. People in Delhi should decide on how they want to demand pollution-free air for their children and grandchildren,” he said.

For other stories from HT Leadership Summit, click here