Water management requires every stakeholder to pitch in
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Water management requires every stakeholder to pitch in

The government’s National Perspective Plan for transferring water from water-surplus basins to water-deficit basins can help India fight the dichotomy between rainfall and drought

analysis Updated: Oct 09, 2017 19:53 IST
World Water Day,Sustainable Development Goals,Food and Agriculture Organization
Women return after collecting water from a lake in a drought-hit area in Karnataka. (PTI)

From the ancient Indian teachings, we know that there are five physical elements of creation: Earth, air, fire, sky and water. Since we have access and far better understanding of technological advancement, every individual is duty-bound for the sustainable use of every single element for the survival of the upcoming generations.

In 1993, the United Nations designated March 22 as World Water Day. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were adopted in 2015, laid emphasis on water and sustainable use. India, which has one-sixth population of the world, is working sincerely in this direction.

This year, the ministry of water resources, river development & Ganga rejuvenation is organising the four-day Fifth India Water Week, starting on October 10.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the daily drinking water requirement per person is two-four litres, but it takes 2,000 to 5,000 litres to produce a person’s daily food. It estimates by 2050, the world’s water will have to support agricultural systems, which will feed and create livelihoods for an additional 2.7 billion people. According to the Central Water Commission’s 2015 Water and Statistics Report, thanks to the increasing population, the national per capita annual availability of water is estimated to reduce from 1,608 cubic metre in 2010 to 1,139 cubic metre by 2050.

For India, the need for developing and managing water resources assumes significance as the nation moves up the ladder of development. Currently, more than 50% of the India’s workforce is dependent on irrigation for agriculture. World over, the irrigation sector is the largest user of water. In India, the sector uses 85% of its available water resources, having a major share of groundwater.

The erratic rainfall pattern is leading to drought-like situation in Bundelkhand, Vidarbha and parts of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. On the contrary, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttarakhand and West Bengal have been affected by heavy rains/flash floods.

This dichotomy demands serious and continuous efforts to manage our water resource with decentralised approach with the participation of states governments, panchayati raj institutions, community organisations and households and individuals.

For the development of water resource and transferring water from water-surplus basins to water-deficit basins, the government has identified total 30 links, 16 under peninsular component and 14 under the Himalayan component under the National Perspective Plan.

The Centre is pursuing the interlinking of rivers (ILR) programme in a consultative manner by taking it on high priority with the aim of transferring 170 billion cubic metres (BCM) of water from surplus to deficit areas, create an additional irrigation potential of approximately 35 million hectare, apart from the incidental benefits of flood moderation, navigation, drinking and industrial water supply, fisheries, salinity and pollution control etc. The central government is continuously coordinating with the states for the Ken-Betwa link, Damanganga-Pinjal Link, Par-Tapi-Narmada link and Mahanadi-Godavari link to bring them to a consensus for interlinking of rivers by persuasion and mutual agreements.

For rational and balanced water management, the demand and the supply side of its distribution has been re-looked at. The positive results of investment on irrigation projects can be seen as compared to investment in other infrastructures such as roads, highways, railways, airports, which take time to show results.

The Centre has launched the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) during 2015, which includes the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme and components like per drop and more crop. The Drought Prone Area Programme has also been prioritised under the PMKSY. Building a platform for convergence of investments in irrigation through comprehensive district and the state irrigation plans, this scheme envisages an end-to-end solution in irrigation supply chain viz. water resources, distribution, efficient application and extension services. The focus is on improving water-use efficiency at farm level and bridging the gap between irrigation potential created and utilisation.

To improve the extent, quality, and accessibility of water resources information, decision support system for floods and basin level resource assessment/planning and to strengthen the capacity of targeted water resources professionals and management institutions in India the government has approved the National Hydrology Project in 2016 as a central sector scheme and establishment of National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC) as a repository of nationwide water resources data.

Namami Gange Programme: The programme is a holistic one. As many as 173 projects for various activities such as sewage infrastructure, river front development, ghat and crematoria, ghat cleaning, river surface cleaning, afforestation and biodiversity conservation and rural sanitation have been sanctioned and 41 of them have been completed so far.

The government cracks down on industries polluting the Ganga, resulting 35% drops in pollutants flowing into the river. Under the MGNREGA the works have been undertaken for Repair, Renovation, and Restoration of Water Bodies by the active participation of Panchayati Raj Institutions. Dam Rehabilitation & Improvement Project (DRIP) are currently going on for the strengthening of the dam safety activities across the Nation. The upcoming Dam Safety Bill has been prepared to provide for robust institutional and legal framework to ensure safety of dams and prevent dam related disasters by continuous surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of dams in the country.

Since water comes under the state list of 7th schedule of the constitution. Inter-State Water disputes & their amicable solution is a serious challenge for the central government. At present 08 tribunals has been there to settle water disputes among the States under the Inter-State River Water Disputes (ISRWD) Act, 1956. The government has adopted revised National Water Policy (NWP) which includes a permanent Water Disputes Tribunal at the Centre & establishment of Dispute Resolution Committee to resolve the inter-state water disputes in expeditiously and in an equitable manner. In this regard, for resolution of sub judice water disputes a new ISRWD Bill, 2017 has been introduced in Lok Sabha to amend the existing ISRWD Act, 1956.

With coordinated and cohesive approach towards water resource management, the various department and ministries have come up together. A MoU has been signed between the ministry of water resources, river development & Ganga rejuvenation with the ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship for developing skilled manpower for laying sewerage pipeline, plumbing works, construction of toilets, civil masonry works, waste collection and its disposal activities, preparing of products from pious waste materials like flowers, leaves, coconuts, hair and associate plastic bags and plastic bottles etc. and for proper packaging and promotion of such products as well as developing skills for operation and maintenance of pumps and Sewage Treatment Plants.

Several other MoUs have been signed with ministry of railways and the Indian Oil Corporation Limited for reuse of treated water. The ministry of power has made it mandatory for power plants to use treated sewage water if the concerned power plant is located within 50-km radius of sewage treatment plant by notifying the tariff policy.

The National Mission for Clean Ganga is mandated to identify the measures, which may be necessary for reuse of treated water and enter into MoU in this regard with the Union ministries such as railways, power, petroleum and natural gas etc, states, autonomous bodies at the central and state level, as well as other recognised institutes.

The Indian context with its vast geographical and cultural diversity makes water conservation and preservation a mission that requires the involvement of a large number of stakeholders. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government is taking bold and incisive decisions for development.

The conservation and management of water requires everyone’s participation. With hard work and continuous dialogues among stakeholders, swachhta has now become a mass movement with the emerges of India as cleanliness-conscious society.

A similar approach is need of the hour for the water sector. I urge conscious citizens, grassroot community organisations, agencies, technical institution and authorities working in the water sector to document every single success story to boost awareness in the water sector. With the efforts from every strata of society and all stakeholders from the periphery to centre, India will definitely become a water-conscious society.

Arjun Ram Meghwal is Union minister of state for water resource, river development and Ganga rejuvenation and parliamentary affairs

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Oct 09, 2017 16:33 IST