In Mann Ki Baat 2.0, Modi airs ‘conserve water’ appeal
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing his monthly radio address ‘Mann ki Baat’ for the first time since his re-election, on Sunday pitched for water conservation to be made into a mass movement in India amid reports of depleting water levels in major reservoirs and river basins of the country.
Modi made three “requests” to all citizens, including “eminent people from all walks of life to create awareness on water conservation”, and urged them to “share knowledge of traditional methods” to conserve water. “If you know about any individuals or NGOs [non-governmental organisations] working on water [conservation], do share the details,” the prime minister said, listing his third appeal.
He added that there was a pressing need to make water conservation a mass movement on the lines of his government’s cleanliness drive Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
According to India Meteorological Department (IMD) data, more than half of India is facing drought-like conditions, while several cities are grappling with acute water shortage as lakes have dried up and groundwater levels, too, are depleting. The situation has been made worse by a sluggish monsoon and rainfall deficiency, which stood at 34% till June 29 this year, IMD said.
Till June 20 this year, water levels in 91 nationally monitored basins and reservoirs – critical for providing drinking water, farming and power generation – were lower over the same period last year.
Chennai, the fourth-most populous city of the country, is facing intense water shortage since the last month as Tamil Nadu’s three reservoirs at Poondi, Cholavaram and Chembarambakkam, which supply water to the state’s capital, have depleted dramatically.
Delhi, too, witnessed its second-driest June in the last 26 years, receiving 11.4mm rain since the beginning of the month even as the arrival of monsoon rains in the national capital are predicted to be late by over seven days. Monsoon normally arrives in Delhi on June 29.
Reservoirs in Telangana were 36% below normal, Andhra Pradesh at 83%, Karnataka at 23%, Tamil Nadu at 43% and Kerala at 38% till June 20, according to the Central Water Commission. Normal storage means average storage of the past 10 years.
After returning to power for a second term, PM Modi brought up the issue of water scarcity in Parliament, saying on Tuesday that dealing with the problem was a priority for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
“We have taken water shortage seriously and established a Jal Shakti Ministry... ” the prime minister said, referring to the newly constituted ministry that was created after merging the ministries of Water Resources, and Drinking Water and Sanitation.
The Centre is also set to launch its Jal Shakti Abhiyan on Monday, which is aimed at ramping up rainwater harvesting and conservation efforts across the country, along with stressing on people’s participation in tackling the issue.
Hundreds of people on Saturday responded to PM Modi’s appeal on Twitter, referring names of NGOs, environmentalists and giving suggestions for possible water conservation methods.
Apart from water conservation, PM Modi, who addresses his radio programme on the last Sunday of every month, thanked people for voting for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the April-May Lok Sabha elections.
He noted that he had been criticised for saying that he will return with the second edition of ‘Mann ki Baat’ ahead of the elections, but it was the people’s confidence that had aided his return to power.
Earlier in his address, Modi referred to the controversy over his visit to Kedarnath temple in May and said that it wasn’t a “political trip” but an opportunity for him to meet his inner self. The Opposition had criticised the prime minister’s visit to the temple in Uttarakhand a day before the general election results were to be announced.
The PM also spoke about the Emergency and how fundamental rights were trampled during this period, while emphasising on the importance of elections in upholding democracy. “ ...in day to day life, it is difficult to savour the joy of democratic rights unless they are snatched away... We have been blessed with a democracy [that is] invaluable, yet we take it for granted so easily,” he said.