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Treat water holistically: Sethi

A tete-a-tete with the Minister for Water Resources, Arjun Charan Sethi, whose ministry is in focus after major policy initiatives last year including the announcement of the National Water Policy and the setting up of the task force on interlinking of rivers as well as for the prolonged drought in some parts of the country. A look at the dismal water situation in India and the policy initiatives being taken to tackle it.

india Updated: Aug 09, 2003 17:56 IST
PTI

A tête-à-tête with the Union Minister for Water Resources, Arjun Charan Sethi, whose ministry is in focus after major policy initiatives last year including the announcement of the National Water Policy and the setting up of the task force on interlinking of rivers. A look at the water situation in India in an interview with the minister.

Summer for most of the country translates into a water crisis. And the situation seems to worsen each year. How is the government tackling the situation?
My ministry is taking a number of steps to tackle the water shortages. Efforts are on to ensure that water is available as widely as possible. Irrigation water supply is being augmented by a number of steps too. There is also a contingency plan to deal with shortages. Besides these, a task force has been set up under the chairmanship of the Deputy Prime Minister for drought mitigation at an all India level.

What does the contingency plan consist of?
The plan includes a number of ways to increase water availability. Efforts are on to increase rainwater storage and people are being encouraged to adopt water harvesting methods. Every state is being encouraged to make laws to make water harvesting a must wherever possible so that the much of the run-off can be prevented from flowing away.

How much is the storage capacity at present?
We already have a storage capacity of 1,777 million cubic metres. Besides the over 4,000 major and medium dams that India has, there are over 490 ongoing projects. Of these 490 are major irrigation works and 242 are in the medium category. 89 other projects are in the extension or renovation phase.

How are the water levels are the reservoirs at the moment?
The situation is satisfactory at the 70 major reservoirs monitored by the Central Water Commission. There is enough water to meet the requirements of the local people.

How are you dealing with the states affected by drought?
The affected states have been asked to take a number of measures. However as water is essentially a state subject, we can only advise them. It is up to the states to heed our advice.Wealready have major drought relief programmes in place, which should bring relief to people.Food forwork programmes are also on in the drought-affected states.

Would bringing water to the Concurrent List help the government deal with the situation?
Well, bringing water to the Concurrent List is not something that can happen quickly. There are major problems in getting it to the Concurrent List. While that is an obstacle, there is much that can be done even otherwise.

First Published: May 19, 2003 19:34 IST