People Institutions ensuring efficient water management

By: VK Bahuguna

March 27, 2021, 05:08:08   

Water along with the soil is the basic need for sustaining all form of life on planet Earth. In the month of March world celebrates two International days. On 21st March World Forest day is celebrated and since 1993, 22nd March is celebrated as World Water day. All over the world land, forest and water are getting degraded due to over exploitation by the growing population, are thus under strain due to overused and blatant misuse. The problem is getting compounded by the climate change threat. The forests are essential for maintaining and sustaining the flow of water in Rainfed Rivers, aquifer recharge and sustaining the sub-sub-surface and ground water. Water is a most precious gift of the nature for the mankind but world more than over 1 billion people have no access to safe drinking water and more than 3 billion people face shortage of water for a few months every year. Water scarcity repeatedly occurs in areas with scanty rainfall and high population density or in areas where intensive agricultural is practiced and are heavily industrialised. The countries of Asia and Africa are most water stressed. 
It seems that the world leaders are paying lip service to the water crisis as nothing substantial is happening at the global level to combat the situation. We must remember that due to climatic changes and lopsided development many civilizations including our own Indus valley civilization vanished. The countries in Middle East are most threatened by water scarcity. However, Israel is a shining example of how to meet the threat of chronic water shortages as 90 per cent of Israelis live in water scarce areas but they have solved their problem.  
India is one of the 10 top water rich countries with more than 4000 Billion Cubic Meter (BCM) of water availability (sufficient to cater for four to five times of our present population). Ironically, however, 256 districts of the country are facing acute water crisis. It has also been estimated by the NITI AYOG that 70 percent of our water resources are contaminated and 600 million people face severe water stress and it further estimated that more than two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. According to the report of Central Ground Water Board 70 per cent Blocks in India are water deficient in ground water. More than 60 percent of the farmers also depend upon ground water for irrigating their agriculture fields. The way farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Western UP are mining the ground water days are not far off when the food grain production will come to standstill in these areas as already the water table is going down a few meters every year especially in Punjab. The Central Water Commission (CWC) has indicated that per capita water availability in the country has already reduced by one-fourth to 1,368 cubic meters a year over the past seven decades, and the situation is going to further complicate. It is also ironical that some of the heavy rainfall districts like Palakkad district in Kerala and Hooghly in West Bengal which have more than the average rainfall of the country are water stressed for few months. The scarcity of water in Palakkad is due to uneven distribution of rainfall and over use by brick kilns and farmers and in Hooghly due to over use by the industries.
Every crisis also create opportunities for the innovations and in India most of the water stress is manmade and due to climatic changes. We have two examples one is in our own country in Gujarat and the other is Israel. Israel has solved its water shortage by building desalination and water-treatment plants and innovative agricultural practice. Back home Gujarat has converted a state of water stress due to scant and uneven distribution of rainfall to a comfortable water satisfied state. It has happened in the regime of Mr. Narendra Modi when he was the Chief Minister for ten long years. The state created a people centric demand driven approach to solve the drinking water problem, creating lakes, creating and desilting ponds and intelligently planning to use Narmada water through Sardar Sarovar/canals network and created huge irrigation potential and solving the problem of drinking water. It tapped every drop of rain water in the agriculture fields and today the irrigated area of the state has jumped from 38 lakh hectares in 2011 to 68.88 lakh hectares today. 
The creation of Jal Shakti Ministry in 2019 was to implement and replicate the Gujarat model all over the country. Of the 19 crore households in the country till 2019 only 3.5 crore homes had the access to safe tape water for drinking. During the last around one year thanks to the Jal Jeevan Mission of the Ministry of Jal Shakti launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi another 4 crore families have been covered with decentralized governance. The Jal Jeevan Mission has made a mark within one year of its launching and the reasons of its success are it focuses on decentralized village based demand driven governance by the communities coupled with innovative constant technology based real time monitoring. Recently the Jal Jeevan Abhiyan has been launched to further scale up rain water harvesting and focus is on mobilization of women groups at the grass root level. The program is successful because it is being closely monitored by the Prime Minister, has sufficient funds and posting of persons of proven ability to pilot it in the Ministry.   
The larger civil society's involvement is thus a key to success in any government programme. Before the Jal Jeevan Mission the Joint Forest Management was successful because it involved the communities to manage the adjoining forests. If Jal Shakti Ministry succeeds to bring drinking water to every household it will be one of the biggest public welfare programme post-independence as it will bring better health to people and reduce mortality in rural areas. 


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