Water of India~I

Source: By KP Shashidharan: The Statesman

As India needs a comprehensive water policy and strategy for managing the vital life sustaining water resources, the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India, recently announced the National Water Mission. The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) is already in place to ensure integrated water resource management by conserving water and minimizing wastage and ensuring equitable distribution of water across and within the states. The National Water Policy facilitates development of a framework to optimize water use efficiency through regulations on entitlements and pricing.

Water Stress Index ranks India as the 46th highest risk country in the world; 11 of India’s 20 largest cities in the country are facing extreme risk, notably Delhi, Chennai, Agra, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Indore, Kanpur, Nashik, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Bengaluru. Seven other cities are also at high risk. Water Stress Index measures water use by households, industry and agriculture compared with available supplies from rivers, streams and lakes. ‘Day zero’ in Chennai shows decades of poor water resource management; the UN estimates show that Greater Delhi’s population will grow by 52 per cent from 28 million to above 43 million by 2035.

Chennai is expected to grow by 47 per cent to reach 15 million. The average population growth rate among the 11 extreme water stressed large cities is projected to grow by 49 per cent to reach about 127 million by 2035.Bengaluru and Surat are at high risk with greatest increases in water demand. Water supply in Mumbai and Kolkata is critical. Climate change increases pressure on diminishing water resources. India is rated ‘high risk’ based on Climate Change Vulnerability Index. Appropriate technological solutions can reduce, reuse and recycle water resources as well as utilize ocean water by building desalination plants.

The National Water Policy is reoriented in consultation with states to optimize rain harvesting, water storage and efficient water resource governance. Water regulations combined with appropriate entitlements and water pricing optimize efficiency of existing irrigation systems and recharging of underground water sources. Relying on sprinklers, drip irrigation and ridge and furrow irrigation can reduce water loss. The central and state governments, experts from industry, academia, media, and civil society are engaged to support the goals of the National Mission.

Appropriate technological solutions will be used to manage surface water and regulation of ground water resources, upgrading storage structures for fresh and drainage system for wastewater, conservation of wetland for meeting the goals of the National Water Mission. Niti Aayog came out aptly with the revised water index to guide the policy makers and planners for implementation of integrated water management. What the nation needs is firm action to translate the mission goals into reality.

The bureaucratic inertia must be overcome to keep in place a proactive, futuristic water strategy. The water mission must be owned by the people of the country to grow as a nationwide mass movement. Prime Minister Modi provided adequate momentum to the mission when he addressed the nation at Red Fort on this year’s Independence Day. Mahatma Gandhi’s vision to build Swacch Bharat with selfreliant villages where pollution free air and water are plenty for sustainable agriculture and livelihood can be realized if the mission is effectively and efficiently implemented for realizing the envisioned outcome and impact.

As scientific management of water is vital to India’s growth and ecosystem the Jal Shakti Abhiyan aims at water security in 1592 water stressed blocks in 256 districts. Along with water conservation and rainwater harvesting, renovation of traditional and other water bodies/tanks, reuse, borewell recharge structures, watershed development and intensive afforestation must be intensified. Efficient water use for irrigation and better choice of crops must be promoted. As data-based decision-making is essential for water management, the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog’s Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) must be used for effective water management in all states and UTs.

CWMI establishes a clear baseline and benchmark for state-level performance on key water indicators, showing how the states have performed. A composite, national level data management platform for all water resources in India must now be developed in collaboration with the stakeholders to be made available on a portal in the public domain to monitor groundwater restoration, irrigation management, on-farm water use, Rural and urban drinking water supply. Effective water management is vital to India’s economic growth, wellbeing of its people and sustainability of ecosystems.

Data-based decision-making and competitive and cooperative federalism can lead to significant improvements in water management in the country. Decisions pertaining to irrigation policies, watershed management, water supply processes, water pricing must be taken on the basis of water resource data and the best practices. CWMI 2019 helps benchmarking. Eighty per cent of the states have improved their water management. However, 16 out of 27 states score less than 50 points on the Index out of 100 collectively account for 48 per cent of the population, 40 per cent of agricultural produce, and 35 per cent of economic output of India.

The top performing states are Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh and the low performing states include Haryana, Goa, and Telangana, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Nagaland, and Meghalaya. Ineffective water management leads to reduced economic activity, employment and livelihood opportunities. Besides, it leads to food insecurity. Improved knowledge-sharing amongst states and learning from each other can enhance water management practices across the states. Proper water policy in place and effective water administration with improved legal, administrative, and operational framework can lead to better outcomes.

A number of states follow participatory irrigation management programmes to promote decentralized water management. Rajasthan’s Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavlambhan Abhiyan, launched in 2016 aims to make villages self-sufficient in water through a participatory water harvesting and conservation initiatives. Advanced technologies such as drones can identify waterbodies for restoration. Gram Sabha in villages are budgeting of water resources for different uses. The Andhra Pradesh government launched the Neeru-Chettu programme to transform the state as a drought proof state, emphasizing on improving irrigation and water supply in drought-prone areas.

Repair, renovation, and maintenance of irrigation assets are essential. The Maharashtra government launched the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyaan in 2015-16 to make 5000 villages water scarcity free every year by deepening and widening of streams, construction of cement and earthen stop dams, work on nullahs and digging of farm ponds. The programme involves geotagging of waterbodies and use of a mobile application. Telangana’s flagship Mission Kakatiya programme, launched in 2014, aims to restore over 46,000 tanks across the state and develop minor irrigation structures, promoting community- based irrigation management, and restoration of tanks.

Gujarat focuses on deepening of waterbodies before monsoons and increasing water storage for rainwater collection. Madhya Pradesh launched schemes to provide financial aid to farm owners for the construction of irrigation structures on private land. Punjab launched a scheme to incentivize farmers for efficient water use in irrigation through financial rewards. “Sujalam Sufalam Jal Abhiyan” helps to conserve water in Gujarat. The MGNREGA programme develops irrigation facilities on private land of small and marginal farmers, through construction of wells, farm ponds and check dams.

Punjab provided incentives to farmers for saving electricity. Bundelkhand was one of the most water scarce regions of India. Rigorous efforts were initiated in water conservation by construction of farm ponds, restoration/rejuvenation of waterbodies, raising of farm bunds, and intensive plantation of trees. Jakhani village is an example for water-budgeting and storage of rainwater.