As many as 600 million people are facing water crisis and 200,000 die annually due to lack of access to water or unsafe water supplies, according to a Niti Aayog report.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address emphasised the need to conserve water as the world’s second most populous country isn’t immune to water crises. To deal with the grim water conditions and provide clean water to every household, the PM launched the Jal Jeevan Mission. Mentioned already in its manifesto as ‘Nal se Jal’ (piped water for all), the Modi government has amped up its speed within 10 weeks of its working.
Speaking of water management, PM Modi said, “India understands the importance of water conservation and thus, a new ministry for ‘Jal Shakti’ has been created for efficient water management.” The PM reiterated his promise to avail piped water to all the rural households by 2024 and urged citizens to quadruple their efforts and take initiatives as well.
Said to be allocated with more than Rs 3.5 lakh crore, the mission can be achieved with the combined efforts of the Centre and state governments. It focuses on water conservation, irrigation, rain-water harvesting, water treatment, and ‘per drop, more crop’ and micro irrigation for farmers.
Previously, in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ address, PM Modi gave a clarion call to citizens to join hands for water conservation and create a ‘jan-andolan’ along the lines of the Swachh Bharat Mission to save water for a better future.
The current scenario
Rapid, unplanned urbanisation and an exponential growth of population have hampered India’s natural resources tremendously, and, as a result, many parts of the country are facing acute water shortages. According to Niti Aayog’s Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) released in June 2018, cities such as Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi and Hyderabad are among the most susceptible for running out of zero ground water by next year. The report has assessed water availability situation in 21 cities across India, based on a study from year to year.
At present, 600 million people are facing water crisis and 200,000 die annually due to lack of access to water or unsafe water supplies, the Niti Aayog report said.
At 120 among 122 countries, India is ranked among the lowest in the water quality index with 70 percent of water contaminated.
Due to redundant use of ground water, its level has gone down 61 percent between 2007 and 2017, according to a report presented in Lok Sabha by Central Ground Water Board (CGWB).
According to Niti Aayog document ‘Strategy for New India @75’, owing to growing population, the per capita water availability has fallen from 1,816 cubic metre in 2001 to 1,544 cubic metre in 2011.
The World Health Organisation prescribes 25 litres of water for a person a day to meet his basic hygiene and food needs. On the contrary, mega cities in India, such as Delhi and Mumbai, get more than the standard municipal water norm of 150 litres per capita per day (LCPD) while others get 40-50 LCPD.
The weekly bulletin by Central Water Commission shows increase in 103 reservoirs in India from 76.845 billion cubic metre to 52.258 cubic metre in a week. However, these reservoirs hold only 47 percent of their capacity.
A World Bank report tells only one-third of sewage from the hundreds of towns and cities along the Ganga is treated before it flows into the river, making the country’s holy river a highly polluted one.
Combating water scarcity
The Jal Jeevan Mission aims at integrating demand and supply side management of water at grassroots level. Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation Secretary Parameswaran Iyer has informed that the Jal Shakti Abhiyan is a collaborative effort of various ministries of the Government of India and state governments, being coordinated by the DDWS.
He also mentioned 1,592 water stressed blocks in 256 districts, which will be visited by teams from the central government, to ensure the five important water conservation interventions. The prime minister has himself written letters to all Sarpanches in the country urging to get involved in water conservation activities like de-silting and cleaning water bodies, rain water harvesting, and many more.
Communications campaign on a large scale is also planned alongside JSA involving mass mobilisation of different groups including school and college students, swachhagrahis, Self Help Groups, Panchayati Raj Institution, members, youth groups (NSS/NYKS/NCC) defence personnel, ex-servicemen and pensioners, among various others.
Reduce, reuse and recycle
Sustainable development is the need of the hour to meet the water requirements of the country. On an individual level, one should follow three R’s; Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, to conserve water. Promoting a decentralised approach will be a big time help. Besides, practices such as rainwater harvesting, water storage, plantation and efficient consumption should also be encouraged. According to the 2015 report of the Central Pollution Control Board, India has a capacity to treat approximately 22,963 million litres per day against a daily sewage generation of approximately 61,754 million litres per day. Indubitably, the technology has to be pumped up along with upgradation of dams and cleaning of water bodies such as wells and rivers.
First Published: IST