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General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General Studies 3:
- Conservation, Environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
- Water Pollution, Wastewater management
In News: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain’ campaign for conserving water and stressed that every penny of MGNREGA funds be spent on rain water conservation till the monsoon arrives. Addressing an event at the virtual launch of the campaign on the World Water Day, Modi said it is a matter of concern that majority of rain water in India gets wasted. He said the more the rain water is conserved, the less will be the dependence on groundwater.
- India’s self-sufficiency is dependent on its water resources and water connectivity, and its fast-paced development is not possible without effective water conservation.
- People should use water judiciously.
The ‘Catch the Rain’ campaign will be undertaken across the country, in both rural and urban areas.
- Timeline: It will be implemented from March 22 to November 30 – the pre-monsoon and monsoon period in the country.
- Aim: The campaign aims to take water conservation at grass-root level through people’s participation. It is intended to nudge all stakeholders to create rainwater harvesting structures suitable to the climatic conditions and subsoil strata, to ensure proper storage of rainwater.
- After the event, Gram Sabhas will be held in all Gram Panchayats of each district (except in the poll-bound states) to discuss issues related to water and water conservation.
- Gram Sabhas will also take ‘Jal Shapath’ for water conservation.
In India, the lack of access to clean water is an ongoing challenge that the country has been facing for several years.
In 2017, in a written reply in Lok Sabha, the Ministry of Water Resources (as it was before being merged into the Jal Shakti ministry in 2019) said that the average annual per capita water availability fell from 1820 cubic meters assessed in 2001 to 1545 cubic meters in 2011, and could reduce further to 1341 and 1140 in the years 2025 and 2050 respectively.
“Annual per-capita water availability of less than 1700 cubic meters is considered as water stressed condition, whereas annual per- capita water availability below 1,000 cubic meters is considered as a water scarcity condition. Due to high temporal and spatial variation of precipitation, the water availability of many regions of the country is much below the national average and can be considered as water stressed/water scarce,” the Ministry had said.
In a 2018 report, the water and sanitation advocacy group WaterAid ranked India at the top of 10 countries with the lowest access to clean water close to home, with 16.3 crore people not having such access.
Notably, the same report also took note of government efforts, saying, “(India) is also one of the world’s most-improved nations for reaching the most people with clean water, but faces challenges with falling groundwater levels, drought, demand from agriculture and industry, pollution and poor water resource management – challenges that will intensify as climate change contributes to more extreme weather shocks.”
Water in the Constitution
The Ministry of Jal Shakti says on its website, “As most of the rivers in the country are inter-State, the regulation and development of waters of these rivers, is a source of inter-State differences and disputes. In the Constitution, water is a matter included in Entry 17 of List-II i.e. State List. This entry is subject to the provision of Entry 56 of List-I i.e. Union List.”
Under Article 246, the Indian Constitution allocates responsibilities of the States and the Centre into three lists– Union List, State List, and Concurrent List.
Water is under Entry 17 of the State List, which reads: “Water, that is to say, water supplies, irrigation and canals, drainage and embankments, water storage and water power subject to the provisions of entry 56 of List I.”
MGNREGA’s role in saving water
Over the past 15 years, the MGNREGA programme has helped bolster water sufficiency and management of precipitation in many villages.
The rural employment guarantee Act was amended in 2014 to ensure that at least 60% of the expenditure was on projects that benefit agriculture and allied activities; as a result, the rural development ministry had said in 2019 that 75% of the activities in the list of permissible activities under MGNREGA “directly improve water security and water conservation efforts”.
30 million water conservation-related works — that translates to 50 works/village — have been undertaken through MGNREGA, creating a water conservation potential of close to 29,000 million cubic metres of water. For perspective, that is nearly 17% of the capacity of the 123 reservoirs that are monitored for storage by the Central Water Commission.
Why is World Water Day celebrated?
To focus on the importance of freshwater, the United Nations marks March 22 every year as World Water Day. The theme of World Water Day 2021 is “Valuing Water”.
According to the UN, World Water Day celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water.
The idea for this international day goes back to 1992, the year in which the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro took place. That same year, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution by which March 22 of each year was declared World Day for Water, to be observed starting in 1993.
“The value of water is about much more than its price – water has enormous and complex value for our households, food, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment. If we overlook any of these values, we risk mismanaging this finite, irreplaceable resource.”
Solutions: Need to make “every drop count”
- Expanding water supply
- Increasing storage
This will ensure that cities survive under drought. This can be done by
- Long-distance water transfers, but can also come from groundwater or desalination.
- When cities appropriate more water, they impact the freshwater ecosystem. Sometimes urban water usage is more than in agriculture. Society should make more efficient use of water. Putting in place an efficient piped supply system has to be top on the agenda of policymakers and planners.
- Steps must be taken to make farmers efficient in use of irrigation water. Water reuse is an option too.
- Both in urban and rural areas, digging of rainwater harvesting pits must be made mandatory for all types of buildings.
Nature-based solutions can address overall water scarcity through “supply-side management,” and are recognised as the main solution to achieving sustainable water for agriculture.
- Environmentally-friendly agricultural systems like those which use practices such as conservation tillage, crop diversification, legume intensification and biological pest control work as well as intensive, high-input systems.
- The environmental co-benefits of nature-based solutions to increasing sustainable agricultural production are substantial as there are decreased pressures on land conversion and reduced pollution, erosion and water requirements.
- Constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment can also be a cost-effective, nature-based solution that provides effluent of adequate quality for several non-potable uses (irrigation) and additional benefits that include energy production.
- Watershed management is another nature-based solution that is seen not only as a complement to build or “grey” infrastructure but also one that could also spur local economic development, job creation, biodiversity protection and climate resilience.
Three areas that need urgent measures are
- Efficiency in Agriculture: The agricultural sector consumes over 85 per cent of the available water today in India, and there is enormous scope to save water here through improved efficiency.
- Shifting cropping pattern from water-intensive to less water consuming crops can save significant amount of water.
- Micro-irrigation method (drip and sprinkler) of rice cultivation promises to enhance water use efficiency with increased crop productivity.
- Rainwater harvesting is one of the cheapest and easiest ways of augmenting water stock.
- Investing and promoting water-recycling technologies and storm water capturing schemes should also be given utmost emphasis.
- The proposed water conservation fee on groundwater extraction is definitely a right step in the direction of regulating water use.
- Strict pollution control enforcement:
- User-centric approach to water management, especially in agriculture
- Decentralisation of irrigation commands, offering higher financial flows to well-performing States through a National Irrigation Management Fund
- Steady urbanisation calls for a new management paradigm – augmenting sources of clean drinking water supply and treatment technologies that will encourage reuse.
- Rethink water management
- Creative and imaginative governance in the form of building larger storage dams which can store excess water in lesser time is the need of the hour.
- People should be sensitised about the judicious use of water and educated about water-retention dams and other conventional structures such as eari, bawli, talab, anict, dam etc. to store water.
- The old practice of rainwater harvesting should also be popularised. Tamil Nadu has made mandatory installation of water harvesting structures in every house and this must be replicated in other States as well.
- Investing and promoting water-recycling, storm-water capturing technologies and micro-irrigation techniques in crop cultivation can also solve the problem of water scarcity.
- The cost effective method of reviving the traditional small water bodies under the age old practice of Kudimaramath should be given top priority.
Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030. By definition, this means leaving no one behind.
Human right to water: In 2010, the UN recognized “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.” The human right to water entitles everyone, without discrimination, to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use; which includes water for drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, and personal and household hygiene.
Connecting the Dots:
- How can we ensure that everyone has access to safe drinking water, while industry and agriculture also get sufficient supplies to produce enough to meet the country’s demands?