Drinking Water Security Cannot Be Decided in Isolation and Needs to be Considered in a Holistic Manner- Dr. C.P Joshi
Union Minister Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Dr. C.P Joshi has emphasized the need to define the catchment of the water resources either in terms of Gram Panchayat, revenue village or district as a unit. Inaugurating a two days long international workshop on Achieving drinking Water Security in Water Stressed and Quality Affected Areas held at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi today the Minister said drinking water security cannot be decided in isolation and needs to be considered in a holistic manner.
Dr. Joshi referred to the expertise of Israel where water is judiciously used for irrigation by introduction of mass scale drip irrigation. Also, on the lines of the food security policy of the Government there should be a very constructive and effective policy and strategy on drinking water security. For this the most critical component is availability of information regarding all the water resources both the surface and the ground water aquifer potential.
The Minister welcomed the delegates from China, Australia, Israel, South Africa and national experts and professional in water supply sector and emphasized the need to create additional water resources by means of rainwater harvesting for ensuring water security. In this regard it is very important that a unit needs to be defined for the catchment of the water resources either in terms of Gram Panchayat, revenue village or district as a unit. Then the issue of water allocation for irrigation, industry and drinking water could be decided by the Panchayats. In this regard, Panchayat should be fully empowered to decide the water available within their jurisdiction for agriculture, industry and drinking water in rural , industry and drinking water in rural areas. We need to learn from our traditional knowledge of water management, Dr. Joshi added. He also referred the ever increasing cost of electricity resulting in non-affordability of the piped water supply by the community. He suggested that like in electricity where every citizen has accepted metering of electricity and the payment of the same, metering and tariff for water needs to be introduced in the same manner. However, differential tariff needs to be considered for vulnerable citizens of the country.
Dr. Joshi said empowering the community for village level planning is very important and critical. India is fortunate that it has 2.5 lakhs elected panchayat representatives, 50% being women. Different model of village drinking water security can be developed and replicated in similar geo-hydrological environment. Drastic changes and innovative ideas are required to ensure drinking water security in the country in the present context of massive industrialization and urbanization. The Minister also released a book entitled “ Hand book for Panchayats on Planning, Implementation and Operation & Maintenance of Water Supply Schemes” on the occasion.
Secretary, Department of Drinking Water supply, Government of India Smt. Rajwant Sandhu in her address referred to the scanty uneven distribution of rain fall in the country resulting in acute shortage of drinking water. She said since intensive water based industry and municipal bodies do not recycle and reuse the waste water which ultimately finds its way into water bodies and pollutes them, resulting in further depletion of fresh water reserves, also . at present, the storage capacity developed in India is not even sufficient to meet the demand for one season during the drought period. As such the storage of water should be increased to the extent that it could meet demand for 2 to 3 seasons. For this, large number of medium sized storages should be created in strategic locations. However, these storages should not be used for agriculture activities and should be exclusively reserved for drinking water supply, to ensure drinking water security. She said in view of the opposition of construction of huge dams for the storage of water on account of the issues of rehabilitation of the involuntarily displaced people it becomes important that that localized storages should be developed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme..
Under the new National Rural Drinking Water Program guidelines, one of the largest funded rural drinking water programs in the world with about Rs 9000 crores support to states, 20% of the funds has been earmarked for taking up sustainability structures. Regarding potability of water, she mentioned that there is a strong linkage between quality of drinking water and health. More than 30% reduction of diarrheal diseases can be achieved by focusing on water quality. Good examples of water management are there in different parts of the country but this has remained localized and needs to be scaled up.
Issues like Drinking Water Security -Challenges and Issues in India, Water Conservation and Water Use Efficiency –a Presentation experience from Israel, Service Delivery- presentations on experience from Australia, South Africa,, Water Quality issues-experience from China along with panel discussions and Q&As were the point of agenda for today. Also, discussions on on measures to be taken for: (i) Desert Areas; (ii) Overexploited and Drought prone areas; (iii) Quality Affected Areas was the core area. The objective is to prepare a Matrix on legal, policy, institutional, technology options and good practices to achieve water drinking security.
Group Reports and Best Practices from India, Deep Wells and Prudence: Pragmatic Action for addressing overexploitation in India, Experience from Andhra Pradesh--Farmer Managed Ground Water System, Experience from Rajasthan and Maharashtra - Ensuring Sustainable Drinking Water Supply through Rain Water Harvesting and Community participation in WRM, Experience from Tamil-Nadu- Renewal of traditional system of water management (Ooranis) for ensuring water security, Experience from Gujarat, Experience from Karnataka - Moving towards Equity and Efficiency in RWSS, Planning for Drinking Water Security -Why and How to succeed? Presentation of the Key elements of the Matrix of legal, policy, institutional, technology and good practices options to achieve water drinking security in water stressed and water quality affected areas will be the other issues.
Nearly 20 distinguished speakers from India and abroad are attending the workshop. These include Mr. Roberto Zagha Country Director, World Bank, Dr. Mihir Shah, Member, Planning Commission, Mr. Christopher Juan Costain, WSP-SA, The World Bank, , Mr. Shimon Tal President of Israeli Water Association and former Water Commissioner, Dr. Gauri Sankar Ghosh, Mr. Darren Hayman Manager, Service Delivery, Gold Coast Water, Queensland State, Australia, Dr. Mike Muller Visiting Adjunct Professor, Wits University, Former Director General, Dept of Water Affairs and Forestry, Pretoria, Ms Sunita Narain, CSE, Dr. Paul Kriss, Beijing, World Bank Office, Mr. Sanjay Pahuja, Senior Water Resources Specialist, World Bank, Dr. K. S. Mani, Consultant, Water Resources, Shri. Rajendra Singh, Tarun Bharat Sangh, Shri Anna Hazare and Shri Popat Rao Pawar, Hiwre Bazaar among others. [caption id="attachment_13780" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="The Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Dr. C.P. Joshi addressing the International Workshop on Achieving Drinking Water Security in Water stressed and Quality Affected Areas, in New Delhi on May 25, 2010."][/caption]