Q. India’s water resources management strategy should facilitate water security to ensure adequate availability of water for life, agriculture, economic development, ecology and environment. Recommend strategies for optimum utilization of existing water resources to ensure that India does not reach the stage of ‘Day Zero’.
A. YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT DAY ZERO
ZERO Day Zero Situation
It is a situation when there will be no water in the taps and the use of water will become restricted for vital services only. Considering the present situation of water crisis in the cities of Shimla, Udupi and Mangaluru, they are being termed as soon to be India’s Cape Towns.
The Case of Cape Town
In January 2018, officials in Cape Town announced that the city of 4 million people was three months away from running out of municipal water. Labelled “Day Zero”, 12th April, 2018, was to be the date of the largest drought-induced municipal water failure in modern history, the result of three consecutive years of anaemic rainfall.
1. There is a huge gap between the irrigation potential created (112.5 million ha in 2012) and the irrigation potential utilized (89.3 million ha in 2012). Apart from the underutilization of the potential, the efficiency of the irrigation systems is low at 30 per cent to 38 per cent for surface water and 55 per cent for ground water.
2. Despite clear evidence of rising water stress, water is still used inefficiently and indiscriminately, particularly in agriculture. Poor implementation and maintenance of projects, absence of participatory irrigation management, non-alignment of cropping patterns to the agroclimatic zones, and absence of field channels are some of the challenges.
3. The Easement Act, 1882, which grants groundwater ownership rights to the landowner is one of the reasons for water over-use and depletion of groundwater levels.
4. The subsidized pricing of water in various states has resulted in non-revenue water and a sharp decline in groundwater levels in all states.
5. The sustainability of the source and growing contamination of ground water in newer areas are constraints in ensuring safe drinking water supply in rural and urban areas.
1. On-going programmes
• By 2022-23, the water storage capacity needs to be increased from the current level of 253 bcm to 304 bcm by completing ongoing projects on time. A coordination mechanism at the field level may be set up for PMKSY to find the reasons for delays in the completion of projects and corrective measures undertaken project wise to ensure speedy implementation.
• Other notable programmes that need to be completed include the Ken-Betwa River linking project, the Pancheshwar project, the Rajasthan feeder and Sirhind feeders (Punjab &Rajasthan) and the Siang project in North-East India.
• The National Mission for Clean Ganga needs to coordinate with the Ministry of Drinking Water, Supply and Sanitation for solid and liquid waste management in 1600 gram panchayats (covering 4464 villages situated on the banks of the Ganga in five states). Corrective measures need to be taken to expedite the completion of the projects.
2. Water efficiency
• Incentivize the wider adoption of sprinkler and drip irrigation by diverting resources otherwise used to subsidize power and surface irrigation.
• As per the fourth Minor Irrigation (MI) Census, there are about 5 lakh water bodies/tanks with an irrigation potential of 5.89 million ha. For these, the MoWR’s programme to revitalize, renovate and repair water bodies should be significantly expanded and adequately funded.
• Special emphasis should be laid on desilting of water bodies, including river, lakes, ponds and reservoirs.
3. Recycle of waste water
• With the country generating 140 bcm of wastewater annually, a pilot scheme to irrigate 10 lakh ha with treated waste water by 2020 may initially be taken up.
• Industries should be encouraged to meet a major share of their demand through recycled water. Besides, programmes for smart water meters and tradable permits for use of recycled water may be launched.
4. Groundwater management
• As on date, development of groundwater, i.e., utilization of groundwater resources vis-à-vis replenishable quantity, is 62 per cent. There is a need to develop recharging zones at identified places to make groundwater resources sustainable using check dam, farm ponds, tanks and injection wells.
• Participatory aquifer management initiated in the 12th Plan National Aquifer Management (NAQUIM) under PMKSY should be strengthened through a network of partnerships to control unbridled, competitive extraction of groundwater since it is virtually impossible to police more than 30 million groundwater structures through licences and permits.
• The participatory approach to encourage behavioural changes and community engagement in ground water management at the gram panchayat level as envisaged in the Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY) should be adopted and extended to other regions.
• Promote the use of solar pumps to improve the utilisation of groundwater in Eastern India where utilisation is hampered by the lack of power. In Western India, solar pumps with a buyback guarantee for surplus solar power can offer reliable daytime energy for irrigation and stable cash income as well act as an incentive to conserve power and water.
• PMKSY – Har Khet Ko Pani – envisaging enhancement of food production more than two-fold in 96 prioritized most ‘deprived
• irrigation districts’ in 12 states by creating irrigation facilities through tube wells, dug wells, bore wells and dug-cum-bore wells, should be expedited. This will facilitate assured irrigation in tribal and backward areas that traditionally have been deprived of canal irrigation.
• Special focus should be placed on the quality of rural drinking water supply in arsenic and fluoride affected areas by tapping multiple sources through conjunctive use of surface water, ground water and rain water harvesting. All new, piped water supply schemes should have mandatory provisions on operation and maintenance involving local communities and stakeholders.
5. Water harvesting Watershed (check dam development)
• The MoWR may develop specific strategies to tap water through watershed development (check dams) in rain-fed areas, expand micro irrigation coverage to 80 lakh ha, and link ground water development to aquifer mapping.
• The timeline for watershed development projects needs to be shortened from seven to four years with special efforts by state governments. Funds available under MGNREGA and state plans may be used for watershed development projects.
• Introduce public-private partnerships in the water sector, initially to develop microirrigation-based CAD works based on a hybrid annuity model. This should be accompanied by a revision in water tariffs to recover at least operation and maintenance costs.
6. Suggested reforms
• To mitigate conflicts and achieve equitable distribution of water, an integrated river basin management approach needs to be adopted. The setting up of river basin organisations for major basins may be expedited.
• NITI Aayog has developed a concept note on Revitalization of Rivers, which may be implemented on a pilot basis before being expanded across major states.
• To ensure Aviral and Nirmal Dhara in the Ganga, the river should be managed as a single system.
• There is need for a scheme on medium term measures for flood management. This should include completion of incomplete works in the states of Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. Besides, long term measures for Bihar, UP and NE states should be explored to achieve permanent protection from floods. The formation of North East Water Management Authority (NEWMA) in NorthEast states will comprehensively address the flood issue in the region.
• A water regulatory framework should be established for water resources in all states.
• An action plan should be drawn up to improve water use efficiency (with 2017 as the base year) by 20 per cent in all sectors by 2022.
• The composite water management index developed by NITI Aayog may be used as a potent tool to assess and further improve the efficiency of water resources management.