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View from India: National call to conserve water resources

Uneven distribution of rainfall has led to a nationwide water crisis. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged people to embark on a national mission to protect India’s water resources.

The PM revealed that only 8 per cent of the water received from rains in the entire year is harvested in the country. “There cannot be a single formula for dealing with water crisis across the country. For this, efforts are being made in different parts of the country, in diverse ways. But the goal remains the same, and that is to save water and adopt water conservation,” said the PM, in Mann Ki Baat, his monthly radio address to the nation.

In the radio programme broadcast over the weekend, he conveyed the dire need for water conservation. Water is definitely an issue that needs to be resolved, which is why a new ministry titled Jal Shakti (Water Power) was created on 31 May 2019. With an aim of providing piped drinking water to every Indian household by 2024, the Jal Shakti Scheme towards water conservation has been launched in 255 water-starved districts. Citizens are open to share their innovative ideas and thoughts on water conservation through social media, #JanShakti4JalShakti hashtag.

The PM’s water conservation vision is in line with the Swachh Bharat programme that he launched during his first term in office. He urged a mass movement, a national campaign towards water conservation.

The PM was also keen on reviving traditional methods of conservation. In fact a 200-year-old water tank exists in Gujarat’s Porbandar, the birthplace of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhiji. The water tank is still capable of storing water and has a mechanism to harvest rainwater.

Following traditional measures, it would be a great idea if old water tanks are resurrected for contemporary use by blending tradition with technology. What would be particularly useful are big data analytics and algorithms. Large volumes of data will reveal information on water bodies and regional topography. State governments can leverage big data analytics to make informed decisions by streamlining information. Algorithms are essential to make the necessary calculations for conservation and other problem-solving operations. Remote sensing will also offer an insight on water data.  

Another aspect that the PM touched on is the creation of information-sharing platforms on water conservation. Citizens need to be made responsible for the water available. This is where social media will be particularly useful. Websites and Facebook pages need to be hosted. A digital database of volunteers who can bring awareness can be floated on line. Dedicated mobile apps too will help.

The water activities are slowly getting filled up. A case in point is Punjab’s drainage lines that are being fixed to address water logging. Vellore in Tamil Nadu is a drought-hit district. Around 20,000 women in Vellore collectively joined together to revive the Naganadhi River. Over four years, 3,500 recharge wells were built along with boulder checks for rainwater to flow into aquifers. People of Garhwal in Uttarakhand, Western Himalayas, are working together to implement rainwater harvesting.

This morning a newspaper report suggested that a law should be passed to make tap water fit to drink. To think of it, many industrialised countries do have drinking water laws.

“The construction of the water-tank in Telangana’s Thimmaipalli is changing the lives of the people of the village. There has been a major change through construction of small ponds in the fields at Kabidham in Rajasthan,” highlighted the PM.

Moving on, View from India has featured IoT-led water start-ups that cater to different regions in the country. The latest move in this direction is that start-ups have scientifically arrived at atmospheric water generators. It’s a known fact that water evaporation happens in water bodies like rivers, lakes and the ocean. It goes into the atmosphere, where it can collect into clouds. This is something which even school children know. All that’s required is certain out-of-box thinking to arrive at these generators that run on electricity. This is how it works.  The devices absorb the moisture from the air, which is condensed into droplets and filtered within the device. Potable water from the atmosphere happens through inbuilt filtration. This has opened up a new segment in the water space: water manufacturers.  

While the start-up community is innovating solutions for water management, overall the water tariffs should be regulated. There has to be different and regulated payment slabs depending on the usage such as agriculture, industry and individual households. And this can happen at a state level. We also require state initiatives for resolving water related issues.  

The Union Territory of Puducherry has set the template by initiating an action plan to conserve water. As part of the agenda, it’s intended to implement the rainwater scheme on a war footing. Earlier in the year, a campaign titled Water Rich Puducherry Mission was released to sensitise farmers on water harvesting techniques, its storage, regulated usage and conservation. There have been talks of a WhatsApp group being formed for farmers to connect with other farmers for irrigation-related measures.

Depletion of water resources is a matter of concern. Hence, we need water harvesting structures. Let’s hope state governments and union territories come forward with tech-based innovative solutions for water management. 

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