In India, water problems are 'man made': Comments on the draft water policy-2012

“Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations.” Principle 1, The Stockholm Declaration

Author : Nagesh Hegde

Water is a natural resource, fundamental to life, livelihood, food security and sustainable development.  It is also a scarce resource. In India, water problems are man made and has become very complex. I hope with this national water policy, such problems will come to rest.

People's health condition in any region, can be directly related to the quality of water. Hence it is very important to state the availability of “safe drinking water to all”. This must be included in the national water policy.

1. Current scenario
Current scenario, a few paragraph on the current status of drinking water quality in Indian should be provided.  The gap analysis of Indian drinking water quality vis-a-viz the international water quality to be brought in. At present there is big gap in Indian standards for drinking water and international standards.

2. Public policies on water resources and its management
Policies on water resources and its management, should be self driven with clear objectives and targets that are achievable. Also this must bridge the gap in public awareness and the current status. Draft policy, by and large covers all these except for the safe drinking water.

Improved water management services
3. Water frame work law
There must be a definite goal for reducing the withdrawal of fresh water from water sources, by means of water recycling and re-use. Though the government is encouraging water recycling and re-use, it is not implemented effectively. At present, even for gardening, vehicle washing, fire protection etc, fresh/potable water is used.

70% of the water drawn from the source is used and let into sewer lines as waste water. If the same is properly treated and recycled then there will be little reduction in drawing the fresh water. This can be implemented as micro - program, targeting communities, apartments, and commercial establishments, which will definitely give the great results.

4. Uses of water
Minimum quantity of water for every one is a must along with that, safe drinking water availability is much more important.

5. Enhancing the water available for use
The available land and water bodies are limited. Policy should focus on how to maximize the usage of water by recycling. In the countries in the middle east, available fresh water per capita was 170lpd. By adopting water recycling and re-use, there was reduction is tapping the fresh water from the natural sources from 170lpd to 110lpd.

The target of Abu Dhabi was to bring it down to 75lpd per person by end of 2020. The total requirement of water per person still remains the same as 170lpd. Our policy should emphasis such requirement.

6. Demand management and water use efficiency
India is one among those countries who have very poorly managed the water. In India, most of the water problems are man made. In developed countries, water leakage (which is not available for billing) is <3%. However in India, water leakage/ pilferage is as high as 45%. This is huge loss to the government and a huge threat for the sustainable development of the country.

Policy must emphasis the need for the efficient water transport and usage. Secondly, incentive scheme shall be provided for improving the water transport system.
Also, a separate body shall be established to forecast the water demand  by different users and lay the program for  providing the required type of water for the different users, there by increase the efficiency of water usage.

Special incentives for recycle and re-use of waste water must be provided.

7. Project planning and implementation
Water crisis is constantly increasing in India. Time is of the essence. Correct identification of the project and planning of the implementation is essential. There must be clear identification of micro projects, macro projects and mega projects. Since the mega projects gestation period is too long, it is the need of the time is to put more thrust on micro and medium scale projects. Hand book for planning, implementation and monitoring procedures must be put in place for reducing the over run of cost and time.

8. Preparedness for flood and drought
Encouragement of the alternative technologies should be provided. Government should make an outline (for the fixed budget) for such technical development to tackle floods & drought. Small players should be encouraged by providing soft loans or help in 'kind' for development of such plants/equipment.

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