Water resources minister Saifuddin Soz's letter to chief ministers to draw their attention towards water issues

Appropriate water resources information system should be put in place at the earliest for better monitoring, Prof. Saifuddin Soz, 17:42 IST

soz.jpgProf. Saifuddin Soz, the Union Minister of Water Resources has written to Chief Ministers drawing their attention to some of the important issues related to water resources, viz. challenges in water sector in the form of declining per capita availability of water, deterioration in quality, over-exploitation of ground water resources leading to lowering of water table in some areas, cost and time overruns in completion of irrigation and multipurpose projects and poor maintenance of the existing system. Further, natural disasters related to water i.e. floods and drought are also required to be addressed in proper perspective.

In his letter Prof. Soz brought into their notice several reports appearing recently in the media about the impact of climate change on water resources. It remains a fact that climate change and its effects are important issues and necessary studies are required to be taken up on priority with a view to have realistic projections of the impact of climate change and plan appropriate strategies.

The Minister informed them that the average annual rainfall in the country is about 1170 mm with an equivalent volume of rainwater of about 4000 billion cubic meter (BCM). After accounting for the losses for evaporation and evapotranspiration, the average annual water availability has been estimated to be about 1869 BCM. However, there is a very high degree of variability both in space and time. Owing to topographical constraints and hydrological features, only about 1123 BCM has been assessed as utilizable which comprises 690 BCM of surface water and about 423 BCM of replenishible ground water.

Prof. Soz expressed his concern that due to population growth, industrialization, urbanization and improvement in the living standards, the water requirement for various purposes is increasing year after year. As per the assessment made by the Standing Sub-Committee of the Ministry of Water Resources, the water requirement could be of the order of 1447 BCM by the year 2050 when the population is expected to stabilize. The requirement can be reduced with adoption of better management practices through improvement in efficiency. The National Commission for Integrated Water Resources Development has assessed that with introduction of better management practice the ultimate water requirement would be of the order of 1180 BCM by the year 2050.

The Minister suggested the Chief Ministers to take some immediate necessary actions in respect of Improving the efficiency of created facilities for water utilization for various purposes by adopting better management practices; Planning and implementation of various projects / schemes for conservation of water resources to meet the future requirements; and Augmenting the utilizable water.

The Minister emphasized that it is necessary to optimally utilize the created facilities in an efficient manner with due emphasis on the sustainability , both physical and financial. We have to (i) take necessary legislative measures, (ii) put in place an appropriate regulatory mechanism, and (iii) encourage participatory management.

The Minister appreciated that many States have already taken appropriate action in respect of legislation for ground water management and immediate action is required to be taken by all the States. Further, successful implementation of the measures that would be taken in this behalf should be ensured. He felt that appropriate Water Resources Information System should be put in place at the earliest as this will help considerably in better monitoring.

The Minister cautioned the Chief Ministers that the availability of water is highly variable. Therefore, we have to conserve water through a judicious mix of major, medium and minor projects with due emphasis on traditional system of water harvesting. He emphasized that comprehensive and integrated approach to planning is the need of the hour.

The Minister said that the National Advisory Council on Recharge to Groundwater, established by Government of India last year, has taken several measures in connection with the management of groundwater. Some of the success stories will be explained to the nation during the Groundwater Congress that will be held in New Delhi on September 11, 2007. We have, however, to be conscious that we are not utilizing our surface water optimally and it is a great disadvantage to us. We have to create facilities for storing water by completing all the on-going projects in a time bound manner and planning for new schemes. Storage sites provided by nature need to be utilized fully and optimally. The Minister brought into their notice that the per capita storage capacity created in India as a whole is of the order of 207 cubic metres only which is relatively quite low compared to many countries viz. Russia (6103 cubic metres), Australia (4733 cubic metres), Brazil (3145 cubic metres), Turkey (1739 cubic metres), China (1111 cubic metres) and South Africa (753 cubic metres). A properly planned storage for water will definitely help in mitigating the effects of flood and drought as well. We have also to approach rainwater harvesting in a mission mode. It is desirable that, to begin with, rainwater harvesting should be made compulsory in all public buildings. This will provide water for drinking purpose as also recharge the groundwater. Universities, Colleges and Schools could be the first targets for a vigorous campaign for rainwater harvesting.

Prof. Soz urged the Chief Ministers to consider these issues and take appropriate measures and said that we have to take urgent action in this regard and prepare action plan with well defined priorities for meeting the future challenges in water sector.

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