Nature Conservation Day 2019: Mission Pani could be key to preventing a nationwide water crisis

The water crisis in Chennai, and droughts witnessed in Maharashtra and several other states this year, are likely to heighten if India fails take efforts to conserve water and replenish the low groundwater level as soon as possible. In fact, by 2030, India will need 1,498 BCM, more than twice the 744 BCM water supply it is estimated to have around that time, creating a severe water crisis in the country.

It was in order to drive people's attention to this issue (and the crisis that India faces ahead) that Prime Minister Narendra Modi devoted a good amount of time in his first Mann Ki Baat after his return to power on conservation of water. The prime minister also said that a 'one-size-fits-all' approach is not required in conservation of water.

CNN-News18 aired a special programme, "Mission Pani", to create awareness about water conservation, and the need for a mass movement  The programme focussed heavily on the need to conserve water, especially rainwater, which accounts for 96 percent of India's total water needs.

 Nature Conservation Day 2019: Mission Pani could be key to preventing a nationwide water crisis

People rush to fill their vessels from a water tanker in the midst of an acute water shortage, in Chennai. PTI

The main focus of Mission Pani is to promote three key steps to prevent a water crisis from emerging in the future. These three steps including taking a resolve to save every drop of water, reviving traditional methods of water conservation, and spreading awareness using #Janshakti4JalShakti.

Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Shekhawat, spoke to CNN-News18 about water conservation in the programme and said that while India accounts for 18 percent of the world's population, it has only 4 percent of the world's water.

"There's a need to preserve every drop of rainwater. There are many countries, for example, Israel, who have secured themselves on water despite having less water. But India can't replenish even one-fourth of the water it gets via rain," he said.

"There's a need to conserve water. Groundwater level is being used at a fast rate, and the amount of water that should reach the ground is not reaching it. All stakeholders need to work together. Agriculture uses the largest amount of water, but our productivity is very less. Our need is five times what is used by China," he said.

Shekhawat said that the Modi government is determined to promote water conservation at a national scale, and that it launched the Jal Shakti Abhiyan to achieve that goal.

The 'Jal Shakti Abhiyan', a water conservation campaign focussing on 1,592 stressed blocks in 256 districts, will be centred around on five aspects — water conservation and rainwater harvesting, renovation of traditional and other water bodies, reuse of water and recharging of structures, watershed development, and intensive afforestation.

The campaign will run through citizen participation during the monsoon (July to 15 September). An additional phase II will run from 1 October to 30 November for states receiving the northeast retreating monsoons.

"Water conservation efforts will take place at district levels. More than the government, the people need to take responsibility to conserve water," said Shekhawat.

NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant aired a similar view, stressing on the need for a community movement to resolve India's water crisis. "Water is India's biggest challenge, but it cannot be resolved without community support," he said, adding, "Our economic growth, sustainability and growth is dependent on water. The key challenge is to get every single village to work for water conservation. When the community takes control of water conservation, it can be very successful."

Acute water shortage are growing common in some of India's biggest cities. PTI

Acute water shortage are growing common in some of India's biggest cities. PTI

Kant also stressed on the need to bring new technology, record base level of water and monitor it regularly while stressing on the need to revive traditional sources of water like wells and ponds.

"Currently, 85 percent of India's water is used for agriculture. Paddy is consuming a lot of water. Until we shift to millets and pulses, India's water woes will remain," he said.

Speaking to CNN-News18, Ajay Piramal, chairman of Piramal Group, said, "India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history. We are seeing it in Chennai. Two-thirds of India doesn't have terraneous water bodies like rivers. We are mostly reliant on ground water. Therefore, it is important to take efforts to help replenish the groundwater."

He said that a national water mission like Jal Shakti Abhiyan combined with the latest technology could play an extremely important role in achieving this goal.

Kant said that the Centre's aspirational district programme presents several opportunities for corporate groups to join the movement and play a key role in water conservation awareness. "Taking the message of water conservation to the masses is important to ensure success of a national water mission, and that's where media groups and corporates can play a big role.

Actor Anupam Kher also urged people to join the Jal Shakti Mission. "It's time that every person becomes a water warrior. All of us can make India a water surplus country just like we have done with milk,' he said.

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Biocon chairperson Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said that India needs a dedicated water ministry to manage its water resources. She added, "Rainwater harvesting needs to be implemented very efficiently. Rainwater needs to be conserved in an optimal way. Reviving the polluted and dying lakes (for example in Bengaluru) is another crucial area we need to focus on. It's the duty of every state govt and urban centre. Every big corporate should try to recycle its water."

Noted environmental activist Vandana Shiva stressed on how deforestation and poor governmental policies like promotion of sugarcane farming in Maharashtra have depleted the level of groundwater. Stressing on the need for forestation, which serves as natural catchment area, Shiva stressed that people can also help conserve water by cultivating millets and traditional varieties of rice. "If every citizen eats millets and traditional varieties of rice at least once a weak, that step itself will help save water," she said.

Spiritual guru and environmental activist Jaggi Vasudev stressed on the need for afforestation and taking measures to conserve rainwater. "Our major source of water (96 percent) is monsoon water, which arrives within a 40-50 days span. The only way to resolve India's water crisis is to store this water, ensure that it reaches to the groundwater through soil. Currently, most of the water runs away."

Referring to the water crisis in Chennai, Vasudev said, "If you don't have enough vegetation, you have situations when there is drought and flooding in the same year. When you have enough trees, water will trickle down to the groundwater. If you don't, it will run away."

Updated Date: Jul 28, 2019 09:39:00 IST