India’s First Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Shekhawat Says Water Scarcity a ‘Media Creation’
Last month, the Centre had issued a 'drought advisory' to Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu, asking them to use water judiciously.
People collect drinking water from a tanker in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, on Tuesday. (PTI)
New Delhi: With a majority of western areas in the country reeling under drought-like conditions, newly appointed Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Shekhawat on Tuesday said India has enough water in dams and the scarcity is a false hype created by the media.
“Up north, in Himachal and other areas, there is enough water in the dams. The entire panic of a water crisis is only a hype created by people in the media,” he said while answering a question at a press conference.
Last month, the Centre had issued a "drought advisory" to Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu, asking them to use water judiciously. The advisory was issued by the Central Water Commission (CWC) on May 18.
A drought advisory is issued when the water level in reservoirs is 20% less than the average of live water storage figures of the past 10 years. Water falls under the state list and the advisory recommends that states use it only for drinking purpose until the dams are replenished. The CWC monitors water storage available in 91 major reservoirs across the country.
According to figures released last month, the total water storage available was 35.99 billion cubic metres (BCM), which is 22% of the total storage capacity of these reservoirs. The total storage capacity of these 91 reservoirs is 161.993 BCM.
The situation in Marathwada, where the water level in 45 major dams has hit an alarmingly low level, is particularly critical.
Additionally, private weather forecasting agency Skymet said rainfall in Vidarbha, Marathwada, western Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat will be "poorer than normal".
Among other developments, the Centre on Thursday reiterated its target of providing clean drinking water to all by 2024.
“Currently there is 18% tap water availability in India, we plan to take it to 100% by 2024,” said Shekhawat, adding that the Centre is formulating a plan to provide clean drinking water to nearly 14 crore households.
Explaining the roll-out plan, P Iyer, Secretary for Drinking Water and Sanitation in the ministry, said, “The core of the scheme will be flexibility. The usage of ground and surface water according to state-specific needs and availability will be key. There will also be a third-party evaluation according to which there will be funds provided to each state.”
In his poll campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to integrate all ministries looking after water-related issues.
The BJP had also promised to provide clean drinking water to all households in the country. He said that in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, the coverage of clean drinking water is less than 5%.
Shekhawat held discussions with officials and ministers from several states looking after water-related issues. He said that an emphasis will also be made on water conservation, citing the widening gap between water supply and its demand.
West Bengal, however, had no representative in the meeting.
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