Many of our problems arise because we do not value water highly enough; all too often water is not valued at all – Gilbert F Houngbo, chair, UN-Water and president, International Fund for Agricultural Development.
Scientists have been emphasizing on maintaining hygiene, social distance and washing hands as part of the solution against the deadly novel corona virus-19, the unseen enemy that has created havoc across the globe. Young and old, people are fighting the tiny enemy with the best possible efforts of social distancing, self-imposed lockdown and the lucky ones getting vaccinated.
Unfortunately, availability of fresh water has been a challenge for our country and with emphasis on regular hand wash (as per corona guidelines), the problem has amplified further. Estimates say 50% of India’s population is not having clean drinking water and to augment further, we have been talking less about it as the bigger manifestation of COVID wave is gripping India.
Image Courtesy – Climate Reality India
The Central Water Commission has been projecting our water requirement to be 3000 billion cubic meters and availability as 4000 billion cubic meters; thus, it is just the proper management of every drop that we receive needs to be channelized. MGNREGA work has been emphasizing on such water conservation efforts especially in rural areas complementing the Jal Shakti Abhiyan (launched in 2019) — a comprehensive programme covering rainwater harvesting, river rejuvenation along with safe drinking water supply and sanitation. The semi-skilled workforce returning home, amidst the lockdown from cities were provided jobs to dig up ponds, rejuvenate canals and associated irrigation mechanism in their villages to support the farms, a win-win situation for everyone in these difficult times. There have been success stories from every nook at corner of the country where these semi-skilled labors have adopted farming full time, embracing village life, finding a purpose an creating a value chain to reach city kitchens that crave organic supplies but owing to our vast population and geography of ours, such success stories are still a drop in the ocean.
Studies reveal that we are among the most inefficient water practitioners on the agriculture front. Good part is, the traditional farming practices are being challenged, like the dry rice variant being experimented in Punjab, Haryana and parts of paddy cultivating southern states. The end results are yet to ascertained vis a vis traditional practices but at least efforts are on in the right direction. Government needs to share results more openly so as to augment efforts by NGOs and think thanks that have been emphasizing on such practices for long.
The drip irrigation scheme augmented with solar pumps have changed the face of horticulture in a vast geography of India since early 2000. Not only have the farmers moved from water intensive rice and wheat crops but moved up in value chain by plantation of fruits and vegetables. There has been a more than satisfactory water saving from underground resources for agriculture which otherwise was the norm thus saving precious ground water from completely vanishing off. Solar has further augmented the household with savings on electricity and diesel cost which was adding up to the overall input side. Now, smart farmers are using foldable modules to use at home, farm and even lend to other farmers in need. The efforts need more visibility and adoption that too at a much faster pace and deployment.
Sewage system in India needs a complete overhaul and rural parts simply put, do not have it. The three-pond system or plant based Phyto-remediation solutions can play a crucial role to supply the grey water for agriculture usage upon secondary or tertiary treatment. This can be a big boon as the farmers would have more water available for agricultural purposes. It further enhances the hygiene quotient too as we see such grey water flowing in village streets otherwise
Image Courtesy – Climate Reality India
The new Water Policy speaks profoundly of public private partnership. The efforts have seen results in NGOs coming forward for awareness and on-ground action but again the effort needs more wider replication. A positive example on these lines is ‘Gurujal’, a society formed under Gurugram administration supported by manufacturers based out of the region as part of their CSR programs. The society is rejuvenating ponds across the rural landscape with a mix of technologies thus putting forth the case for better water management at the village level. Stakeholders need to come forward and play their part with more vigor and energy across the length and breadth of India with CSR playing a major role in this endeavor.
The villages need equal attention in our quest for better water management, as we have more water usage there considering agriculture as the primary usage segment. Let’s do our bit for our near and dear ones, still living in these areas with proper guidance, knowledge sharing and later implementation support. Keep watching this space as we bring more and more solutions from the field that can be replicated. Mission Pani along with Climate Reality India and other partners are committed for the cause for water conservation.
A write up by – Climate Reality India