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Special Content

Issue no 48, 25 February-3 March 2023

Water Vision @2047 An Important Dimension of India's 'Amrit Kaal'


Water is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic progress, energy and food production, healthy ecosystems, and for human survival itself. Water is also at the heart of adaptation to climate change, serving as the crucial link between society and the environment. In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) recognised the right of every human being to have access to safe and enough water for personal and domestic uses. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 is also about ensuring "availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all". In India, water has always held a special significance in our culture and society. The Rig Veda describes water as the sustainer of the universe: Oman-mapo manushi: amritkam dhaat tokay tanayaayashyamyo: | Yooyam Hisatha Bhishjo Matritama Vishwasya Sthatu: Jagato-Janitri:

(O water, you are the best friend of humanity. You are the giver of life, food is produced from you, and from you is the well-being of our children. You are the protector of us and keep us away from all evils. You are the best medicine, and you are the sustainer of this universe.) In our ancient scriptures, water is seen as a primordial spiritual symbol. The Chhandogya Upanishad describes water as 'nectar' and the Atharva Veda talks about water as a substance that guarantees our welfare, cures all our diseases, and increases our happiness. Water is also one of the five constituent elements of Panchmahabhuta - the basis of all cosmic creations. Taking inspiration from this strong traditional knowledge base, the first All India Annual States' Ministers Conference on Water was organised by the Jal Shakti Ministry in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh earlier in January 2023. The theme of the national conference was 'Water Vision@2047.' As stated by the Prime Minister, Water Vision@2047 is an important dimension of the journey of our nation during the 'Amrit Kaal', for the next 25 years.

The Conference: The primary objective of the All India Annual States' Ministers Conference on Water was to seek and strengthen the partnership with the States and stakeholder ministries and to achieve a shared vision in order to manage water as a precious resource in an integrated manner with holistic and interdisciplinary approach to water related issues. The conference brought key policymakers together for discussions on ways to harness water resources for sustainable and human development, and to work together towards the bigger vision of making India a developed nation by 2047. The national conference addressed the various aspects of water security, water deficit with special attention to hilly regions; water use efficiency, including the reuse of waste water/grey water; water quality (of drinking water, surface water, and groundwater); water governance, aimed at breaking the silos in the water sector by bringing various States together facilitated by the Centre; and the present scenario of climate change in the country and the measures that need to be taken to reduce the effects of climate change. 'Jal Itihas', a sub-portal of the WRIS (Water Resources Information System) portal, was launched at the conference, along with 'National Framework on Reuse of Treated Wastewater', 'National Framework for Sedimentation Management', 'Best practices under Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain'.

The objective of the conference was to also gather inputs for '5P' vision from the different water stakeholders of the States, water being a State subject. While addressing the challenges of water security as part of the India@2047 plan, the Prime Minister has proclaimed the '5P' mantra which includes Political will, Public financing, Partnerships, Public Participation and Persuasion for sustainability.

India Showing the Way in Water Conservation: The Government of India has taken various initiatives towards water conservation in the country. In 2019, the Ministry of Jal Shakti was created after the merger of erstwhile Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation. This was done to address the water related issues on priority. Soon after, the Jal Shakti Abhiyan was launched, where groundwater experts and scientists worked with State and district officials in water-stressed districts of the country to promote water conservation and water resource management. The focus was on accelerating the implementation of five target interventions - water conservation and rainwater harvesting, renovation of traditional and other water bodies/tanks, reuse and recharge of bore wells, watershed development and intensive afforestation. Consequently, the Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain, was launched for generating awareness regarding rainwater harvesting in both rural and urban areas during the premonsoon and monsoon periods. The focused interventions for the campaign include creation/ maintenance of water conservation and rainwater harvesting structures; renovation of traditional and other water bodies/ tanks; reuse and recharge of bore wells; watershed development; and intensive afforestation. Another important aspect of the Catch the Rain campaign is the preparation of district-wise geo-tagged inventory of all water bodies, its ground truthing and preparation of scientific water conservation plans based on it. Under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, work is being done at a rapid pace across the country to extend the coverage of irrigation and to improve water use efficiency (with components such as Har Khet ko Pani and Per Drop More Crop) in a focused manner with end-to-end solution on source creation, distribution, management, field application and extension activities. Under the Per Drop More Crop scheme, over 70 lakh hectares of land in the country have been brought under micro-irrigation so far. The focus on circular economy is also playing a crucial role in water conservation. Recycling/ treatment of water is leading to conservation of freshwater which in turn is benefitting the entire ecosystem. States plan to increase the use of 'treated water' in various works as per local needs

Jan Bhagidari for Water Conservation: In focus, at the conference, was the power of Janbhagidari, or community participation at grassroots level, to make water conservation and awareness an essential part of citizen's lives. The Prime Minister, while inaugurating the All India Annual States' Ministers Conference on Water, stated that for the success of any programmes or campaigns related to water conservation, it is necessary to involve the public, social organisations and civil society as much as possible. As the country moves towards 'Amrit Kaal', one of the goals set by the Government is to make India a water abundant country by reviving the old treasures that our ancestors have left for us in the form of lakes and ponds. On the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day (April 24, 2022), the Prime Minister launched 'Mission Amrit Sarovar'. The vision is to identify and rejuvenate 75 water bodies in each district of the country as a part of celebration of 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav'. Each of these Amrit Sarovars is to have an approximate area of one acre with a water holding capacity of 10,000 cubic metres. Today, India has over 20,000 Amrit Sarovars. Mission Amrit Sarovar encourages mobilisation of citizens and non-government resources to achieve the set targets. The mission has transformed into a mass movement. Local freedom fighters and their families, martyrs' family members, Padma Awardees, and the citizens are being engaged at all the stages of the construction of these new Amrit Sarovars. People from various parts of the country are channelising themselves to contribute in making Amrit Sarovars in their locales. This is a unique campaign of its kind in the whole world in the direction of water conservation. For improving groundwater conservation and management through community participation, Atal Bhujal Yojana (ATAL JAL) has been initiated. The scheme is a mix of 'top down' and 'bottom up' approaches in identified groundwater stressed blocks in seven states, representing a range of geomorphic, climatic and hydro-geologic and cultural settings. ATAL JAL has been designed with the principle objective of strengthening the institutional framework for participatory groundwater management and bringing about behavioural changes at the community level for sustainable groundwater resource management. The scheme envisages undertaking this through various interventions, including awareness programmes, capacity building, convergence of ongoing/new schemes and improved agricultural practices, etc. In addition to these, the Prime Minister, during the conference, suggested organising 'Water Awareness Festivals', so that various events related to water awareness can be held at the local level. Underlining the need for the younger generation to be aware of the subject, the Prime Minister suggested finding innovative ways to include water conservation in school curriculum and extracurricular activities.

Compiled by: Anuja Bhardwajan & Annesha Banerjee Source: PIB/UN/India-WRIS