Interview

Jharkhand Gears up for Water Conservation & its Efficient Use

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Arun Kumar Singh

Sharing Jharkhand’s vision for water management and conservation, current challenges and future plans, Arun Kumar Singh, Additional Chief Secretary, Water Resources Department, Government of Jharkhand, puts emphasis on the need for the state to take urgent steps to address water crisis before the situation worsens, in an exclusive conversation with Reetika Bose of Elets News Network (ENN).

What is the vision of your department and how far have you come in fulfilling it?

Jharkhand’s Water Resource Department looks after the state’s major water resources like the rivers and lakes. It also ensures water for irrigation purposes through building dams and canals and also providing reservoirs for supplying water to industries for their use. We have our drinking water and sanitation department which takes water from these reservoirs to be supplied for drinking purposes. The urban local bodies too draw water from the reservoirs to provide water for consumption in urban areas.

So we basically ensure that water from rivers and lakes be stored and provided for three purposes- irrigation, industrial and drinking. For this, the department constructs dams and canals. We are also planning to lay pipelines to procure water from rivers and store it in reservoirs in certain areas which don’t have sufficient rainfall.

What are the challenges faced by your department and what are plans to overcome them?

The main challenge is that of land acquisition. The water has to pass from the land, as it is a linear structure. We cannot avoid such situations as whatever land comes in the way has to be acquired. There is an issue of forest land also. Getting forest clearance is also a very complicated process which involves lots of conditions to be fulfilled. So the big schemes of this department are not completed within time. Right now our mission is to take proactive steps so that we speed up the execution of these schemes to avoid the increase in cost which turns out to be a huge burden.

“We intend to ensure water harvesting in the urban areas which witnesses most of the water shortages. We are working on constructing water harvesting structures, promoting water harvesting, check dams so as to prevent the surface water from ultimately going to the sea. Retaining the field water and the river water is also one of our primary goals.”

Monitoring of these schemes is also a matter of concern. We are coming up with an IT enabled system called the PPMS (Project Progress Monitoring System) which would have 23 modules right from monitoring the administrative to technical issues. It will also see that the officers go to the field, inspect and take the feedback, ensuring that the quality and speed of execution is as per the annual work plan. We have promoted around 400 officers and we have sent requisition for more officers, both in technical and non-technical categories.

What are the initiatives taken for sustainable development of the state?

We are working on the issue of management of water resources and water harvesting, which is now under the Jal Shakti Abhiyaan, contemplated by the Honorable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. The state government is actively participating in Jal Shakti Abhiyaan. We intend to ensure water harvesting in the urban areas which witnesses most of the water shortages. We are working on constructing water harvesting structures, promoting water harvesting, check dams so as to prevent the surface water from ultimately going to the sea. Retaining the field water and the river water is also amongst of our main goals.

In crucial times such as floods, what are the measures taken in your state to tackle the situation?

Jharkhand doesn’t experience much floods because we don’t have such big rivers in our state. It is only flash flood which may come and for that we ensure that sufficient care is taken for the population residing near the banks of the river. We ensure that both the people and their properties are not harmed. We are not badly affected by floods so it is not a cause of concern in Jharkhand.

How does your department allocate water in terms of demand in the state?

In terms of allocating water, there are certain formulae followed for various purposes like drinking water, issue of inter-state water distribution, and others. So keeping in mind the limitations imposed by the Central Water Commission, regarding the availability of water for a particular state, we sub-allocate it for different purposes. For industries we enter into MoU for supplying water as per desired quantities.

What are the challenges from water conservation perspective?

The biggest challenge is the awareness of the people, especially the urban population. They have to be made more aware so that they don’t waste water. There is also an issue of tackling the grey water. We don’t have any mechanism through which the grey water can be treated. The industrial water also needs to be treated. There is also an issue of setting an affluent treatment of plants by the industries, besides problems related to rain water harvesting and water conservation. Then there is an issue of pollution of water, rivers, by industries, coal washeries, and by the people, who are living on the banks of the river. These are the causes of concern which needs to be addressed as they result in a huge crunch on the water resources of the nation.

Is Jharkhand about to face shortage of water or are there any signs of it?

Signs have started showing in. The ground over water level is going down as people are exploiting it. There is an urgent need for recharging of the ground water harvesting and reducing the consumption and wastage. It needs to be tackled immediately. We need to have a better plan and re-examine the agricultural practices because certain areas, which are water starved, are still focusing in the crops which are water intensive. New cropping patterns need to be developed which don’t require much rainfall by using sprinkler and drib technology. Micro irrigation process will be of big help to the farmers and prevent water shortage. If we resort to these techniques, perhaps we will be in a better position.

“We are working on the issue of management of water resources and water harvesting which is now under the Jal Shakti Abhiyaan, contemplated by the Honorable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. We intend to ensure water harvesting in the urban areas which witnesses most of the water shortages.”

Tell us about your future projects.

We are looking for methods, which would enhance the ground water reservoirs and water harvesting. We are also looking for ways to complete the schemes in time which have been lying negligently for the past 40-50 years and take up construction of checked dams. People’s participation and managing the assets is the approach which we need to adopt.

Any message for the people of Jharkhand on maximum utilization and save water.

Regarding the water shortage, the people of Jharkhand should rise and wake up and get enlightened about the water crisis before it is too late. They should indulge in extensive water harvesting and its efficient use.

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