Interview

Effective Water Management, Need of the Hour : Rattan Lal Kataria

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rattan lal kataria minister

India, a country with abundant rainfall has been facing the menace of water shortage for decades. As a matter of fact, India is not a water-scarce nation but the problem lies with ineffective water management. To curb the water woes, the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India, launched various schemes and programmes like Jal Jeevan Mission that aims to achieve its goal of ‘Har Ghar Jal’. Shedding light on this, Rattan Lal Kataria, Minister of State, Ministry of Jal Shakti, interacted with Nisha Samant Purbey and Adarsh Som of Elets News Network (ENN).

Today, India is facing a significant water shortage and as per NITI Aayog, over 40 per cent of the Indian population lacks access to safe drinking water. In your opinion, why is the situation grave? Where do we lack?

Water availability per person is dependent on the population of the country and for India, per capita, water availability in the country is reducing due to increasing population. The average annual per capita water availability in the years 2001 and 2011 was assessed as 1816 cubic meters and 1545 cubic meters respectively which may further reduce to 1486 cubic meters and 1367 cubic meters in the years 2021 and 2031 respectively.

However, based on the report of NSS 76th Round, about 87.6 per cent of the households in the rural areas, about 90.9 per cent of the households in the urban areas and about 88.7 per cent of the households in total had sufficient drinking water throughout the year from the principal source. Further, about 94.5 per cent of the households in the rural areas, about 97.4 per cent of the households in the urban areas and about 95.5 per cent of the households in total uses ‘improved source of drinking water’.

Jal Jeevan Mission urban launched during the release of the Budget 2021 aims to provide

drinking water to 2.86 crore households. Please shed some light on this ambitions mission.

As announced by the Finance Minister in the Budget speech, Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) has been designed to provide universal coverage of water supply to all households through functional taps in all 4378 statutory towns in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal-6. The total outlay proposed for JJM (U) is Rs 2,87,000 crore, which includes Rs 10,000 crore for continuing financial support to AMRUT Mission.

Providing coverage of sewerage/ septage management in 500 AMRUT cities is the other focus areas. Some salient features are as follows:

  • In order to promote public-private partnership, it has been mandated for cities having over a million population to take up PPP projects worth a minimum of 10 per cent of their total project fund allocation.
  • For Union Territories, there will be 100 per cent central funding. For the north-eastern and hill states, central funding for projects will be 90 per cent. Central funding will be 50 per cent for cities will less than 1 lakh population, one third for cities with 1 lakh to 10 lakh population and 25 per cent for cities with over a million population.
  • The mission will be monitored through a technology-based platform on which beneficiary response will be monitored along with progress and outcome.
  • Funding from the government for projects will be in three tranches of 20:40:40. The third instalment onwards will be released based on the outcomes achieved and credible exclusion will be exercised while funding.
  • JJM (U) will promote the circular economy of water through the development of a city water balance plan for each city focusing on recycling/reuse of treated sewage, rejuvenation of water bodies and water conservation. 20 per cent of water demand to be met by reused water with the development of an institutional mechanism.

Enlighten us on the National Water Mission and its significance?

The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) launched by the Government of India identified the approach to be adopted to meet the challenges of impact of climate change through the institutionalisation of eight national missions which inter-alia includes a ‘National Water Mission’. Accordingly, the Government of India established the National Water Mission as one of the eight national missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change. The core objective of NWM is ‘conservation of water, minimizing wastage and ensuring its more equitable distribution both across and within the states through integrated water resources development and management’.

NWM has identified five goals as under:

  • Comprehensive water database in the public domain and assessment of the impact of climate change on water resources.
  • Promotion of citizen and state actions for water conservation, augmentation and preservation.
  • Focused attention to vulnerable areas including over-exploited areas. l Increasing water use efficiency by 20 per cent.
  • Promotion of basin level integrated water resources management.

NWM mandate is considerably broad in scope as it attempts to streamline the focus of key stakeholders to adopt an integrated approach to conserving and efficiently managing water resources. The National Water Mission converges all the dimensions of water to make the water available for future generation through sustainable development of water resources.

The specific orientation towards addressing climate concerns in this regard is rooted within its relatively larger agenda, which includes monitoring the key activities of the Ministry of Jal Shakti. The cross-cutting and multi-disciplinary nature of ongoing programmes in the water sector under the National Water Mission’s Goals play a significant role in the implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management strategies in all the sectors especially domestic, agricultural and industrial. In other words, the National Water Mission is directly or in-directly looking into the following key focus areas:

  • Institutional framework and policy advocacy for water conservation
  • Water auditing. l Surface and groundwater management
  • Industrial water management
  • Efficient usage of water for different purposes
  • Mitigation of climate change impact on water resources

The Mission Directorate plays an active role in bringing together various stakeholders to discuss, share and brainstorm ideas to be taken up on a pilot basis for efficient water utilisation and its management.

How is Atal Bhujal Mission contributing to rejuvenate groundwater resources and ensure better management of groundwater?

Atal Bhujal Yojana (ATAL JAL) is a World Bank aided Central Sector Scheme of the Government of India with an outlay of Rs 6000 crore, out of which Rs 3000 crore will be in the form of a loan from World Bank, with a focus on community participation and demand- side interventions for sustainable groundwater management in identified water-stressed areas.

The scheme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 25, 2019, and is being implemented from April 1, 2020, for a period of five years. The scheme is being taken up in 9000 water-stressed Gram Panchayats of 222 administrative blocks/talukas in 80 districts of seven states, namely Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Atal Bhujal Yojana has two components:

  • Institutional Strengthening & Capacity Building component (Rs 1400 crore) for strengthening institutional arrangements by providing a strong database, scientific approach and community participation in the States to enable them to sustainably manage their groundwater resources.
  • Incentive Component (Rs 4600 crore) for incentivizing the states for convergence among various schemes of the Central and state governments and achievements of pre-defined results as a measure of improved groundwater management and consequent improvement in groundwater scenario.

The guiding principles of Atal Bhujal Yojana are participatory groundwater management, emphasis on demand- side management and convergence of ongoing Central/state schemes. Atal Jal is targeted at sustainable groundwater management, mainly through convergence among various ongoing schemes with the active involvement of local communities and stakeholders. This will ensure that in identified areas, funds allocated by the Central and state governments are spent judiciously to ensure the long term sustainability of groundwater resources.

This scheme will encourage behavioural changes and community engagement in terms of groundwater management at the Gram Panchayat level. This participatory approach is crucial for addressing groundwater challenges in the long term. In fact, this is the first scheme of its kind which involves community-based planning; monitoring, sharing and use of groundwater data; capacity building of all stakeholders in terms of groundwater management; community- led groundwater management and other demand-side measures which are adequately supported by supply-side interventions, etc.

The scheme is expected to result in multiple benefits including improvements in the sustainability of groundwater resource in target areas, positive contributions to the sustainability component of Jal Jeevan Mission, and to the goal of doubling farmers’ income. Moreover, it will inculcate behavioural changes in the community to foster improved groundwater management.

Specifically designing policies for groundwater extraction for each state or region, can this be a solution to excessive groundwater depletion across the country?

Yes, the specially designed policies are logical solutions to contain the excessive groundwater depletion in the country by introducing pricing mechanism and suitable checks on excessive withdrawal of groundwater. At present, industry, mining and infrastructure sectors have to pay water extraction charges and get the water audit conducted for analysing their groundwater demands. Users are being allowed to extract groundwater subject to checks against over- extraction with provision for penalties owing to violation of compliance conditions and environmental compensation for illegal extraction of groundwater as per the new guidelines of Central Ground Water Authority. Provision of extraction charges will lead to a significant reduction in over- extraction of groundwater by the users.

Also Read: Jal Shakti Ministry to launch 2nd Jal Shakti Mission on World Water Day 2021: Rattan Lal Kataria

Due to lesser demands for groundwater extraction, the policy provides an exemption to the MSMEs and they have to pay nominal charges for extraction of groundwater less than 10 cum/day. The small quantity fixed will not affect the overall groundwater scenario in a particular area. Such incentives are also a part of economic liberalization and intended to promote and encourage MSMEs. The Central government has also been emphasising the need to encourage such businesses, especially in the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

In the agriculture sector, the policy is focused on the introduction of a participatory approach for sustainable groundwater management and States/ UTs are advised to review their free/ subsidized electricity policy to farmers, bring suitable water pricing policy and may work further towards crop rotation/diversification/other initiatives to reduce over-dependence on groundwater.

How is ‘Catch the Rain‘ campaign by the Ministry of Jal Shakti ensuring maximum rainwater gets captured and minimum water gets runoff?

“Catch the Rain” is a campaign with the tag line “Catch the rain, where it falls when it falls”. It is an initiative under the National Water Mission (NWM) to nudge the state and all stakeholders to create Rain Water Harvesting Structures (RWHS) suitable to the climatic conditions and sub-soil strata, with people’s participation, to ensure maximum storage of rainwater in the monsoon months which are the only source of water in many parts of the country.

The successful implementation of the campaign would help in:

  • Replenishing the groundwater, improve the water table and moisture in the soil.
  • Meeting the water demands till it rains again after an interval of eight months.
  • Reducing chances of flooding, particularly urban-flooding.

Besides this, the campaign also focuses on holding drives to make water harvesting pits, installation of RWHS, construction of check dams, removal of encroachments & de-silting of tanks to increase their storage capacity, removal of obstructions in the channels from the catchment areas, repairment of step-wells and using defunct bore- wells to drain the water back to aquifers, and more. Further, awareness drives & workshops are also being conducted under the ‘Catch the Rain’ campaign to sensitize people, school children & other stakeholders for their active participation in water conservation.

Under the campaign, the state governments and stakeholders were requested to take steps to build RWHS to trap rainwater from roof-top and open-grounds of all government, semi-government and corporate establishments. Chief Secretaries of all states were requested to direct the district authorities to enumerate all water bodies cross verifying with old revenue records and remove encroachments, if any, from them. All Collectors were requested to start “Rain-Centers” at the district level to give technical guidance on RWHS and the setup of toll-free numbers.

Also Read: IAS Ajitabh Sharma gets Water Steward of the Year Award

As of yet, over 150 webinars have been organized by the National Water Mission to involve the stakeholders. These also include the weekly “Catch The Rain: Dialogues with selected District Magistrates” since August 8, 2020, monthly “Water-Talks” and “Water-Tech Talks”, webinars with NGOs, FICCI, industry representatives; Vice-Chancellors of many Universities; Principals of many Colleges/schools & Resident Welfare Associations, etc.

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