Context: This topic is important for UPSE Prelims and GS Paper 2.
The average annual water availability of any region or country is largely dependent upon hydro-meteorological and geological factors.
However, 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 an increase in population.
Also due to high temporal and spatial variation of precipitation, the water availability in many regions of the country is much below the national average and this may result in water scarcity conditions.
Water being a State subject, steps for augmentation, conservation, and efficient management of water resources are primarily undertaken by the respective State Governments.
In order to supplement the efforts of the State Governments, Central Government provides technical and financial assistance to them through various schemes and programmes.
The government launched Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) on 25th June 2015 in select 500 cities and towns across the country. One of the key objectives of the Mission is to ensure that every household has access to a tap connection with an assured supply of water. The water supply component includes new, augmentation and rehabilitation of water supply system, rejuvenation of water bodies for drinking water supply, and special water supply arrangement for difficult areas, hills, and coastal cities, including those having water quality problems.
Some steps taken by the Central Government to promote conservation, to control groundwater depletion, and promote rainwater harvesting are:
The government of India launched Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) in 2019, a time-bound campaign with a mission mode approach intended to improve water availability including groundwater conditions in the water-stressed blocks of 256 districts in India.
Teams of officers along with technical officers from the Ministry of Jal Shakti were deputed to visit water-stressed districts and to work in close collaboration with district-level officials to undertake suitable interventions.
In addition, ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan – Catch the Rain’ campaign has been launched in2021.
National Water Policy (2012) has been formulated by Department of Water Resources, RD & GR, inter-alia advocates rainwater harvesting and conservation of water and highlights the need for augmenting the availability of water through direct use of rainfall. It also inter-alia, advocates conservation of river, river bodies and infrastructure should be undertaken in a scientifically planned manner through community participation.
Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) has been constituted under Section 3 (3) of the “Environment (Protection) Act, 1986” for the purpose of regulation and control of groundwater development and management in the Country. CGWA has advised States/UTs to take measures to promote and adopt artificial recharge to groundwater and rainwater harvesting.
CGWA grants No Objection Certificates (NOCs) for ground water abstraction to Industries, Infrastructure units, and Mining projects infeasible areas in certain States/UTs where regulation is not being done by the respective State/UTs
Master Plan for Artificial Recharge to Groundwater- 2020 has been prepared by CGWB in consultation with States/UTs which is a macro-level plan that envisages construction of about 1.42 crore Rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge structures in the Country to harness 185 Billion Cubic Metre (BCM) of monsoon rainfall.
CGWB has taken up Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme during XII Plan, under the scheme of Ground Water Management and Regulation, is aimed to delineate aquifer disposition and their characterization for preparation of area-specific groundwater management plans with community participation.
Best practices of water conservation by various entities including private persons, NGOs, PSUs, etc have been compiled and put on the website of the Ministry for the benefit of the general public.
Department of Water Resources, RD& GR has instituted National Water awards to incentivize good practices in water conservation and groundwater recharge.
The Ministry of Rural Development in consultation and agreement with the Department of Water Resources, RD & GR, and the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare has developed an actionable framework for Natural Resources Management (NRM), titled ‘Mission Water Conservation” to ensure gainful utilization of funds, under various schemes like MGNREGA, PMKSY for water conservation and management, water harvesting, soil and moisture conservation, groundwater recharge, flood protection, land development, Command Area Development & Watershed Management.
Model Building Bye-Laws (MBBL) 2016 adopted by the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs include provisions for Rainwater Harvesting and it has been shared with all the States / UTs to adopt.
The Index provides water management performance of the different states and UTs in India.
The results will be used to propel action in the states to improve water outcomes, besides improving data collection and performance monitoring mechanisms.
The Index is expected to promote the spirit of 'competitive and cooperative federalism' in the country and ensure sustainable and effective management of water resources.
The data included in the Index is made publicly available to researchers and entrepreneurs to drive innovation in the sector.
Themes and indicators
The Index comprises nine themes (each having an attached weight) with 28 different indicators covering groundwater and surface water restoration, major and medium irrigation, watershed development, participatory irrigation management, on-farm water use, rural and urban water supply, and policy and governance.
Categorization of states
For the CWMI, the reporting states were also divided into two special groups - Non-Himalayan states and North-Eastern and Himalayan states, to account for the different hydrological conditions across these groups.
Water Related Data
India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat.
Currently, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
The crisis is only going to get worse. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual ~6% loss in the country’s GDP.
As per the report of National Commission for Integrated Water Resource Development of MoWR, the water requirement by 2050 in high use scenario is likely to be a milder 1,180 BCM, whereas the present-day availability is 695 BCM.
The total availability of water possible in country is still lower than this projected demand, at 1,137 BCM.
Thus, there is an imminent need to deepen our understanding of our water resources and usage and put in place interventions that make our water use efficient and sustainable.
The National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has developed the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) to enable effective water management in India n states in the face of this growing crisis.
Every rural household has drinking water supply in adequate quantity of prescribed quality on regular and long-term basis at affordable service delivery charges leading to improvement in living standards of rural communities.
To provide Functional Tap Connection (FHTC) by 2024 to every rural household, with service level at the rate of 55 liters per capita per day.
To prioritize the provision of FHTCs in quality affected areas, villages in drought prone and desert areas, Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) villages, etc.
To provide functional tap connection to Schools, Anganwadi centres, GP buildings, Health centres, wellness centres and community buildings
To monitor the functionality of tap connections.
To promote and ensure voluntary ownership among local community by way of contribution in cash, kind and/ or labour and voluntary labour (shramdaan)
To assist in ensuring sustainability of water supply system, i.e. water source, water supply infrastructure, and funds for regular O&M
To empower and develop human resource in the sector such that the demands of construction, plumbing, electrical, water quality management, water treatment, catchment protection, O&M, etc. are taken care of in short and long term
To bring awareness on various aspects and significance of safe drinking water and involvement of stakeholders in manner that make water everyone's business
Components Under JJM
The following components are supported under JJM
Development of in-village piped water supply infrastructure to provide tap water connection to every rural household
Development of reliable drinking water sources and/ or augmentation of existing sources to provide long-term sustainability of water supply system
Wherever necessary, bulk water transfer, treatment plants and distribution network to cater to every rural household
Technological interventions for removal of contaminants where water quality is an issue
Retrofitting of completed and ongoing schemes to provide FHTCs at minimum service level of 55 lpcd;
Support activities, i.e. IEC, HRD, training, development of utilities, water quality laboratories, water quality testing & surveillance, R&D, knowledge centre, capacity building of communities, etc.
10.Atal Bhujal Yojan
Atal Bhujal Yojana (ATAL JAL) is a Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry of Jal Shakti to improve ground water management through community participation. The scheme has a total outlay of Rs.6000 crore and is to be implemented over a period of 5 years (2020-21 to 2024-25).
Atal Bhujal Yojana (ATAL JAL) is an initiative for ensuring long term sustainability of ground water resources in the country.
ATAL JAL has been designed with the principal objective of strengthening the institutional framework for participatory ground water management and bringing about behavioural changes at the community level for sustainable ground water 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.
The scheme aims to improve ground water management through community participation in identified priority areas in seven States, viz. Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Implementation of the scheme is expected to benefit nearly 8350 Gram Panchayats in 78 districts in these States.
ATAL JAL has two major components:
Institutional Strengthening and Capacity Building Component for strengthening institutional arrangements for sustainable ground water management in the States including improving monitoring networks, capacity building, strengthening of Water User Associations, etc.
Incentive Component for incentivising the States for achievements in improved groundwater management practices namely, data dissemination, preparation of water security plans, implementation of management interventions through convergence of ongoing schemes, adopting demand side management practices etc.
Source sustainability for Jal Jeevan Mission in the project area with active participation of local communities.
Will contribute towards the goal of doubling the farmers' income.
Will promote participatory ground water management. Improved water use efficiency on a mass scale and improved cropping pattern;
Promotion of efficient and equitable use of ground water resources and behavioural change at the community level.
Improved and realistic water budgeting based on an improved database and preparation of community-led Water Security Plans at Panchayat level
Under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme, the Ministry in February 2018 has initiated a project in the name of “Swajal” that is designed as a demand driven and community centred program to provide sustainable access to drinking water to people in rural areas.
Community–led drinking water projects to be called ‘Swajal’ aiming at providing sustainable and adequate drinking water in an integrated manner to the rural masses.
It is envisaged that the State government in partnership with rural communities; shall plan, design, construct, operate and maintain their water supply and sanitation schemes; so that they get potable water and attain health and hygiene benefits;
the State Government and its sector institutions shall act as supporter, facilitator and co-financier and as per need shall provide technical assistance, training and cater for bigger construction works and sectoral contingencies.
Scope of Coverage-
Initially Swajal scheme was launched in February 2018 as a pilot scheme in six states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. But now the Scheme has been extended to all the 117 Aspirational Districts spread over 28 States
Rationale of the Swajal Project-
Partnership between village communities, NGOs and the government as the facilitator and co- financing has worked successfully.
The possibility of misappropriating and misusing the funds becomes minimal if transparency at each stage is adhered and monitored by stakeholders.
Empowerment of PRIs is a viable and sustainable option for scaling up the decentralized service delivery model.
The change from a supply based model to demand based model requires a new mind set and investment at different levels for acceptance of the new model.
Good facilitation and appropriate techniques have to be put in place in community management model.
Some form of external support to communities is imperative to ensure long term sustainability;
Editorial-Finding a way out of India’s deepening water stress
In any new National Water Policy, the aim should also be to encourage conserving water resources and efficient usage
The complexity and scale of the water crisis in India call for a locus-specific response, that can galvanise and integrate the ongoing work of different Ministries and Departments through new configurations. Such an integrated approach must necessarily cut across sectoral boundaries and not stop at the merger achieved between the two Ministries of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, which led to the formation of the Ministry of Jal Shakti in 2019.
Understanding sources used
Seeing India’s looming water crisis through the locus of ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ not only allows a better grasp of the causative factors but also enables a stronger grip on the strategies to be deployed to reverse the water crisis.
Fundamental to this is a preliminary understanding of the sources from which the country draws water to meet its varying needs.
In the rural areas, 80%-90% of the drinking water and 75% of the water used for agriculture is drawn from groundwater sources.
In urban areas, 50%-60% of the water supply is drawn from groundwater sources, whereas the remaining is sourced from surface water resources such as rivers, often located afar, in addition to lakes, tanks and reservoirs.
According to the composite water management index released by the think tank NITI Aayog in 2019, 21 major cities (including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad) were on the brink of exhausting groundwater resources, affecting about 100 million people.
The study also points out that by 2030, the demand for water is projected to be twice the available supply.
The Chennai example
A significant, and by no means less worrying, example of the water crisis that unfolded before our eyes was in Chennai in 2019, where life came to a standstill and parts of the city went without piped water for months. Though this may well have been forgotten, Chennai remains a spectacle of the impending tragedies brought about by the city’s inability to meet the basic needs of citizens, vis-à-vis drinking water, cooking, and sanitation.
A closer look at the factors that brought about the water crisis in Chennai is inescapable, should we gain a better grasp of the underlying problems, especially as this was a city which among others like Mumbai had suffered from floods previously.
Many have cited the poor rainfall received in Chennai in the previous year as one of the main reasons for the water crisis.
Though it is true that rainfall was low, which was 50% less than normal, focusing on this factor alone would absolve responsibility by blaming the vagaries of the rainfall patterns to a fast-changing climate, without understanding the ground-level steps (or missteps) which have been equally responsible factors.
Chief among these is that the city has been built by incrementally encroaching floodplains and paving over lakes and wetlands that would have otherwise helped the process of recharging groundwater.
The lack of space for water to percolate underground prevented rainwater from recharging the aquifers.
This was further exacerbated by the loss of green cover (which would have otherwise helped water retention) to make way for infrastructure projects. Such a situation, on the one hand, leads to flooding during normal rainfall due to stagnation, and on the other hand, leads to drought-like conditions due to the prevention of underground water storage.
It is only that this situation was more magnified in Chennai, but other cities in India would echo these manifestations in varying degrees owing to a lack of sustainable urban planning.
There is also the example, in Mumbai, in 2019, when 2,141 trees were felled at the Aarey colony, amid massive protests, to make space for a shed for the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited.
Need for synergy
If the Government is serious about addressing the water crisis in urban areas, the Ministry of Water Resources must reconfigure its relationship with other Ministries and Departments (Urban Development, Local Self-Government and Environment).
This would be for enhanced integration and coordination through effective land and water zoning regulations that protect urban water bodies, groundwater sources, wetlands and green cover while simultaneously working to enhance waste water recycling and water recharge activities targeting aquifers and wells through rainwater harvesting.
Lessons from rural Punjab
In rural areas, the situation is no different, as the acute water crisis in Punjab shows.
]The draft report of the Central Ground Water Board concluded that Punjab would be reduced to a desert in 25 years if the extraction of its groundwater resources continues unabated; 82% of Punjab’s land area has seen a huge decline in groundwater levels, wherein 109 out of 138 administrative blocks have been placed in the ‘over exploited’ category. Groundwater extraction which was at 35% in the 1960s and 1970s, rose to 70% post the Green Revolution — a period which saw governments subsidising power for irrigation that left tubewells running for hours.
Concomitantly, cultivation of water intensive crops such as paddy have further aggravated water depletion, even turning water saline.
Immediate measures need to be taken to manage and replenish groundwater, especially through participatory groundwater management approaches with its combination of water budgeting, aquifer recharging and community involvement.
Such an approach to water conservation again beckons new configurations between sectors and disciplines.
At the sectoral level, the Ministries and Departments of water resources must coordinate efforts with their counterparts in agriculture, the environment and rural development for greater convergence to achieve water and food security.
At the disciplinary level, governance and management should increasingly interact and draw from the expertise of fields such as hydrology (watershed sustainability), hydrogeology (aquifer mapping and recharge) and agriculture sciences (water-sensitive crop choices and soil health). Again, the importance given to groundwater conservation should not ignore surface water conservation including the many rivers and lakes which are in a critical and dying state due to encroachment, pollution, over-abstraction and obstruction of water flow by dams.
In view of the ongoing erosion of water resources and an ever-increasing demand for water, the thrust should not be on promising water supply. Instead the aim should be towards protecting and conserving water resources on the one hand and minimising and enhancing efficiency of water usage on the other.
As the expert committee constituted under the Union Water Resources Ministry drafts a new National Water Policy, one hopes it would be rooted in locus specific realities and allows greater flexibility for integrating the insights and work of multiple departments and disciplines making way for new configurations to sustainably manage the country’s water resources.
Also conducting reliable water survey and efficient water data management for developing robust water policy and addressing water scarcity in inda.