13th December 2019 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot
Question – In the absence of scientific planning and implementation, measures like Jal Shakti Abhiyan may not be successful. Critically analyze this statement. (250 words)
Context – The decreasing water level.
Jal shakti Abhiyan:
- The Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) is a time-bound, mission-mode water conservation campaign.
- The JSA will run in two Phases: Phase 1 from 1st July to 15th September 2019 for all States and Union Territories; and Phase 2 from 1st October to 30th November 2019 for States and UTs receiving the retreating monsoon (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu).
- During the campaign, officers, groundwater experts and scientists from the Government of India will work together with state and district officials in India’s most water-stressed districts* for water conservation and water resource management by focusing on accelerated implementation of five target intervention. The JSA aims at making water conservation a Jan Andolan through asset creation and extensive communication.
- Five areas – Water conservation and rainwater harvesting ; Renovation of traditional and other water bodies/ tanks ; Reuse and recharge structure ; watershed development ; Intensive afforestation.
- Special intervention areas
- Development of Block and District Water Conservation Plans (To be integrated with the District Irrigation Plans)
- Krishi Vigyan Kendra Melas to promote efficient water use for irrigation (Per Drop More Crop), and better choice of crops for water conservation
- In urban areas, plans/approvals with time bound targets to be developed for wastewater reuse for industrial and agriculture purposes. Municipalities to pass by-laws for the separation of grey water and blackwater
- Scientists and IITs to be mobilised at the national level to support the teams
- 3D Village Contour Maps may be created and made accessible for efficient planning of interventions.
Criticism of Jal shakti Abhiyan:
- Lack of water planning :- Water planning should be based on hydrological units, namely river basins. And, political and administrative boundaries of districts rarely coincide with the hydrological boundaries or aquifer boundaries. However, contrary to this principle of water management, JSA was planned based on the boundary of the districts, and to be carried out under the overall supervision of a bureaucrat. This resulted in the division of basins/aquifers into multiple units that followed multiple policies. There was no data on basin-wise rainfall, no analysis of run-off and groundwater maps were rarely used. As a result, one never came to know whether water harvested in a pond in a district was at the cost of water in adjoining districts.
- JSA also ignored the fact that peninsular region of India is water stressed region , hence groundwater recharged at the cost of surface water.
- Inadequacy of data and Monitoring :- Data available on JSA website don’t contain information related to quality of structure created , their maintenance and sustainability.
- At present, there is no such parameter to measure the outcome of such a mission-mode campaign.
- Assumption that poor people in rural areas are ignorant and prone to water wastage is ill held. Per capita consumption in rural areas is 55 liters whereas in the urban areas like Delhi is 135-150 liters.
- Not long term sustainable solution :- Most of the farm bunds built with soil can collapse within one monsoon season due to rains and/or trespassing by farm vehicles, animals and humans.
- Other issues :- Lack of proper engineering supervision of these structures, involvement of multiple departments with less or no coordination, and limited funding under MGNERGA and other schemes.
- There have hardly been many efforts undertaken to dissuade farmers from growing water-intensive crops such as paddy, sugarcane, and banana, when it is widely known that agriculture consumes 80% of freshwater.
- Creation of Autonomous and knowledge intensive river basin organization should be formed.
- Require long-term monitoring of water level data to determine the actual impact of a measure like JSA.
An alternate approach:
- Tell people how much water they really have. In order to solve a problem, we need to acknowledge that we have a problem.
- We can learn simple innovative measures from water scarce countries.
- For example, we can have electronic billboards to let all the citizens know how much water that particular place has left. So that the people of that place get sensitised. This idea was adopted in Australia when they were affected by one of the worst droughts in the country’s history 1997- 2009. This created a tremendous impact. The administration then did not need to tell the people to use water judiciously, they were letting people take responsibility themselves. They got the call from within. It created a sense of emergency as well as a sense of community. Nearly one out of three citizens in Melbourn had invested in installing rainwater holding tanks for their own households. And this was not limited to just installing tanks. With help from the city they were able to do something even more impactful i.e. empower people to save water.
- Melbourn wanted to empower people to save water in their homes and one way to do that was to spend less time in the shower. But some people were hesitant to do that. So the city started offering water efficient shower heads for free and yet there were people who complained that the shower heads were ugly or did not suit their bathrooms. So the tower head team developed a small water flow regulator that can be fitted into existing shower heads. This shows how despite all the hesitancy and skepticism, the administration did not give up and empowered people to save water. Melbourn succeeded in reducing the demand of water per capita by nearly 50 %.
- In the UAE, the second most water scarce country in the world, the officials designed what they called ‘the business heros toolkits’ in 2010. The aim was to motivate and empower businesses to reduce water and energy consumption. They tool kit taught the companies to measure their existing water consumption levels and gave them tips as to how to reduce those levels and it worked. Several organisations downloaded the tool kits and many of them joined what they called the corporate heros network, where companies can voluntarily take on a challenge to reduce that water consumption levels to pre set targets within a period of one year. Companies that complete the challenge, saved arnd on average 35% of water. And one company implemented as many water saving tips as they could in their office space – they replaced their toilet flushing techniques, taps, shower heads etc. this eventually reduced their employees water consumption by half.
- Empowering individuals and companies save water is so critical yet not sufficient. We further need to look beyond the status quo and implement country-level actions to save water.
- Next is we need to look bel the surface at unexpected places. Singapore is the 8th most water scarce country in the world. It depends on imported water for almost 60% of its water needs. It is also a very small island as such it needs to make space for as much space as possible to catch rainfall. In 2008, they built the Marina barrage. It is the first ever urban water reservoir built in the middle of the city. It is the largest water catchment in the country, almost 1/6th the size of Singapore. What is so amazing about the marina barrage is that it has been built to make the maximum use of its large size and its unexpected yet important location. It brings three valuable benefits to the country – it has boosted Singapore’s water supply by 10%, it protects the low areas from floods because of its connection to the sea, and it acts as a beautiful lifestyle attraction, hosting several events like art events, music festivals etc.
- In Jordan, the majority of its fresh water is used in agriculture. So the government asked the people to grow crops that use less water i.e. low water intensive crops. To achieve that locals are increasing focus on date palms and grape vines. They are much more tolerant to drought conditions than many other fruits and vegetables, at the same time they are considered high-value crops both locally and internationally.
- Locals in Namibia, one of the most arid countries in the southern part of Africa, have been drinking recycled water since 1968. Though many countries recycle water, very few use it for drinking purposes mostly because people don’t like the thought of water that was in their toilets going to their tap. But Namibia could not think that way. They looked below the surface to save water. They are now a great example of how when countries purify water to drinking standards, they can ease their water shortages and in Namibia’s case provide water for hundreds of thousands of citizens in its capital city. As more water rich countries are becoming water scarce, we increasingly need to look at what water scarce countries have done, the solutions are out there. It is up to all of us to take action.
Note: There is another important article on creamy layer in SC/AT category. It has already been covered in the editorial of 8th December.