Nirmala Sitharaman’s budget on Friday may push for water conservation

DMK President M K Stalin along with party Cader stage a demonstration for water Scarcity in Tamilnadu on Monday. 24-06-2019 Photo B A Raju
  • The central government is set to launch Jal Shakti Abhiyan to fight water crisis problems in the country.
  • The campaign will work out measures for rainwater harvesting and water conservation efforts in 255 districts from July 1 to September 15, in its first phase and would be coordinated by central government IAS officers as decisions relating to water is a state issue.
  • The second phase will run from October 1 to November 30 in states that receive rains from the north-east monsoon.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on June 22, wrote letters to village panchayat heads and urged them to undertake rainwater harvesting and water conservation efforts in rural India.
The new finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the Union Budget for 2019-20 in the Parliament on July 5. Just days before, Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the tone for the big announcement likely on Friday by initiating the ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan’, a project to conserve water through rainwater harvesting and other efforts to save water.

Amid the high temperatures and severe water crisis, the country is going through, it would be among government’s main agenda to tackle the rapidly increasing water issues throughout the country,

The major cities of India like Chennai and Bengaluru were recently in the news due to severe water crisis. The story of rural India is more frightening where 80% of rural homes does not have piped water supply.

Only 18% of 17.9 million rural homes have tap water.

The central government in efforts to deal with water related issues had merged the water resources and drinking water and sanitation ministries and formed the Jal Shakti Ministry. The new ministry, which has the decision making power over all international and interstate water disputes, the Clean Ganga project, and making drinking water accessible, will be hopeful of a handsome budget to deal with the

The government is also set to launch the Jal Shakti Abhiyan to workout measures for rainwater harvesting and water conservation from July 1 in a phased manner, under the supervision of central government IAS officers of Joint or Additional Secretary-level in 255 districts.

It seeks to work out measures for rainwater harvesting and water conservation efforts in 255 districts of the country starting July 1, 2019.

The campaign is planned in a phased manner, where the first phase starts on July 1 and would run till September 15 in states receiving rainfall during the south-west monsoon, and would be coordinated by the IAS officers of Joint or Additional Secretary-rank from the 255 districts.

The next phase will kickstart from October 1 and run till November 30 and will cover states that receive rainfall during the north-east monsoon.

As water is not central government issue and state governments are free to decide upon policies for usage and water conservation, the officers will be drawn from various ministries of Government of India, including the Department of Space, Petroleum and Defence, according to the Department of Personnel and Training.

Prior to the launch of the campaign, high level teams were constituted in the 255 districts, and engineers and technical staff was designated in 1,539 blocks across the country to measure ground water levels, the state of aquifers, and ponds and water bodies under encroachment.

India’s population is 17.74% of the total world population, whereas the water resources account for a mere 4%. This combined with ever increasing demand and depleting water sources due to encroachment, contamination and reduced rainfall, puts India in a grave situation.

“As of today, India only conserves 8% of all rainfall, which is among the lowest in the world,” a senior Jal Shakti official said.”we need to change this.”

In line with Gram Swaraj Abhiyan

The Jal Shakti Abhiyan is in line with last year’s Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, where central government officials monitored the implementation of seven flagship development schemes in 117 districts across the country.

To further achieve its target, the ministry will draft block and district level water conservation plans and the Kisan Vigyan Kendras would organise fests to promote better crop choices and more efficient usage of water for irrigation.

To spread awareness about the campaign, major communications campaign on TV, radio, social media would be carried out, for which celebrities will also be roped in.

The prime minister, on June 22, wrote letters to all village panchayat heads, and urged them to undertake rainwater harvesting and water conservation activities in rural India, as per PIB release.

“In the last four years, nearly 50,000 villages have used MGNREGA [rural income guarantee act] and other state funds to successfully conserve rain water in a big way,” rural development secretary Amarjeet Sinha was quoted saying.

The government is also likely to announce a national water conservation policy along with a conservation programme for the 226 highly water stressed districts of the country, an official said. Plans with the MPs to prioritise water storage works under their local area development fund are also underway.

“Any national policy on water has to pivot around ground water because “ground water is India’s water lifeline”. Secondly, he said there is a complete policy vacuum on the urban water sector and India urgently needs a programme to regulate its urban-water footprint,” said Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.





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