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 Climate Change

Water
Published on: June 26, 2020, 8:52 a.m.
The water imperative
  • The highest water consumption after drinking is for farming

By Sekhar Seshan. Consulting Editor, Business India

The revised National Water Policy (NWP) should include only goals and outcomes that are realistic, achievable, environmentally, socially and economically sustainable, says a report by the Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR).

A clear roadmap together with a defined responsibility and accountability structure should also be spelled out at all levels, says a report by the Pune-headquartered not-for-profit organisation, which works to make water available in rural areas and optimise its use.

The objectives can be realised only if adequate resources - trained human resource, finances, and technologies - should be provided for, according to the authors of the report, Dr. Eshwer Kale, Dr. Marcella D’Souza and Crispino Lobo of the WOTR Centre of Resilience Studies (W-CReS).

Adoption of an ecosystem-based approach and climate-proofing of watersheds and policies that incentivise increased production of rainfed crops have an immense potential to shift the ‘use narrative’ in the water sector in India. “We sincerely hope that the drafting committee to revise the existing NWP will take these issues into consideration,” they add.

Quoting the NITI Aayog’s 2018 report that highlights the water crisis facing the country, with 21 cities expected to run out of groundwater this year, WOTR says this underscores the need to evolve a NWP that “not only addresses imminent challenges but also establishes a framework and pathway to sustainable, efficient and equitable management of surface and groundwater resources”.

WOTR proposes that ‘water for ecology and the environment’ must be the second-most important priority after water for drinking and domestic needs. The environment and its ecology, it says, are what provide the essential and crucial ecosystem services like water, food, fuel, wood, and fibre, as well as balancing the climate.

The survival, sustenance, and progress of the human race and civilisation itself, all depend on this, and securing these ecosystem services is of utmost importance – especially with the climate change and rising global temperatures which will adversely affect India.

With three water-intensive crops – rice, wheat, and sugarcane – consuming almost 80 per cent of irrigation water, a reduction in the area under these crops, together with crop diversification and use of micro-irrigation, can significantly contribute to alleviating water scarcity and making additional water resources available for other needs, especially in rainfed and drought-prone regions. This move can change the overall cropping pattern and free up water resources for other needs.

Re-prioritising public investments in the water and agriculture sectors to promote water use efficiency and infrastructure development, accelerating and augmenting programmes for watershed and catchment development as well as soil and water conservation works, an ecosystem-based adaptation approach, developing catchments of dams on a priority basis and pricing groundwater use and making its contamination a punishable offence are among the other measures the new NWP should include, WOTR hopes. Is the committee listening?


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