Water; Water and Just Water

(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)

The Preamble of the Constitution of India through the Directive Principles of State Policy clearly safeguards the lawful right of the people to unhindered access to water. The 73rd and 74th Amendments and the provisions for Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas Act 1996) gives tribal people rights over their natural resources including the right to take decisions on how to utilise the resources.

Right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution has been expanded by the courts to include peoples right to meet basic needs of food, water, shelter, clear air and environment.

Therefore, any infringement of the sovereign right of people is violative of the constitution. Privatisation and commodification of natural resources like water will endanger our water security. But quiet blows the wind of privatisation. ‘SUEZ’, the multinational water baron will now refine and supply water from the Sonia Vihar Plant to the users of Delhi. It is disgusting. SUEZ has  no stake to loose in this project.

The raw material (water) is ours but the gains will all be their’s. Water from Muradnagar in U.P. will stream into the Sonia Vihar Plant in Delhi through pipelines laid down for this purpose. Now, Delhi is very much in the making of another ‘Bolivia’ because perhaps we are not competent enough to manage our resources for public good.

For sustaining civilisation, survival of flora and fauna, pacing up food production to feed the surging population, acceleration of growth and development and for multifarious human activities, we need water. Evolution on earth was not possible without this absolutely indispensable natural factor.

But awareness for preservation and judicious use of this finite and fast dwindling resource of life is alarmingly missing. We celebrated ‘World Water Day’ on March 22nd 2005 but forgot that solutions do not emanate from simply suggestive and contemplative verbosity.

It requires unfailing commitment to save water and stringently prevent its misuse and abuse. Any further drift in scientific exploration and management of our water resources and their effective and judicious application whether for irrigation, industrial and civic use will be catastrophic.

Ironically, ‘National Water Policy’ has itself been travestied to the extent that in one go the country observes ‘World Water Day’ and at the same time the despairing and apathetic attitude of the Govt. has morphed the holy Yamuna’, the life line of the National capital into an extra large sewar. Now, nobody talks about ‘Ganga Sudhikaran Yojana’.

Massive discharge of untreated industrial and other effluents into our rivers and water bodies must be prevented to ensure supply of potable drinking water to the people. Already upto 95 percent of sewage and 70 percent of industrial waste are dumped into surface water in India, 60 percent of total deaths are caused by water-borne diseases.

Our major concern should be directed towards enhancing crop productivity. This necessitates scientific approach for management of our water resources. Of the total cropped area, about 60% is still cultivated under rainfed conditions. Matching supply with requirement of foodgrains will thus require increasing the irrigated area under foodgrains production.

The estimated irrigation water requirements for meeting the irrigation needs of the projected area under foodgrains by the 2025 works out to be in the range of 507-600 billion cubic meter. The utilizable water resources for the country as a whole were estimated at 1086 billion cubic meter comprising of 690.3 billion cubic meter from surface water sources and the remaining 395.6 billion cubic meter from ground water sources. The estimated water for foodgrains and nonfoodgrains by 2025 is worked out to be in the range of 731-867 billion cubic meters.

The total investments for bringing the projected food and nonfoodgrains area under irrigation would be of the order of Rs. 1821 to Rs. 2560 billions.

If we have to increase the current level of productivity from 2.7 tonne/ha to 4.6 tonne/ha in the next 20 years then this can be realized only through rain water harvesting. The Govt. must move fast on water resources management programme and put on fast track the implementation of Drought Prone Area Development Programme, Desert Development Programme, Integrated Water Management in the Catchment of the Flood Prone rivers and the National Watershed Management in the Rain Fed Areas.



(Editorial : Farmers' Forum Magazine)