Water, our biggest challenge now

In his first ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme of his second term in office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done well to address the problem of water scarcity, one of the biggest challenges the country is facing today. He has underlined the need to conserve water resources and augment water supplies through conventional and new methods and sounded a warning about the consequences of not confronting the water emergency that exists in the country now. Chennai is already in the grip of a severe water crisis. Twenty other cities, including Bengaluru, will soon run out of ground water and face acute shortage. The delayed monsoon has exacerbated the problem. This June was the driest in the last five years. Farming operations have been affected in many parts of the country. There is also shortage of water for daily use. Two-thirds of the reservoirs in the country have below normal water levels. A failed, or deficient, monsoon will add to the miseries, as some areas are still reeling from the drought of the last year.  

Too many factors have contributed to the dire situation. We have never been careful about the use of water, imagining that there is an unending supply of it, free or cheaply available. Failure to curb usage and conserve water, destruction of lakes and wetlands, wrong urban planning and construction, over-extraction of ground water and changes in land use patterns have contributed in different ways to the present situation. Traditional water conservation methods and knowledge have been given the go-by. Climate change has made the situation worse. There is no adequate legal framework for use and conservation of water and whatever law and rules are there are not obeyed and implemented. There has been talk of rainwater harvesting for many years but the practice, which is a key element in any water conservation strategy, has hardly gained ground.

The demand for water is expected to double by 2030, and urgent measures to deal with the problem have to be undertaken on a war footing right now. Water shortage has dangerous economic, social and even political implications. The prime minister has said that individuals, communities and companies should work together to address it. Traditional methods of conservation should be shared and out-of-the-box thinking and solutions should be developed. It should be realised that there is no single conservation method, as the climate, terrain and other factors vary. The prime minister has written to all gram pradhans on the importance of water conservation and the need to take steps to create awareness about it across rural India. The message should be taken seriously in towns, cities, villages and everywhere. 

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