right advice

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 12 Oct 2017 11:44:51

PRESIDENT Mr. Ram Nath Kovind has done well to stress the importance of improved water management with a prominent local component. He has underlined the fact that the process of India’s modernisation and development is closely linked to better water management. Addressing an experts gathering at the 5th India Water Week programme, the President also asserted that better water management would improve quality of life of farmers and eliminate the danger of suicides among them. 

That water management is critical to development, is a fact nobody has denied. However, as he highlighted it, Mr. Ram Nath Kovind has brought into sharp focus the importance of the local component in the thought of improvement in water management. His idea is simple: Water is a local resource in the sense each community has had its own sources of water -- ponds, lakes, rivers, wells ...! If these are managed well and efficiently, there would be no scarcity of water in most places.

There is little doubt that Mr. Kovind has developed this thought from India’s historical and traditional experience. The entire Indian landscape is dotted with literally countless lakhs of water bodies that include well-planned networks of rivers, lakes, ponds, and wells. So efficient has this system been that places like Rajasthan that see very scanty rainfall year after year for decades on end also have faced famine only very rarely.

Subsequently, as history shows, with the advent of British rule, the water-bodies fell on bad days, thanks to a careful and planned neglect of the local sources of water by the administration. The British created a deliberate confusion about the ownership of management of local sources of water by first withdrawing local water management bodies that existed in every city, town, village and hamlet all over India. The alien rulers then handed over the charge of those water bodies first to public works department and thence to the irrigation department. In this process of thoughtless and deliberate transition, India started losing the precious resource due to mismanagement. The current crisis is the after-effect of that decades of official and planned indifference and community neglect.

As he stressed the criticality of better management of local component, the President has brought to fore all the issues involved protection and preservation of water bodies. In most States, schemes like Jalyukta Shiwar (Neighbourhood with its own sources of water) in Maharashtra, are operational to greater or lesser degrees of success. Despite this, the available water is not being managed properly, as a result of which most places face continued scarcity without reason. Mr. Ram Nath Kovind has stressed upon exactly this aspect.

There is also a cultural dimension to the issue, which cannot be overlooked. On one hand, the Indian people have often stressed the importance of water as a precious natural resource, a fact highlighted even in religious literature. However, on the other hand, the Indian community as a whole has often tended to treat water-bodies casually and carelessly. This is evidenced through a widespread pollution and contamination of water-bodies all over the country. This neglect is so ominous that rivers like Ganga and Yamuna have not escaped its ugly impact.

That is the reason why the Government has sought to undertake massive missions of cleansing of the Ganga and other rivers. Despite that, it is essential to treat the advice of President Mr. Ram Nath Kovind in total seriousness and take steps in the right direction. He is more than right to assert that India’s true development is inseparably linked to better water management with highlight on local component.