Source: The Hitavada      Date: 20 Aug 2017 10:30:38


“Due to environmental degradation rains are not evenly distributed these days, as some areas get excess rain while others remain in drought, and the soil’s retaining power is decreasing due to lack of green cover and water flows away, going waste.”

INDIA needs to promote agricultural practices that need less water for crop cultivation and give thrust to water conservation and harvesting over the next one decade to avert the crisis of shortage, says eminent scientist and former chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation, K Kasturirangan recently.

Calling for a holistic approach towards water conservation, including recharging of structures, the former Rajya Sabha member said, agriculture in India, particularly paddy cultivation, consumed a substantial amount of water. “There are agricultural practices that are coming up now which need much less water,” he added.“We need to bring it down. It’s an important area,” the winner of highest civilian honours Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan said.The scientist also warned that rainfall in the coming years was likely to be ‘highly skewed’.

“So, water precipitation will not be uniform across the country. Therefore you need strategies where, whenever you get excess rainfall in any place, you should have a method for managing that,” Kasturirangan said. There are systems to conserve water not just now but also in ancient times, and “we need to bring them up,” Kasturirangan said. He said, “What is more important is how well we are able to manage water by creating the right type of management system, conservation, preservation, optimal use of water and reducing the water for agriculture.”

India is an agricultural economy, so agriculture is still our occupational mainstay and contributes a major share in the country’s GDP. But agriculture at the same time needs immense water for sustenance and alas, water is something which is getting scarcer every passing year in the country. It is not so much a problem of shortage of water per say as it is about misuse and mismanagement of the commodity, which the scientist also pointed out. We still have time because if we don’t conserve water now, in coming years it will be really scarce since rains are becoming lesser in quantity and more erratic in nature.  Due to environmental degradation rains are not evenly distributed these days, as some areas get excess rain while others remain in drought, and the soil’s retaining power is also decreasing due to lack of green cover and water flows away, going waste.

If the same water could be conserved, harvested and used for agriculture, much of our water scarcity issue could be resolved. Despite several steps taken up by the governments and NGOs over years, we as a country haven’t yet been able to adopt good practices regarding use and conservation of water in any wider sense. Efforts are limited in specific areas and large parts of the country still every year reel in the water crisis.

Much still depends on good monsoons. If monsoons fail, we get into difficulty. We don’t have a proper irrigation network in place and no mass storage facilities which could see us through difficult times. Water conservation and water harvesting are very easy practices which could easily be adopted by every individual home but that doesn’t happen in India mostly due to ignorance, unaccountability and our irresponsible attitude.  We would want everything to come easily to us with the least effort we could expend. More grievously and ironically, let alone saving water, we waste gallons in watering our manicured gardens, bathing our dogs and washing our cars, even as there would be millions of municipal taps on any given day running unattended all day long. This is almost sin in a country where millions directly or indirectly are literally dying of thirst.

The Bundelkhand region, for instance, is in perennial drought and no government has been able to find a solution to the crisis which is only spreading. People are living in penury and uncertainty as acres after acres of their farmland is going dry and barren for want of water. Vidarbha is another vast region which is terribly water-scarce. Even several of our vibrant and expanding urban centres are facing water scarcity and governments have no long term plans to tackle the dangerous possibilities arising out of such scarcity even as people’s needs are ever growing. Lakes and ponds are being rampantly snuffed to fulfill urban construction needs and trees are being wantonly chopped. Rivers are dammed and their natural flow disturbed. By such brazen disregard for environment, we are fast paving the way for our own doom. There have been bloody wars over water and they are only growing to rise in coming years. Our scientists have been warning us and devising ways to assuage the problem but we are as reckless and unconcerned as ever.

The water crisis is emerging as a new age global concern and developed countries are taking urgent steps to save their water bodies while we, a country of rivers, and one having a long tradition of scientific water conservation practices, are losing our water bodies thick and fast to pressures of population and pollution.  The Ganga is abominable, the Yamuna is almost dead. Almost all the smaller rivers passing through our towns and cities have vanished or turned into nullahs. Crores have been spent on their resurrection through decades but we still are no better.  Where would we get the water from? We won’t save water, we would waste as much as we have, we will pollute our lakes and rivers, cut trees, ravage greenery, and yet want our country to have enough water to serve all our needs! There is no magic wand.

We need to work hard to secure our future. It is a collective effort and we the members of civil society, governments, NGOs, scientific community and legal bodies need to work together to change our situation. We need to sit up, understand the seriousness of the issue and act tough and smart because we are already racing against time. Our youth and student community need to be educated and mobilised to generate public discourse regarding needs and ways of water conservation through sustained awareness campaigns.

The Government can extend incentives and rewards to farm owners who practice smart farming techniques by minimising the use of water. The means and methods are available, only lack of awareness and initiatives make things tardy. We need to intensify our efforts and make it a national focus to save water and our water bodies. The Government also needs to put in place an effective irrigation network so that the fields are not parched.

We badly need a state-of-the-are irrigation network in the country to give a fillip to agriculture. It is one single sector which needs the largest amount of water and if we are able to manage this sector efficiently, we are relieved of a major portion of our burden. Then come industries and homes. Water recycling must not only be mandated for all industries but also seen that it is strictly implemented. Then individual house owners across the country must be encouraged and even mandated to adopt water conservation and harvesting methods and reprimanded for not doing so. By the way, such multi-pronged strategy is the need of the hour to thwart the dangerous possibilities we are chalking out for ourselves.