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Editorial

ET EDIT -No Further Policy Neglect of Water Drought over two-fifths of land area a trigger

May 25, 2019 05:55 AM

COURTESY ET MAY 25

No Further Policy Neglect of Water
Drought over two-fifths of land area a trigger
There is a looming water crisis nationwide, and severe drought conditions across some regions. This should help the new government focus its mind on water, already an item of attention in the BJP’s manifesto. One vital reform would be to have one single ministry for water, so as not to diffuse oversight across several ministries. What’s needed is better management of water resources for agriculture, industry and households, even as we arrest falling water tables, excessive dependence on groundwater and recharge aquifers. The acute drought in Maharashtra makes water-guzzling crops like sugarcane quite unsustainable in Marathwada and other drier areas. About 80% of water demand is for agriculture and it is vital to institute cropping patterns suited to agro-climatic conditions.

Studies suggest that water usage for major crops in India is some three-four times the global average. Greater diffusion of sprinkler systems, better seeds and steppedup resource allocation for a vastly improved irrigation canal network are in order. In tandem, we need to revamp data systems on water. We are now increasingly dependent on groundwater for irrigation purposes and even drinking water, and yet have unreliable groundwater data, based on outdated collection methodologies. Similarly, efficiency in water use is a priority, with better Centre-state and inter-state water cooperation, along with participatory groundwater management.


Irrigation reform, rejuvenation of rivers and well-planned transparency in urban water management to augment resources for sewerage and waste water treatment are essential. The associated public engineering would dovetail into the campaign to end caste-linked practices of manual scavenging. Note that the BJP manifesto has promised piped water supply for all households by 2024. Piped supply of water would encourage people to use toilets as toilets, rather than as storage spaces, as well. The starting point of comprehensive reform in water would be creation of a new National Water Commission, as suggested by the Mihir Shah committee

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