Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday underlined the importance of people’s participation in water conservation and said attempts by governments’ alone cannot be successful. “When the public is associated with a campaign, they also get to know the seriousness of the work. Due to this, a sense of ownership also comes in the public towards any scheme or campaign,” Modi said in his virtual address at the first national conference of water ministers from states in Bhopal.
Water, he said, should be a subject of cooperation, collaboration and coordination among states and asked them to plan in advance in view of the fast pace of urbanisation. The remarks assume significance as disputes over water sharing have lingered for decades between some states. The prime minister said the subject of water comes under the control of states under our constitutional system and it is their efforts that will go a long way in achieving the collective goals of the country.
“Water Vision@2047 is an important dimension of the journey of Amrit Kaal for the next 25 years,” Modi said. The maximum work under the MGNREGA scheme should be done on water, he said, calling for spreading awareness among people for its conservation. Water is most consumed in sectors such as industry and farming, and awareness should be spread among them, he said while advocating crop diversity and natural farming. Noting that success does not come from the efforts of the government alone, the prime minister drew attention to the role of public and social organisations and civil societies and asked for their maximum participation in campaigns related to water conservation.
He went on to explain that promoting public participation does not reduce the accountability of the government and does not mean putting all the responsibility on the people.
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The biggest advantage of public participation is public awareness about efforts being put into a campaign and the money being spent, Modi said. “When people joined the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a consciousness was awakened in the public as well,” he said.
Crediting the people of India for their efforts, Modi said the government took up many initiatives, including collecting resources to remove filth, building various water treatment plants and constructing toilets, but the success of the campaign was ensured when the public decided there should be no dirt at all. The prime minister emphasised that all governments should work like a system with constant interaction and dialogue between different ministries of state governments, adding that planning will get help if these departments have information and data related to each other. “We can organise ‘Water Awareness Festivals’ or an event related to water awareness can be added to the fairs held at the local level,” he suggested.
The country, he said, is constructing 75 Amrit Sarovars in every district and 25,000 have already been built so far. Mission Amrit Sarovar is aimed at developing and rejuvenating 75 water bodies in each district of the country as a part of celebration of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. Every sarovar will have an area of one acre with a water holding capacity of about 10,000 cubic metres.
Modi also emphasised the need to connect technology, industry, and startups to identify problems and find solutions and mentioned technologies like geo-sensing and geo-mapping. He stressed the need to come up with government policies and bureaucratic procedures to tackle water related issues at the policy level. Highlighting the success of the ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’ as a major development parameter for a state to provide water to every household, Modi said many states have done a good job while many are moving forward in this direction.
Once this system is in place, he said, we should ensure its maintenance in the same way in the future.
Proposing that panchayats should lead the Jal Jeevan Mission, he said, “Every gram panchayat can also submit a monthly or quarterly report online stating the number of houses that are getting tap water in the village.” Modi highlighted the ‘Per Drop More Crop’ campaign that began under the Prime Minister Agricultural Irrigation Scheme and informed that more than 70 lakh hectares of land in the country have been brought under micro-irrigation so far.
He also gave the example of the Atal Bhujal Sanrakshan Yojana where watershed work is necessary on a large scale in all the districts for groundwater recharge and underscored the need to speed up development works to revive the spring shed in hilly areas. Throwing light on the need to increase forest cover for water conservation, the prime minister called for coordinated efforts by the Ministries of Environment and Water. Modi also asked states to adopt ways where the water budget is prepared at the panchayat level based on how much water is required in which village and what work can be done for it.
Highlighting the ‘Catch the Rain’ campaign, the prime minister reiterated that such campaigns should become an essential part of state governments and should be evaluated annually. Under the campaign for rainwater harvesting, drives are conducted for making check dams and water harvesting pits. It also looks into removal of encroachments and desilting of tanks.
“Instead of waiting for the rains, all the planning needs to be done before the rains,” Modi said. The prime minister also highlighted the importance of circular economy in the field of water conservation and said the government has laid a lot of emphasis on the issue in the budget.
“When treated water is reused, fresh water is conserved, it benefits the entire ecosystem. That’s why water treatment, water recycling is essential.” He reiterated that states have to find ways to increase the use of ‘treated water’ for various purposes.
“Our rivers, our water bodies are the most important part of the entire water ecosystem,” the prime minister said, emphasising the importance of creating a network of waste management and sewage treatment in every state.
“By making the Namami Gange Mission a template, other states can also start similar campaigns for the conservation of rivers. It is the responsibility of every state to make water a subject of cooperation and coordination,” the prime minister said. The all-India water ministers’ meet on the theme ‘Water Vision@2047’ brings together key policy makers to discuss ”ways to harness water resources for sustainable development”, the government has said. The Union Jal Shakti Ministry is organising the national level conference on water in Bhopal on Thursday and Friday.