New Delhi : Israel is the partner country for the India Water Week-2016, the fourth edition of the event being held in New Delhi.
Its Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel is visiting India to be part of the event and is leading a high-level delegation of Government officials, experts and industry officials. The delegation will give several dedicated seminars and lectures during the sessions at the event. A 300-sq metre Israeli pavilion will also showcase the most advanced water technologies.
Israel’s Ambassador to India David Carmonis bullish on the potential of bilateral relations and says the Government of Israel is keen to expand ties beyond agriculture & defence.
In the run up to the event, Carmon told India Water Review that India could learn from the experience of Israel in managing its limited water resources through use of technology, public awareness and policy.
What is the backdrop of relations between India and Israel? How does water fit into it?
India and Israel have enjoyed friendly relations with each other for several years. Israel has been a partner to India in areas like defence, agriculture, irrigation, water technologies including desalination.
Israel was chosen by India as a strategic partner in the field of agriculture. This partnership has evolved into the Indo-Israel Agricultural Project (IIAP), aimed at benefiting the local farmer by increasing crop diversity, productivity and resources use efficiency.
Now, Israel is keen to expand on the existing relationship in several other sectors. There is a large potential and even a big need to collaborate on several fronts. We should and can do more.
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu had suggested water conservation and management as possible areas of cooperation between the two countries during India’s President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to the country last year. The proposal was again given during the visit of India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj this year.
Israel can offer technologies in several areas like water & wastewater treatment, desalination, smart metering services, recycling & reuse, management of water resources and irrigation. Then, there are areas like management of urban infrastructure and large scale water projects. We can be there through the Government umbrella that promotes industry participation.
One of the ways that Israel managed to make do with its limited water resources was through a mass-awareness campaign that talked about the need to conserve water. How was the experience?
Israel launched a multi-integrated, efficient and continuous campaign involving all the education system in order to implement values and importance of saving water. The emphasis was on how to make water saving a permanent lifestyle change and not a temporary measure.
It was realised that for the change to happen, acceptance of the public was required.
The comprehensive public campaign to encourage water saving within the pubic, along with education in schools from early ages, helped to save about 18 per cent of Israel’s water consumption during the hardest drought period it ever faced. Israel’s Water Authority had acknowledged that information is the most significant element that is needed for achieving water saving. The Authority realized that in order to achieve a significant amount of saved water, they must explain, publish, convince and motivate to action.
The campaign was aimed at recruiting the public to stop wasting water, use it more efficiently and to lead to an actual decrease in water consumption. The people were told that water saving is the best available way to reduce the gap between supply and demand.
What does the high-level delegation led by Minister Uri Ariel hope to achieve?
The delegation of experts and officials will be in India to share their expertise and experiences. It will look to collaborate with the Central and state Governments in India. The Israeli companies will be looking to forge alliances and offer their solutions to the private sector and states in India.
Israel will be looking to further expand on the IIAP. In terms of water management, IIAP focuses on sharing experience that Israel gained and technology tailored to selected crops and local conditions, and develop irrigation and fertigation protocols for local farmers
Israel has set up 29 Centres of Excellence (CoE) across Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka. These COEs have helped Indian farmers and officials from agriculture departments benefit from Israeli technologies and know-how.
The delegation will look to expand on this collaboration too. The Minister will inaugurate a CoE in Ladwa in Haryana during this visit. An additional CoE for dairy sector has also been proposed.
Israel will also share its experience regarding 'More crop per drop' through use of precise irrigation. Our experience includes not only the introduction of technologies of precise irrigation, but also policy guidelines, ensuring that each farmer receives the amount of water he requires, and there is no waste of water or over usage.
Israeli-invented drip irrigation helps achieve 70-80 per cent of water efficiency in agriculture - the highest rate in the world. Israel also achieved the highest ratio in the world of crop yield per water unit.
The Indian Government has launched some flagship schemes like Smart City Mission, AMRUT and Clean Ganga Project. Would Israel be looking to participate in these programmes?
Israel is willing to collaborate with India on several of its flagship schemes like the mega irrigation scheme, Swacch Bharat Mission, Smart City Mission, AMRUT programme and the Clean Ganga project.
There have been several achievements for Israel, which had always faced an acute water shortage. These challenges forced Israel to develop relevant capabilities through technological break-throughs. Israel has now become a research & development laboratory.
We have the most advanced national water management system and with a 85 per cent water recycling rate, are the world's number one water recycler. The second largest water recycler is Spain, with a rate of 12 per cent.
On India's river rejuvenation programme, we are ready to help out. We need to know the magnitude of the issue and the parameters. Technologically-speaking, we have the capacity and capability. We have already presented a paper on the issue in India. We have offered some technologies for the Smart City mission also.
On the 'Make in India' programme, we are already doing so - making in India. There is potential to do far more.
What would be the Indian-Israeli collaboration framework like?
It would have a unique character. Under the umbrella of a Government-to-Government collaboration framework, private companies would be encouraged to implement projects and offer solutions in India.
The Government umbrella will be a good and important step to start the expanded partnership. Private sector companies from Israel, particularly those from the water sector, can offer their know-how, technology & solutions and experience to both Indian private companies and various state Governments.
The Israeli Consul Generals are in touch with several states for areas of collaboration. We are ready to engage with Indian states.