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India needs localised water management approach: President

President Ram Nath Kovind (C) at the inauguration of India Water Week-2017 in New Delhi on October 10, 2017 along with Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari (L) and Uma Bharti. (Source: PIB)

New Delhi : President Ram Nath Kovind has called for adopting a localised water management approach that empowers village and neighbourhood communities and builds their capacity to manage, allocate and value water resources.

Stating that better and more efficient use of water is a challenge for Indian agriculture and industry alike, the President said a new set of benchmarks need to be set at the villages as well as the cities being built.

The President urged business and industry to be a part of the solution, saying that in coming years, not only the total demand for water will rise, the current ratio of 80 per cent of water in India being used by agriculture and 15 per cent by industry, will also change.

Efficiency of water use and reuse, therefore, has to be built into the blueprint of industrial projects, said Kovind while delivering the inaugural address at the India Water Week-2017 on October 10 in New Delhi.

In India, water is central to some of our flagship programmes. "I would go to the extent of saying that the modernisation of India is dependent on the modernisation of its water management. This is not surprising since our country supports 17 per cent of the global population – but has only four per cent of the world’s water resources", said Kovind.

India is urbanising at a rate not seen in its history. An effort is being made to build or upgrade 100 modern cities as part of the Smart Cities initiative. "As we know, reuse of water, solid waste management and better sanitation infrastructure and practices are benchmarks to assess Smart Cities".

In urban India, 40 billion litres of wastewater is produced every day. It is vital to adopt technology to reduce the toxic content of this water, and to deploy it for irrigation and other purposes. This has to be part of any urban planning programme, he said.

"Any 21st century water policy must factor in the concept of the value of water. It must encourage all stakeholders, including communities, to expand their minds – and to graduate from allocating a quantum of water to allocating a quantum of benefits", he added.

In India, 54 per cent of people are dependent on farming for their livelihood. "Yet, their share of national income is only 14 per cent".

To make agriculture more remunerative and to improve the prosperity of farming communities, the government has introduced many new projects. These include: ‘Har Khet ko Paani’ (Water for every farm): This requires enhancing the supply and availability of water; ‘Per Drop, More Crop’: This requires using drip irrigation and related methods to improve farm productivity, while using the same volume of water; and 'Doubling farm incomes by 2022’: To achieve this, the government is rapidly expanding the area under irrigation, and completing 99 long-pending irrigation projects, with 60 per cent of these projects being in drought-prone areas

"I move now to India’s industrialisation and the role that water will play there. Under the Make in India mission, India is working to sharply increase the share of manufacturing in our GDP. From the current 17 per cent of GDP, we are determined to take it to 25 per cent by 2025".

"Industry requires a large volume of water. This is particularly true for the manufacture of electronic hardware, computers and mobile phones. And these are all focus areas for Make in India", said Kovind.

The five-day India Water Week-2017, the 5th edition of the event, is being held with a multi disciplinary conference and a concurrently running exhibition. The theme of the event, concluding on October 14, is “Water and Energy for Inclusive Growth”.

The President underlined the fact that water was not only essential to life, but was fundamental to the economy and ecology – and to human equity. "The issue of water is becoming still more critical in view of climate change and related environmental concerns".

Access to water is a byword for human dignity. For India, providing safe drinking water to a population spread across six hundred thousand villages and urban areas is not just a project proposal. It is a sacred commitment. "The government has prepared a strategic plan for ensuring drinking water supply in all rural areas by 2022, when India complete 75 years of Independence. By that year, the goal is to cover 90 per cent of rural households with piped water supply. We cannot fail. The deliberations of this conference have to ensure that we do not fail", said Kovind.

"I must also point to the significant regional variations in India when it comes to the experience with water. On the one hand, groundwater sources are being savagely exploited and depleted in some of our northern and western states. On the other hand, in eastern and North-eastern states, there is the challenge of overflowing rivers and of regular flooding. Year after year, this damages human habitation and is leading to tragedies in countless families", he said.

Only a multi-stakeholder and multi-pronged approach can address such calamities, stated Kovind.

This includes achieving an interlinking of rivers where feasible. It also necessitates a basin-wide management of river systems to both keep rivers clean as well as serve the purpose of different types of users. The Namami Gange project is a good start in this regard. "We need to extend such thinking to other river systems in India and the Indian subcontinent, especially in the eastern part of our country", said Kovind.

The inaugural session was attended by several dignitaries including Union Road Transport & Highways, Shipping, Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation Minister Nitin Gadkari; Union Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation Uma Bharti; Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation Arjun Ram Meghwal and Minister of State for HRD and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation Dr Satya Pal Singh.

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