Not a drop to drink

A-five-year old girl from Rajasthan recently died from thirst. This headline was lost in the newspapers. The tragic event pushes us to think about water scarcity. Although this case got some attention in the sense that it found a corner in the newspaper, but there are many unreported cases. We are indeed blessed with many rivers and monsoon rains but India only has 4% of average global runoff and rivers which has to support 18% of the world’s population. In addition to this, due to sheer negligence of people, insensitivity towards the issue by the government at all levels and lax attitude of the administration, India suffers from water shortage. If the death of a child cannot be the reason behind the awakening of the government and the people then no one can know what will.
In 2019 one particular incident stole the spotlight. In Telangana school girls hair were cut to save water. The logic was that short hair will use less water during hair wash. The school was ordered by the administration. The students and their families were not informed about the plan and this led to a fuss. Was the bizarre experiment successful? There is no news. What we know is that this could have been avoided if water management was adopted. Water harvesting system and traditional ways of water conservation could have done a better job than resorting to haircuts. The problem is that the administration tries to solve a problem only when it hurts. The seasons when water is available in plenty are also the season when the administration is sleeping. This has to change.
It’s true that the government has taken many steps to generate awareness and incentivize people to save water but these actions are mere lip service if they do not fetch any result. Few measures in this regard include the flagship Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM). It aims to reach the target of 55 litres of water per person per day to every rural household through functional household tap connections (FHTC) by 2024. It envisions to creat a Jan Andolan by making water everyone’s priority. The initiative has operational guidelines at every level that is, national, state, district and village. Every village is expected to prepare a village action plan for water source maintenance, water supply and greywater management.
Since most of the water is utilised in agriculture water use efficiency is a part that should be emphasised in water management. Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana was designed to cater to water management in agriculture. The components of the Yojana include Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), Har Khet Ko Pani, Per Drop More crop and watershed development.
In the spirit of competitive federalism, NITI Aayog introduced a composite water management index. This will push states to work to avoid water shortage. Being the most important component of life to exist, no government in the world can take a chance. India can learn from other countries and transfer technologies used by them in the field of water conservation. India itself has a rich history of water conservation technologies. Mandu Fort, Baolis and other historical structures testify this fact.
In the sustainable development index, India’s Performance in SDG-6 has been progressive but it is snail-paced. To change the dismal situation of water shortage, we need to act fast as a country, as a society and as an individual facing the biggest threat.