Jaipur: The Jal Shakti (Ministry of water resources) Minister in India, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, in an exclusive interview with IANS spoke of new challenges for the government's ambitious 'Har Ghar Jal' scheme. He also said that the notion that the river Ganga is polluted is wrong.
Shekhawat said that the government has launched water resources information system (WRIS) under which all states have been asked to give soil, moisture, ground water level, rain data etc.
In fact, the major aim and objective of forming this integrated ministry is to tackle different water-related aspects from one point.
"At times, one subject has different aspects, imagine if different people make their own categories and start working, then subject policy can't be out. When we talk water, there are so many aspects to it which include ground water, rain water, snow, industrial water, industrial waste, agriculture water, under table water level and many more; now if we look at different aspects, we will never be successful. Hence there comes one ministry which is looking up on all issues with holistic approach," he said.
Low retention capacity
Shekhawat also expressed his worry on a lower water retaining capacity of India.
He said, "Let me share statistics in the context. We get 4,000 billion cubic water (bmc) from average rainfall and snow fall. We cannot use the entire snow as there are some evaporation losses. However, we still have 2,000 bcm water available with us which is harvestable. The water retaining capacity over the surface right from bigger dam to smallest reservoir is only 250 bcm."
If we link all water bodies across India, then 50 bcm is our actual water retention capacity. We have total drinking water requirement of 50 bcm, but we don't even have that much harvesting capability which is posing a major challenge in front of us.
In fact, while only 470 bcm water gets replenished under ground, we withdraw 700 bcm overall. Hence, our withdrawal quantity is higher and deposit is less. So we need to balance it and work on it with multiple approach.
Shekhawat said that the Jal Swavlamban Yojana launched by BJP government in Rajasthan brought in surprising results. "Water table level rose by 5 ft while water in over exploited regions came to normal."
In the same series, Maharashtra worked significantly in this domain via Jalyukta Shivir scheme and Gujarat had "Sujlam suflam, "and so did Telangana came up with 'Neeru chetu'. We all need to work on similar schemes", he added.
Answering on challenges in rural india, he said, "In rural India, we need to think on source sustainability. How can we have permanent source should be thought upon.
We need to think how to recharge water in each area, how to do 3D mapping in villages to know where and how much water is collected, where is slope, how water can be collected and used for irrigation and grey water usage that is how to treat water coming from drains."
Ganga is not polluted
The minister also said that that the notion that Ganga is polluted is wrong.
"Ganga is one of the 20 rivers in world which comes under clean category. I don't talk of rivulets, but of longest rivers stretching to around 2,500 km," he added.
He said dissolved oxygen quantity defines cleanliness quality of river. "When bacteria growth is higher, oxygen quantity gets less. For example, Yamuna has zero dissolved oxygen. Hence it has no aquatic life.
When there is clean water, there will be aquatic life with dolphins swimming in it, Ganga has dolphins which stay in cleanest river, " he added.
"Right from Gangotri to before reaching Gangasagar, its dissolved oxygen gets breached at two-three places only. Even in big cities like Kanpur and Unnao, BOD level rises but then turns normal.
We are creating big infrastructure to ensure raw sewage is not dropped in the river. We have also launched a new hybrid annuity model. Here, the entire operation management shall be done by concessionaire. One city one operator approach will be followed in this context.
If one person has been tendered in the city, he will have to take responsibility of municipality and all other bodies. This is because Ganga missions run earlier failed to bring in results because sewage treatment plants used to get closed as state governments had no money to run it. This model shall run for 15 years and will bring results," he said.
Shekhawat said, "We will also be working on Ganga tributaries to clean Ganga, all tributaries such as Kali, Hindon, Bhagirathi will be cleaned in the process and the impact can be seen in next 2-3 years in a big way, he said adding that the ministry is also working to stop water flowing to Pakistan without affecting Indus water.
The minister said that most experienced and talented officers have been identified to work for Jal Shakti Abhiyan. They surveyed 6800 locations and out of these 1550 in 256 districts were critically exploited, Hence 256 teams were formed and sent to those districts."
"Har Ghar Jal shall definitely be accomplished by 2024. Modi never fails on his promise," Shekhawat said smilingly.