• Mon. May 27th, 2024

Water crisis not due to lack of water, but due to mismanagement of the resource, says Hardeep Singh Puri at CSE’s international meet on water and sanitation

ByNE India Broadcast

Apr 26, 2023 #CSE

 “As far as energy is concerned, we have a very well laid out plan for green transition. But in the case of water, we don’t have a choice. It is getting more precious and scarcer at an alarming level, and climate change is going to aggravate matters much more. While treaties might resolve political conflicts around water, they will not tackle the need to fundamentally alter the way we extract, consume and dispose of water, as well as the way we plan and mange sanitation systems. Water crisis in India is not due to lack of water but primarily because of mismanagement of water resources,” said Hardeep Singh Puri, Union minister for housing and urban affairs and petroleum and natural gas.


The minister was speaking at the 2023 Policy and Practice Forum (earlier known as SFD Week), an international gathering of water, wastewater and sanitation management stakeholders and experts convened by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) from April 25-27, 2023, here at CSE’s residential facility, the Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute. 

“I commend the efforts of people and organisations like CSE who are not only mobilising intellectual opinion on this subject, but also taking the discourse to public policy actions. The government’s flagship programmes like the Swachh Bharat Mission and AMRUT have played a transformational role in upgrading basic water and sanitation infrastructure in the country. These are exciting times in India for both policy and practice,” Puri added.


Delivering the opening address, CSE director general Sunita Narain said: “The good news is that water literacy has grown. Over the past decades, the country has learnt critical lessons on water management and has evolved a new paradigm. There is an interest in decentralised water management, but in spite of that it is clear that we are not doing enough to secure our future. The problem lies in the fact that our land and water bureaucracies are fractured — some agency owns the pond, another the drain and yet another the catchment. Water security requires this to change. Giving the local community much greater control over the water structures — deepening democracy and devolution of powers — is the answer.”


Highlighting the objectives of the international meet, Depinder Kapur, director of CSE’s water and wastewater programme, said: “The Forum will be focussing on providing inclusive and affordable solutions for water and sanitation management.” Being organised in collaboration with the Water Research Commission (WRC), International Water Association (IWA), Faecal Sludge Management Alliance (FSMA), University of Columbia and GIZ, this international meet is designed as an experience-sharing and agenda-setting forum.


“The Forum has brought together some 100 policymakers, practitioners and researchers to deliberate on the conditions prevailing at present and the priorities for the future,” Kapur added.


Besides Hardeep Singh Puri, Sunita Narain and Kapur, the other key speakers that the Forum is hosting include Roopa Mishra, joint secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and mission director, Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban; G Mathi Vathanan, principal secretary, Housing and Urban Development, government of Odisha; Amrit Abhijat, principal secretary, Department of Urban Development, government of Uttar Pradesh; G Ashok Kumar, director general, National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG); B Parameswaran, director-cum-joint secretary, DDWS, government of Odisha; L K Atheeq, additional chief secretary, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, government of Karnataka; Manu Bhatnagar, principal director, Natural Heritage Division, INTACH; Arne Panesar, head, SuSanA Secretariat, GIZ; and Jennifer Molwantwa, CEO, Water Research Commission, South Africa, among others.

Speaking at the Forum on Day 1, NMCG’s G Ashok Kumar informed the audience that NMCG is now monitoring the performance of STPs (sewage treatment plants) on a real-time basis. The Mission has also launched a 140-city River City Alliance. Highlighting the work being done in Odisha, G Mathi Vathanan said that the state has prioritised non-sewerage sanitation systems – 111 non-sewerage faecal sludge treatment plants have been built in Odisha. The state has now provided its citizens with 24×7 supply of good quality water and 100 per cent metered connectivity, and has brought down the percentage of non-revenue water from 50 to 15 per cent. Odisha has also recognised manual scavengers as “highly skilled” workers, and provided them with the due benefits.


Says Kapur: “We know that water conservation is critical for a climate-risked age where rainfall will be even more variable and erratic. This requires investment in water conservation and flood mitigation measures so that habitations are more resilient, as well as in waterbodies and green spaces so that rainwater can be harvested and stored for dry periods, and in addressing stormwater drainage management. On the other hand, the sanitation challenge requires policies that advocate for the integration of household-level on-site systems with off-site systems and the collection and treatment of faecal sludge for reuse on land.”


Echoing the minister’s remarks, Kapur adds: “Over the past few years, we have seen enormous innovations in policies and practices in our world that promote a paradigm shift in both water and wastewater management. There is an increased focus on non-sewered sanitation systems, local water supply systems through recharged groundwater aquifers, ponds, tanks and rainwater harvesting and the re-use of treated wastewater and biosolids. This paradigm shift is reducing the capital and resource intensity of the water supply and sanitation systems, which in turn works to increase access and sustainability. We are excited to see this change – not just in policy but also in practice. We believe it is an important time to learn from the experiences on the ground; to review the policies and technology choices and set the agenda going forward.”

(A CSE Media Briefing)
Report- Pratyusha Mukherjee

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