The Modi government has constituted a new ministry named Ministry of Jal Shakti to look after water-related issues. The newly created ministry would look after the work of Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, the person who defeated Ashok Gehlot’s son from Jodhpur constituency has been given charge of the ministry.
The water-related issues used to come under the ambit of 7-8 ministries and therefore any solution to prevailing issues used to get stuck in ministerial wars.
In 2019 general elections manifesto, BJP promised that if elected to power, the government would launch ‘Jal Jivan Mission’ to ensure clean piped water to every household by 2024. “Water is a critical resource but its management is spread across various departments, even at the Central level. We will form a new Ministry of Water unifying the water management functions to approach the issue of water management holistically and ensure better coordination of efforts,” read the BJP’s vision document.
The major focus of the ministry would be to provide clean drinking water to every household but it would also look after the ambitious Ganga rejuvenation, solving interstate water disputes and river linking. The inter-linking of rivers, a dream project of the Vajpayee era to solve the drought and floods problems is also expected to get a boost with the creation of the new ministry. “All the water related works will be merged under one ministry,” said Shekhawat after taking over the charge of the ministry.
The country is facing a very serious water crisis and the problem is that concern around the matter seems very limited. According to the NITI Aayog, “India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat. Currently, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. It is estimated the crisis is going to get worse by 2030 when India’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply.” India receives high rainfall in comparison to other countries like Israel, South Korea, etc. but water management is overall very poor in India. Countries like Israel which receive very little rainfall never face water scarcity thanks to their superb water management techniques. Jal Shakti ministry would look after all water-related issues.
Only 4 percent of water is used for drinking purpose while 80 percent of the water is used in agriculture. The water consumption in the country is largely unregulated and therefore very inefficient. “The setting up of a separate ministry will give water conservation measures the much-needed impetus it deserves,” said an official.
As of today, only 18.24 percent (32.57 million out of 178.54 million) households have access to piped water. As per estimation by NITI Aayog, the country would bear a 6 percent loss in GDP by 2020 due to water-related issues, if the crisis is not dealt with on a priority basis. As per the report, 21 Indian cities including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will face a shortage of groundwater by 2020 and it will impact living of around 10 crore people.
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