“Water crisis has raised its ugly head not only in the agrarian sector but also in the urban sector. This is the time to cast our minds and reflect why we need paradigm shift in water management. The first part of the paradigm shift is the efficient management of command areas of water. The country must learn from the effective command area management models implemented in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh. Also, we must address the last mile connectivity to ensure that the water stored in dams reach farmers,” said Dr. Mihir Shah, Former Member of the Planning Commission, Government of India while delivering keynote address at the panel discussion on ‘Water Matters: Water For All’ jointly organized by World Trade Center Mumbai and Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) on March 23, 2016. Dr Shah opined that the government’s role in water management should be limited to that of a facilitator. As a facilitator, the government must make available the data on water resources to enable farmers and others take informed decision on using the groundwater. Agreeing to Dr. Shah’s emphasis on the facilitating role of government, Mr. Nikhilesh Jha, IAS, Additional Secretary & Mission Director, National Water Mission, Government of India opined that the state governments must empower water users associations, encourage participatory water management and community-led command area development. India receives on an average more than 1100 mm of rainfall every year compared to only 600 mm of rainfall in Israel. However, Israel could meet its water demand through recycling of waste water and salination of sea water. Mr. Jha raised concern about the quality of freshwater in the country given that only 19% of the sewage water is treated before it is released into sea and other water bodies. Mr. Manish Kumar, Sr. Institutional Development Specialist, Water and Sanitation Programme, The World Bank also called for greater community action rather than government intervention. Highlighting this point, Mr. Kumar said “There is a need for social response to water and sanitation issues”.

Dr. Mihir Shah, Former Member of the Planning Commission, Government of India (right) being felicitated by Mr. Vijay Kalantri, Vice Chairman, World Trade Center Mumbai on the occasion of World Water Day.

Mr. Ravi B. Budhiraja I.A.S. (Retd.), Chairman, MWRRA highlighted the poor urban water management by mentioning that the biggest threat for water security is the discharge of untreated sewage water in rivers and other water bodies. At a time when the population in urban areas is rising rapidly, there is a dying need to evolve effective solutions for urban water management and regulation. Maharashtra has set an example for other states by setting up a regulatory organization in the water sector. Referring to the severity of water crisis, Mrs. Malini Shankar, I.A.S., Additional Chief Secretary – Environment, Government of Maharashtra alarmed that the world is heading towards a war for water. “Amidst the uproar over the claim on water resources, we have forgotten the issue of ‘water quality’. While there is a lot of push for food security, water security, the issue of water quality is neglected. Quality of drinking water can be ensured only through 100% treatment of sewage water before it mixes with fresh water and effective implementation of environment pollution norms. For effective implementation of environment pollution norms, we need high frequency data on demand side and supply side aspects of water resources,” Ms. Shankar explained. Mrs. Shankar mentioned that the allocation of 25% of the capital budget of the pollution control board to environment infrastructure would gradually contribute to water safety and quality.

Dr. Mihir Shah, Former Member of the Planning Commission, Government of India delivering key note address on 'Water Crisis in India: Key Challenges and Possible Solutions' at a panel discussion on ‘Water Matters : Water For All’ on the occasion of World Water Day. Seated (L to R) Mr. Nikhilesh Jha, IAS Additional Secretary & Mission Director, National Water Mission, Government of India, Mr. Vijay Kalantri, Vice Chairman, World Trade Center Mumbai.

Earlier in his welcome address, Mr. Vijay Kalantri, Vice Chairman - World Trade Center Mumbai and President - All India Association of Industries (AIAI) remarked “Individuals and government must practice what they preach and the accountability for water conservation lies at all levels. Communities and local government bodies must take responsibility to repair the innumerable leaking pipes, dredging of sewages, deepening of lakes and so on. Also, government must set up an effective accountability mechanism to ensure that the ambitious schemes are implemented in a time-bound manner. The construction and infrastructure sector can benefit from the various government schemes like Ganga Rejuvenation plan, flood management programmes, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana. More importantly, the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Campaign and Smart Cities Project offers considerable opportunity for companies in sewage treatment infrastructure and waste water recycling. Thus, exploring business opportunities in water management not only addresses water crisis, but also generates employment opportunities and overall growth of the economy”.