development target set by the UN Millennium Assembly and also
by the recent Johannesburg Summit is to halve by 2015 the
proportion of people living in extreme poverty, suffering
from hunger or unable to reach or afford safe drinking water.
It will not be possible to achieve these goals unless governments
realise that water is fundamental to almost any kind of development
and human activity and that it is not water that should be
managed, but in fact the people who depend on and make decisions
about freshwater. Water is not an issue for experts. Water
is everybody's business.
the wars of the future are indeed going to be fought over
water, the conservation of every drop and its judicious use
is essential and urgent. Several states in the country have
been facing drought virtually every year. Though it appears
to be a natural calamity, to a great extent drought is a man-made
Independence, our country has emphasised major irrigation
projects and big dams to conserve water. After investing thousands
of crores of rupees, hardly 32% of our land is perennially
irrigated through various reservoirs. In spite of all efforts
not even 70% of the lands in command areas have so far received
irrigation facilities. Besides, over 20 million hectares of
irrigated lands have become saline or waterlogged in several
parts of the country. Even additional investments will only
make it possible to perennially irrigate 40-45% of the total
area through canal irrigation. Thus 55-60% of India will always
be dependent on rains. Scientific micro-watershed development
to conserve every drop of water, wherever and whenever it
falls, and preventing soil erosion are the only solutions.
Besides it may be possible to provide water for seasonal crops,
horticulture, agro-forestry etc or to save kharif crops whenever
rainfall is erratic. This approach must also be applied in
all catchment areas of big dams to prevent soil erosion and
save water reservoirs from further siltation.
will never be possible to introduce watershed development
programmes all over the country without the involvement of
millions of people and without participatory watershed development
with effective management. The recent guidelines of the Government
of India have made it very clear that the watershed development
programme will be a people's programme and not a government
programme and that state governments will work only as facilitators
to implement this programme.
every drop of water and its further management should be the
responsibility of the local people. By and large a village
or cluster of villages forms a watershed unit covering 400
to 700 hectares. The Gram Sabhas of these villages, according
to Schedule 11 of the Indian Constitution, are responsible
for watershed management. According to the 73rd Amendment
and the 11th Schedule, 29 programmes including soil and water
conservation and water management have been transferred to
the Gram Sabha. Thus it is the constitutional responsibility
of each Gram Sabha to implement this programme by involving
the local people.
view of the scarcity of water faced by various villages and
drought conditions in several parts of the country, a massive
programme to conserve water with low-cost technology is unavoidable.
Especially when state governments don't have adequate funds,
emphasis should be laid on low-cost technologies prevalent
in the country for hundreds of years. Temporary bunds on nullahs,
rivulets or small rivers erected by using empty cement bags,
popularly known as Vanarai Bunds, have proved most effective.
At minimum or virtually no cost, they have been yielding maximum
results. In Maharashtra, after the 2002 monsoons, more than
36,000 Vanarai Bunds were erected by local communities, administrations
and college students. Commendable initiatives were made by
the CEOs and Collectors of several districts. This has helped
in solving the problem of drinking water, bringing some lands
under rabi crops and generating employment opportunities.