Water management: A vibrant water culture
In the Amrit Mahotsav year of independence, the country is making a unique experiment to deal with the water crisis. Under this, 75 Amrit Sarovars are being constructed in every district of the country. The rapid work being done on this scheme is a living proof of the country’s water consciousness. These Amrit Sarovars will not only solve the water crisis, but will also have a special role in rural development and women empowerment
Uttar Pradesh The scene of Patwai Gram Panchayat of K Rampur district has changed completely in the last one month. Here the pond built on the land of Gram Panchayat used to be seen in a pile of garbage. Now the same pond has become a tourist center for the people. The whole picture has changed with the fountains in the pond, the twinkling lights, the food court, the stone pitching, the wall, the sailing. The same pond which used to spread diseases from the dirt of the pond, has now become a model of inclusive development with meeting the water needs of the people. This pond has got this new life from the Amrit Sarovar scheme of the Central Government.
Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Water Power Minister of Uttar Pradesh Swatantradev Singh inaugurated the Amrit Sarovar on May 13. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has mentioned this first Amrit Sarovar of the country in his Mann Ki Baat program. Patwai Gram Panchayat has proved how ponds can be liberated from encroachment and dirt not only through public participation but also ponds can become modern monuments of water, livelihood and environmental protection. It is noteworthy that some time ago, on the occasion of Panchayati Raj Day on April 24, 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched Mission Amrit Sarovar. The manner in which the construction of Amrit Sarovars is being finalized in the country within a month of the commencement of the scheme is a living proof of the water consciousness of the country.
We have thousands of years old history of water culture. Famous Gandhian thinker Anupam Mishra writes in his book ‘Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talab’ that ponds were being built in every corner of the country from 5th to 15th century. The king and queen all built ponds. From widows to saints, they made ponds and dedicated them to the society. The one who built the pond was called Maharaj or Mahatma. Ponds in the country have been of social, religious and economic importance along with water security. In a way ponds were synonymous with water culture in our society. Gradually increasing population and decreasing holding size affected the ponds. Far from creating new ponds, old ponds were turned into fields or they were swallowed by encroachment. The exploitation of ground water increased with the extinction of the ponds which were always green with rain water.
Increasing water crisis
One of the major reasons for the frightening picture of water crisis that has come to the fore in the last two decades is the destruction of ponds and water bodies. The situation can be gauged from the fact that the Policy Commission states that 84% of the rural population is deprived of clean water. To solve the water crisis caused by perishable ponds, the Central Government is promoting pond centered water culture. In this Bhagirath effort of water security, under Amrit Sarovar scheme, 75 Amrit Sarovars i.e. ponds and water bodies are being constructed in every district of the country. There are 697 districts in 28 states of the country and a total of 45 districts in the Union Territory, i.e. there are a total of 742 districts in the country. These 55,650 Amrit Sarovars being built across the country will not only ensure the availability of water but also give new life to the entire ecosystem.
There will be collection of rain water
Priority is being given to construction of new ponds under Amrit Sarovar scheme. Old water structures have to be rehabilitated, renovated and rehabilitated. The most important objective of Amrit Sarovar Yojana is accumulation of rain water. It will also strengthen the ‘Catch the Rain’ campaign launched on the occasion of World Water Day on March 22. At present most of the ponds are either leveled or water is not stored in them due to accumulation of silt and debris. In such a situation, under Amrit Sarovar Yojana, ponds are being deepened by scientific methods. This will free the ponds from silt and increase their water efficiency. These ponds to be constructed on at least one acre of land will be helpful in groundwater recharge.
The water holding capacity of Amrit Sarovar is at least ten thousand cubic meters. To make this rural development sustainable, every process from site selection to final stage is being completed in a phased manner. In 96 percent of the panchayats, modern technology like geo special and remote sensing is being used. Under this, mapping and data analysis of geographical structure, nature of soil etc. is done by modern method. Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geo Informatics is providing mapping expertise related to this scheme. On the other hand, real time monitoring related to the construction works of Amrit Sarovar is being done by the National Mobile Monitoring System. Amrit Sarovar Mission Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, started in the Amrit Mahotsav year of independence, will also strengthen efforts like Drop More Crop, Atal Bhujal, Jal Jeevan Mission, Jal Shakti Abhiyan (Catch the Rain).
Employment and tourism project
Construction of ponds in Amrit Sarovar scheme will give new dimension to rural development. Under this, ponds are to be constructed under MGNREGA. Activities like fishing, water chestnut, horticulture will be promoted in these water bodies. While small farmers will get additional sources of income from this, it will also provide a source of revenue to the panchayats. These lakes are to be developed as places of interest. Amrit Sarovar with facilities like swimming pool and sailing will promote rural tourism. Local products will also get a market from the shop and commercial activities of Amrit Sarovar. He is preparing to be honored for the construction of excellent Amrit Sarovar to awaken the spirit of competition in Panchayats across the country.
One of the major reasons for the grim picture of water crisis that has come to the fore in the last two decades is the destruction of ponds and water bodies. The situation can be gauged from the fact that the Policy Commission states that 84% of the rural population is deprived of clean water. To address the water crisis caused by perishable ponds, the central government is promoting pond-centered water culture.
Development of water culture through public participation
Amrit Sarovar symbolizes community participation in rural development along with water security. From the selection of construction site of ponds to its construction process will be under the supervision of Gram Sabha. In the selection of villages for construction of Amrit Sarovar, priority will be given to the villages of freedom fighters and sacrifices. The work of Amrit Sarovar is to be started by the hands of freedom fighters and their family members or people who have been awarded the Padma Award. The water committees of the Panchayat will play an important role in maintaining the Amrit Sarovar and making it sustainable. The presence of 50 percent women members in water committees is mandatory. One million women across the country have been trained for water monitoring. These women will also check the water quality through field test kits.
Innovative initiative has been taken to appoint women to take care of Amrit Sarovar as Amrit Sakhi in Uttar Pradesh. The community buildings and attractive terraces to be constructed at Amrit Sarovar will strengthen the social harmony with the social needs of the local people. During the construction of the water body, local workers will be employed and the soil from its deepening will also be used in the development works of the Panchayat. Not only this, for the construction of Amrit Sarovar, efforts have been made to increase social participation through crowd funding and CSR. Examples of community participation, labor and meaning based civic participation are also being compiled for future generations to take inspiration from this project of public participation.
Construction of ponds in Amrit Sarovar scheme will give new dimension to rural development. Under this, ponds are to be constructed under MGNREGA. Activities like fishing, water chestnut, horticulture will be promoted in these water bodies. This will not only provide additional source of income to the small farmers but it will also provide a source of revenue to the panchayats. These lakes are to be developed as places of interest. Amrit Sarovar with facilities like swimming pool and sailing will promote rural tourism
An example of how even drought affected areas can achieve water self-reliance through public participation can be found in Bhujpur in the Kutch region of Gujarat. Due to the uncertain rainfall area, the only source of clean water here is ground water. Even the rivers here did not have enough water. A few years ago, the people of the village decided to collect rain water. 18 check dams were built on Rukmavati and its tributaries. This rainwater harvesting increased the rate of infiltration in the soil. This led to unexpected improvement in ground water level. According to the farmers of this area, the wells now have water all year round. The same water that used to flow into the sea, today fulfills the need of local drinking water and irrigation.
Warning groundwater conditions
17.5 per cent of the world’s population lives in India. But only 4 percent of fresh and clean water is available here. Right now our country’s water footprint index is 980 cubic meters, while the global average is 1243 cubic meters. One of the major causes of water crisis in the country and in the world today is the random exploitation and unlimited distribution of water. Groundwater is the lifeline of India. Our villages are dependent on ground water for everything from farming to drinking water. 85% of the rural population is dependent on ground water. While only 30 percent of clean water is in the form of ground water level. It is usually found 5 to 20 meters below the surface. Ground water accounts for 50% of the water used for irrigation in India. With the extinction of natural water structures, people are focusing on groundwater. According to a report of the Policy Commission, ground water level will emerge as a major crisis by 2030.
Another reason for the decline in groundwater is the lack of crop rotation after the green revolution and the emphasis on crop production based on minimum support prices. Sugarcane and paddy production is more than required in a large part of the country. According to environmental experts, it takes 5 thousand liters to prepare one kg of sugar, 3 thousand liters to prepare one kg of rice, 1700 liters of water to grow one kg of wheat. Along with getting alternative source of income from Amrit Sarovar Yojana, the challenges related to irrigation will also be solved.
Amrit Sarovar aids in zero carbon emissions
Green area is to be developed around Amrit Sarovar. Under this shady trees are to be planted. This will help in achieving the national targets of afforestation and zero carbon emissions. Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals announced by the United Nations, Amrit Sarovar will play a vital role in achieving climate solution (13), aquatic ecosystem (14) and land quality (15). Reducing the cost of irrigation will make the path of zero budget agriculture easier, while new means of livelihood will be available to the farmers and they will be oriented towards cash crops from water consuming crops. Lack of natural water resources is one of the major causes of endangered biodiversity. With the erection of a series of water bodies, aquatic organisms and plant species will get life. This will achieve the goal of ecosystem restoration.