JAIPUR: Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Shekhawat’s remark that the water crisis that has gripped the country is not as bad as it’s being made out to be by the media hasn’t been received well in his home state, Rajasthan, which is perennially plagued by water scarcity.
While water experts said they did not agree with the minister’s assessment of the situation, the Congress strongly objected to his remark calling it ‘insensitive’.The minister, the first to hold the newly formed portfolio, said the country has enough water stored in dams and the scarcity is nothing but a false narrative spun by the media.
“The panic around water scarcity is the result of needless hype created by the media,” Shekhawat said on Tuesday. However, belying the minister’s claim, the 2018 NITI Ayog report says, “Six hundred million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about 2 lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. By 2030, the country’s demand for water is projected to be twice the available supply, which means severe water crisis for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual 6 % loss in the country’s GDP.”
However, the minister did concede that in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, the coverage of clean drinking water is less than 5%. In his home state, 215 dams out of 284 are dry and the remaining 69 are running scarce.
State Congress spokesperson Archana Sharma hit out at him, saying, “It seems like he is running away from his responsibility. Now, one can’t help but doubt the PM’s commitment to rid the country of issues related to water by forming this ministry.”