Smart housing need of hour for sustainable water policy

Even the schemes for the rural areas, such as the Atal Bhujal Yojna, which is aimed at improving the water table in the arid districts, has delivered encouraging results.

Published: 11th June 2023 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th June 2023 10:40 PM   |  A+A-

Indian population is projected to keep rising until 2064, according to a latest United Nations report. The younger population is also giving momentum to mobility, which results in faster urbanisation. Therefore, urban stress for basic amenities may see a sharp jump, and water is expected to get scarce. This is a precious life support that will require preservation. The Central government recognised this need long ago, and has been running schemes for it.

The National Water Policy 2012 acted as a guideline for the state governments, as water is a state subject. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave high priority to water conservation efforts by constituting the Jal Shakti Ministry, there has been visible improvements. 

Even the schemes for the rural areas, such as the Atal Bhujal Yojna, which is aimed at improving the water table in the arid districts, has delivered encouraging results. Since 2020, the Centre has substantially increased the fund allocation—10 times in three years.

In 2020-21, Rs 125 crore was allocated, and the scheme was provided with Rs 1,170 crore in 2022-23. The fund utilisation has also been almost 100 percent under the scheme. Similarly, the PM announced a scheme called Amrit Sarovar, which called for the revival or restoration of 75 water bodies in each district of the country. It was recently announced that 50,000 ponds have so far been revived under the campaign. The intervention of the Central government along with seriousness being given to afforestation may give a major boost to preserve water resources in the country.

Serious thought though is needed in places of high water-consumption regions such as urban centres. The National Water Policy mandates that water be used efficiently at such places. But it may be timely to revisit the efficacy of the policy guidelines and take stock of the ground situation. For instance, audit of water usage and recycling in group housing societies, hotels, hostels, hospitals, colleges, institutions, manufacturing units and other similar entities must be an integral part of the localised water policy. It’s well known that such entities are water guzzlers. The policy must incorporate provision for at least 50 percent reuse of water consumed by them, which needs to be measurable. There should be monthly audits and provisions for daily meter reading. 

The National Water Policy has schemes of incentives to promote sustainable use of water. This can be further worked to encourage the efficient use of water. Residents who ensure 50 percent reuse can be given 50 percent rebate on water charges. Group housing societies and other such bodies may be mandated to ensure that another 50 percent used water after recycling goes for the efforts to recharge the ground water. 

This can be part of a beginning which can become an institutionalised response to the water conservation efforts. In fact, as part of the localised water policy, such entities must also be mandated to conserve rain water. Town planning approvals and inspections should regularly seek compliances for zero slippages. Thus, high water-consuming entities can adopt self-sustainable models. Ensuring minimal water discharge in the sewage will take off much of the pressure from the already-stressed urban sewage system. 

It also has to be stressed that the country cannot afford to fritter away gains made in the revival of the water bodies in the rural areas to irresponsible water usages in the urban centres. People have to know that water is a scarce resource, and an asset that needs replenishment. 

Jal Shakti Abhiyan to promote people’s participation for ‘catch the rain where it falls and when it falls’ has also given desired results. As many as 8,74,680 reuse and recharge structures have been created as part of the campaign so far in the water-stressed districts of the country. It’s time we replicated the success of such campaigns at the urban centres by making high water-consuming entities equal stakeholders.  

Sumeet Bhasin

Director, Public Policy Research Centre

Twitter: @sumeetbhasin


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