The government on Saturday asked the India Inc to contribute in water conservation and fulfil their corporate social responsibility, underlining that it was “extremely important” because industries exploit the maximum water resources across the country.

It also asked the industries, especially those from the unorganised sector, to use appropriate effluent treatment plants so that toxic discharges do not contaminate the water resources.

“India faces an increasingly urgent situation. Its finite and fragile water resources are stressed and depleting while various sectoral demands are growing rapidly,” Union Minister of State for Rural Development Agatha Sangma said addressing a ‘Government-Industry Interface for Drinking Water Security’ here, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

“I really feel that corporate social responsibility today is an extremely important responsibility that you have to target ...it is something you will have to do because you are using the maximum water,” Ms. Sangma said.

Industry uses six per cent of available water resources as compared to four per cent for domestic uses and less than one per cent for drinking water, she said.

“Despite more than Rs 1,00,000 crore investment already made by the Central and state governments in rural water supply sector, because of unregulated ground water extraction by industry and agriculture, the reliability of rural drinking water supply and satisfaction levels are still below the desired levels,” Ms. Sangma said.

Ms. Sangma said the bottled drinking water and soft drinks industries are major extractors of groundwater. In many cases, this results in public drinking water sources drying up.

Underling that groundwater is the source for more than 80 per cent of drinking water systems, she said, “Its regulation for equitable and judicious use is a must, since the exploitation of ground water is mostly in the private sector.”

She expressed serious concern over the contamination of river water by untreated domestic sewage discharged “from most of the towns” in the country. “Toxic discharges from the industries add to the woes of the rivers,” she added.

Ms. Sangma said discharge of untreated sewage into rivers increases the total suspended solids and biological oxygen demand, affecting the carrying capacity of the surface water body for self-cleansing.

“Therefore, the industrial sector should use appropriate effluent treatment plants so that the minimum river flow conditions are maintained and their carrying capacities are not disturbed,” she said.

Ms. Sangma suggested that industrial use of water should rest on the principles of harvest, minimise, reuse and recharge.

Industrial complexes should harvest rainwater for use, she said adding, and this will reduce water costs to industry.

“Use of water efficient technologies should be adopted to minimise use of water. Waste water should be recycled and reused and finally recharged into the ground,” she said.

The industry should take it upon itself as a part of environmental and social responsibility without waiting for regulation or pricing pressures, she said. “Water suppliers in the public sector should adopt pricing strategies that promote these principles,” Ms. Sangma said.

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