Our water supply institutions are simply incapable of bringing water to all, feels S. Vishwanath

It is the time of the year when political manifestos are being written and candidates are traipsing the length and breadth of constituencies meeting and confabulating with voters. The election season is the right time to engage with the governance system to address burning problems which are faced by the electorate. Since it happens to be the onset of summer, water will be the priority item for many a candidate to grapple with and address.

The situation with drinking water is abysmal. Most of our cities and towns get intermittent supply of water once in several days and that too of dubious quality. Most of the slums and low income areas get even lesser water, if at all, and people have to struggle and pay a huge sum for a pot. Even for irrigation water there is a struggle for many. Rain-fed irrigation as well as groundwater-based irrigation systems are a reality for the vast majority of farmers and groundwater is running out very fast.

Our water supply institutions are simply incapable of bringing water to all. Institutional reform is a must and building capacity even more important. Is it time for specialised drinking water institutions to be created for both rural and urban areas charged with the responsibility with bringing 24/7 water supply and sewerage service to all at affordable price?

State of distress

Our rivers, lakes and tanks in all our cities and towns are in a state of distress. Even in villages the state of water bodies is pathetic. Is it not time that the specialised water institution also take responsibility for all water bodies in the cities and towns and revive them too?

This will not only augment scarce water resources but also recharge the aquifers and make available groundwater for the supplemental requirement of the city and its residents.

Rainwater harvesting has received lip service. Now is the time to launch a national mission on harvesting rain with specific time-bound deadlines to make sure that each and every drop of rainwater is conserved in homes and buildings and in lakes and ponds for use over the entire year.

Pollution has been a bane for water bodies with entire rivers biologically dead for long stretches. A war on pollution will need to be declared and a national river and lake revival mission started immediately. By preventing both domestic and industrial pollution, the state of the environment can be enhanced and water quality improvement can make available more water for higher quality use.

Sanitation has been a bug bear for India, with the single largest number of people defecating in the open coming from this country. Within three years open defecation will need to be eliminated by launching a people’s movement for a clean environment. Especially in cities, treated wastewater with the setting up of sewage treatment plants can become a resource to fill lakes, wetlands and rivers and enhance bio-diversity.

Clean India initiative

Water and sanitation are state subjects as are rivers and groundwater. However, an impetus from the Centre and urgency to address problems in a mission mode can trigger a Clean India initiative which can provide good water and sanitation for our citizens, improving dramatically their quality of lives and creating the right platform for launching an economic growth model. Clean rivers and lakes are both supporters and indicators of development.

Sujalam, Sufalam, Malayaja Sheetalam’ must be translated into action.

The moment to seize the initiative is now.