Sunny Sebastian

JAIPUR: Count your drops like you count your money for water auditing is coming! A strong plea was made for enforcement of a stricter regimen on water use for countrymen through both by legislation and societal pressure by a group of scientists, academicians, activists and policy makers who gathered here at the University of Rajasthan for the first of its kind national seminar on water auditing.

“Everybody does auditing of accounts or money and nobody ever thought of water auditing. This is when water is more precious,” said Waterman and Magsaysay award winner Rajendra Singh addressing the inaugural session of the three-day exercise. “There can be training programmes nation-wide in water auditing before we embark on the agenda which can start at the gram sabha level,” Mr. Singh noted. “If we do this now we can escape bloody confrontations over water in future,” he cautioned.

The seminar is jointly organised by University of Rajasthan in collaboration with the Department of Water Resources, Rajasthan and Tarun Bharat Sangh, the NGO led by Mr. Rajendra Singh. The initiative, coming as in the middle of an unusually harsh summer and when the State is facing one of its worst water scarcity conditions with 153 of its total 237 blocks showing the scary prospects of zero water availability after May, surely made lot of sense.

“Most serious challenge in the history of Rajasthan,” this was how Ram Lubhaya, Principal Secretary Water Resources, Rajasthan, explained the scenario. Out of 14 basins in the State 11 have tested deficit, he informed.

“The policies of the Centre as well as the State Governments in the past have killed many rivers,” Mr. Singh said citing one instance from Rajasthan—the case of Katli river in the Shekhawati region, “over exploited” by the Khetri Copper Complex in Jhunjhunu district. “The Governments did not do anything to stop encroachments of the dry river beds in many States and most of the areas falling under lakes and other water bodies too are under serious threat from encroachers,” he noted.

“The State Government is aware of the critical situation of water. The New Water Policy of Rajasthan is the result of that,” Mahipal Maderna, Minister for Water Resources, said addressing the seminar. He said that strategies to combat the situation included water recycling, optimal use of available water and better utilization of water in irrigation. Eighty three per cent of the State's water was claimed by irrigation and 70 per cent farmers depended on irrigated water for cropping, he noted.

“Water scarcity is felt the world over and new strategies have to be evolved to fight the situation,” observed A.D. Sawant, Vice Chancellor University of Rajasthan. Prof. Sawant felt that as a State Rajasthan was excessively dependent on ground water. He was of the view that water is being supplied almost free of cost by the civic authorities and the system all over India was too unrealistic to deliver expected results. Prof. Sawant suggested metering the quantum of waste water to levy misuse or over use by individual consumer as it was being done in Japan. The string of strategies being planned to be evolved during the next two days include a new water policy at national level and water policies in all the States which have provisions for water budgeting as well as water audit.