Local panchayats have a major role to play in ensuring water and ecological security by maintaining forest cover and air and water quality or promoting scientific land use, Shailesh Nayak, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences has said.

Delivering the keynote address at the inaugural function of the 34{+t}{+h}meet of the Institute of Indian Geographers (IIG) at the Centre for Earth Science Studies here on Thursday, he stressed the need to train at least one member from each panchayat to oversee the requirement of water for domestic and agricultural needs. “The availability and distribution of water may change as earth becomes warm. It is important to understand the change in water cycle and formulate a response”, he said.

“Changes in rainfall pattern are making the availability of fresh water uncertain. extreme events of rainfall are increasing resulted in enhanced surface flow and decreased percolation”.

Dr.Nayak said agriculture and the pressure of population had increased the pressure on groundwater resources.

“The demand for water in coastal areas has gone up following the population shift. There is a need to find medium and short term solutions to water scarcity and drought”.

“The model of economic growth that pollutes rivers and seas, destroys forests and biodiversity cannot be sustainable. Our knowledge about the science of earth and social systems allows us to make trade offs and make wise decisions.

We need to recognise that ecological security is fundamental to economic growth. With a mature remote sensing, global navigation, geographic information systems, advanced computing and communication technology, it is possible for India to build a robust decision support system to aid planning and implementation of development schemes”.

In his presidential address, Executive Vice President of the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment Prof.V.N.Rajasejkharan Pillai said the effective utilisation of natural resources was the answer to the conflict between development needs and environmental concerns.

Director, CESS N.P.Kurian, President, IIG Prof.A.C.Mohapatra and Secretary Prof.Veena Joshi and convenor of the meet Dr.Srikumar Chattopadhyay also addressed the gathering.

Delegates from 20 states are attending the three- day event.