Centre invites studies of river basins

To understand the impact of climate change on water systems

December 31, 2014 01:57 am | Updated 11:19 am IST - NEW DELHI

To understand the impact of climate change on water systems, the government has invited proposals from knowledge institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore to undertake studies on 20 major river basins in the country. This is one of the steps under the National Water Mission which is one of the eight priority missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).

Official sources told The Hindu on Tuesday that these institutions would study impacts using downscaled global climate models. The studies are expected to be commissioned shortly and will take between six months to two years for completion. Six IITs and the IISc will be involved in the project which will provide valuable inputs to policy decisions and adaptation measures. This is the first time that such studies will be undertaken on a large-scale with downscaled models which will be relevant for local regions, he said.

According to the NAPCC, 2008, government expenditure on adaptation to climate variability exceeds 2.6 per cent of the GDP. The technical document says that many parts of India are water stressed and the country is likely to be water scarce by 2050. There is a decline in total run off for all rivers projected, except for Narmada and Tapti.

Most of India’s eight national missions are adaptation centric and the National Water Mission has five goals, official sources said. The Mission has already set up a comprehensive data base called the Water Resources Information System, in partnership with the National Remote Sensing Agency which is updated every six months.

The Mission is focusing on capacity building right down to local self-governments which is an ongoing exercise and has an MoU with the National Institute of Rural Development and other agencies for this purpose.

As part of adaptation it has focused attention on critical areas like depleting ground water and is undertaking aquifer mapping, and flood management with a focus away from structural measures like building embankments and instead working with communities for preparedness.

Two pilot projects with technical assistance from Asian Development Bank in the Burhi Gandak basin in Bihar and Brahmani in Orissa will lead to a master plan on preventive action in flood-prone areas, using best practices and providing value additions.

With the aim of increasing water use efficiency by 20 per cent across all sectors, the government is developing a National Bureau of Water Use Efficiency which is in the advanced state of being set up on the lines of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency. Among other things it will set national standards on water appliances and also focus on efficient technology and best practices.

While the Water Mission has taken several steps, there are several challenges. In 2012, a study said the mission should be led by interdisciplinary experts, which is not how the Ministry is currently set up.

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