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In the past 50 years, the Indian government has spent vast sums of money on water resource development. Programmes have focussed on irrigation development for increasing Green Revolution-style agricultural production and drinking water supply. But no specific effort has been directed to drought-proof rainfed areas which suffer from high rainfall variability from year to year. "The government has intervened in the country's hydrological system in a very big way. But it has done precious little to sustain its integrity," said Anil Agarwal, director of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
Addressing a public meeting on "Water harvesting for a drought-free future" organised by the CSE in New Delhi, Agarwal observed that the government has suddenly woken up to the importance of water harvesting and financial assistance to the tune of around Rs 2,000 crore have been allotted to build water harvesting structures in different states.
Agarwal pointed out that the water harvesting process required more than just monetary support. "It involves a process of awareness raising and institution building among the villagers. The entire concept of community water harvesting requires time and effort," he said, adding: "If the government does not make the effort to involve the people, there could be more money harvesting than water harvesting."
But rainwater harvesting need not only be restricted to rural India. "For city-dwellers, used to buying things and services off-the-shelf, the concept of 'People's Management of Water' may seem fantastic. However, it has now become a necessity," said Rahul Ranade, CSE's water harvesting engineer. He also pointed out that water harvesting structures can also be installed in urban homes.