Budget 2020-21: Experts hope water security will be in focus again

Fund allocations must be clearly defined, they say

By Shagun
Published: Friday 24 January 2020

Experts hope water security will again be in focus during the upcoming budget just like it has been ever since the new government came to power on May 23, 2019.

Schemes like ‘Nal se Jal’ and ‘Atal Bhujal Yojana’ were introduced in the last few months to battle the water crisis in the country. Experts expect the government will allocate funds towards these schemes and lay out a clear path on how it plans to achieve its targets.

“The government should not lump all funds under a specific programme,” Himanshu Kulkarni, executive director and secretary at Pune-based Advance Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM), said.

“Even if that is done, the programme components have to be strategically defined so that they get linked to various other water management and governance components, including the needs of agriculture, industry, and urban water,” he added.

Piped water for all can be achieved through better management of other bulk water demands, Kulkarni said.

“When we talk of secure water for every household, the smallest requirement of drinking water is the most sensitive in comparison to the larger requirements for agriculture, industries, and urban demands. We require strategies for securing drinking water through improved management of bulk water demands. By this, I mean water for agriculture, industries and the urban sector,” he explained.

“All of these will actually impinge upon how well drinking water can be managed. Because apportioning water on paper is easy but aggregating and partitioning it is difficult,” he continued.

The government recently launched Atal Bhujal Yojana that aims to improve groundwater management through community participation. The scheme has a provision under which better performing gram panchayats will be allocated more.

India for the first time, has a programme which focuses exclusively on groundwater in Atal Bhujal Yojana, Kulkarni said.

“Till now, all programmes that tried to address groundwater were very indirect. They were either recharge, watershed, or large-scale irrigation programmes but not necessarily focussed on groundwater until Atal Bhujal. This is the first time that country has a dedicated programme in groundwater. We have to wait and see how it’s going to be rolled out,” he noted.

Atal Bhujal has to be a programme of participation, partnership, and collaboration. If it becomes one of simple delivery through campaigns and community mobilisation, it will not work, Kulkarni said.

In the last budget session, the allocation for the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti declined by 9.4 per cent. 

On the Ganga, experts said they expected better allocated funds under the Namami Gange project and “not just for STPs (sewage treatment plants).”

“STPs are also important but there should be funds for other fundamental agendas too,” Shripad Dharmadhikary, the coordinator of Pune-based Manthan Adhyayan Kendra that studies water and energy policies, said.

“There should be more focus on how to maintain ecological flows of the Ganga. This may require allocations towards more studies or to actually implement projects so that the flow is maintained,” he added.

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