Kerala’s water budget can help tackle shortage issues: Experts

Budget prepared based on the availability and consumption of water in the state for equitable distribution

By Anil Ashwani Sharma
Published: Friday 21 April 2023

Kerala became the first state to adopt a water budget on April 17, 2023 as a solution to water scarcity during summer months to ensure equitable water distribution. The budget looks into the availability and consumption of water, which can help the state manage the resource effectively, according to experts. 

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan released the details of the first phase of the water budget on April 17. He also launched the third phase of the ‘Ini Njan Ozhukatte’ (Let me flow now) project for the rehabilitation of irrigation networks in the Western Ghats.

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The move will also create awareness regarding proper water use and avoiding wastage, the CM announced. 

The first phase of the project would cover 94 Gram Panchayats and 15 Block Panchayats, where water shortage has been noted. The budget gives data about water availability in a particular place and consumption based on the population in the region. 

Kerala does not have a water shortage issue, it has a management issue, said Sunny George, limnologist and director of SCMS Water Institute. 

“To manage a resource, it is necessary to determine its quantity — this is the basic principle of management of any resource. Now if we get the demand and supply figures, we will get a correct picture. In this context, this water budget is a good initiative,” George said. 

The budget was prepared by the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management institute, along with the state water department. According to water experts, the initiative will help improve the demand and supply system. 

The budget is also timely, as the temperatures in the state have been increasing significantly in the last few weeks. The high temperatures have resulted in water scarcity in some regions, even though the state has more than 44 rivers and dozens of lakes, ponds and canals.

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However, in spite of the increasing scarcity, the state still has three times more water available than the national average.  

The government will also ensure the participation of local self-governing institutions through the budget so that rainwater can be distributed equitably for agriculture and irrigation.

The Kerala government has revived 15,119 kilometres of waterways in the last few years. Local bodies are rejuvenating more ponds and streams and the responsibility of implementing the water budget has also been entrusted to them, according to the government. 

India receives around 4,000 billion cubic metres of water from the average annual rainfall, which is also the country’s main source of fresh water. But the rate of rain varies in different parts of the country.

There are about 20 river basins in India. Most of the river basins are drying up due to domestic, industrial and agricultural use. Water demand also varies in different parts of the country.

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Agriculture is the most water demanding human activity, claiming more than 85 per cent of consumption, according to a 2020 study. The needs of the growing population and rapid economic activities are also putting additional pressure on the already stressed water sources.  

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