In what clearly hints at strengthening of bilateral relations between India and Israel, the latter is reportedly helping the drought-hit Marathwada region of Maharashtra in tackling its water woes. This major development comes after the Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu visited the state of Maharashtra last year and signed an MoU with the Maharashtra government, appointing Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran (MJP) and Mekorot, the National Water Carrier of Israel, to design a Rs. 1000 crore water grid system in the Marathwada region of the state of Maharashtra. Romiel Samuel, Indian representative of Mekorot, said, “Once completed, the project will provide water to a population of 30 million by 2050.” It is the largest non-defence Israeli project in India.
As per Yaakov Finkelstein, Consul General of Israel, the government of Maharashtra already had a water grid but did not have the know-how of designing it. He said, “The Israeli Ambassador [Daniel Carmon] then asked the Consul General’s office in Mumbai to put Mekorot in touch with the Maharashtra authorities.” He added, “Marathwada (65,000 sq. km) is three times bigger than Israel (22,000 sq. km). We are, therefore, humbled that the government chose us as partner for this crucial project.”
It is important to mention here that Israel recently expressed the keenness to share its expertise in tackling the issues of desertification and water management with India. Israel is a world leader as far as technological prowess to tackle such issues is concerned. The Israeli Ambassador to India Ron Malka had said in a statement, “As part of our growing partnership with India, Israel is keen to work together and share all its experience and cutting edge technology in our joint fight against desertification, including a strategic partnership on water management and water security.” This statement assumes a lot of importance given that India is currently fighting acute water shortage with and intense droughts with the water levels in India’s major reservoirs dropping to 21 percent.
The way Israel has expressed the keenness to help India in tackling its water woes and has kicked off in a big way as far as the Marathwada region is concerned, goes on to show the kind of proximity that the two countries share. Till now, Israel was seen as a key ally for India in the defence sector. However, with the aforesaid development, the two countries are engaging in close co-operation in the non-defence sectors as well. It is relevant to mention here that last year the Israeli Prime Minister had gifted the Indian Prime Minister a desalination jeep known as The Gal Mobile Water Desalination and Purification Jeep, during the former’s visit to India. He couldn’t have brought a better gift for India.
In a developing country like India, the desalination jeep is the perfect mobile water treatment system that can be installed in various parts of the country to increase the supply of fresh water. It was dedicated to the people of Suigam village by PM Modi in the presence of the Israeli PM Netanyahu at a function that was held in Ahmedabad at that time.
Desalination is a process which converts sea water into drinking water. It basically removes salts and minerals from the sea water and makes it fit for human consumption. It is important to note that India is a peninsula with a huge coastline of 7,800 kilometres. However, with such a huge coastline and the country experiencing monsoons every year, India still faces issues of water shortage and desalination will definitely help the country in tackling the menace.
It has also been reported that NITI Aayog is working on a plan to tap the resources of India’s vast coastline. The country’s think tank is planning to set-up desalination plants in the sea waters under India’s command. Last year, NITI Aayog published a report on water management index, which says that India is currently suffering from the worst water crisis in its history. The country is ranked at 120 among 122 countries in the quality of water.
It is clear that Israel places India very high on its priority list and is taking a keen interest in India’s water shortage woes. Israel’s gesture of helping India in this sector is going to be a landmark moment which will take the bilateral relations between the two countries to a new high.