One of the specialities of the Yogi government has been to utilize the intellectual resources of the central government to act on the problems pointed out by them. In 2018, NITI Aayog, the apex think-tank and planning body of the country, pointed out that India is facing a water crisis and the majority of the states would run out of groundwater in next few years due to inefficient use by the commercial and domestic establishment.
The agency also released a composite water management index, in which most of the North India states including Uttar Pradesh, were at the bottom of the hierarchy. The Modi government constituted the Ministry of Jal Shakti to ensure supply of piped water to every house of the country and stop inefficient use of groundwater.
So, taking the issue pointed out by NITI Aayog very seriously, the Yogi government has decided to act on the industrial and commercial units which are using groundwater inefficiently and not following the government guidelines. The Yogi government has released an order that no industrial unit would be allowed to use groundwater if they are not following the guidelines. The central groundwater board will give new NOCs to all the industrial units which want to use the groundwater. Thousands of the industrial units in Uttar Pradesh are using groundwater inefficiently without following government norms, and this is one of the reasons that the state ranks at the bottom of the composite water management index.
Previously, NITI Aayog has ranked all states on the composite water management index, which is comprised of nine parameters and 28 indicators and includes various aspects of groundwater, restoration of water bodies, irrigation, farm practices, drinking water, policy and governance; Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were among worst performers.
According to the NITI Aayog, “India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history, and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat. Currently, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. It is estimated the crisis is going to get worse by 2030 when India’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply.”
India receives high rainfall in comparison to other countries like Israel, South Korea etc. But water management is overall very poor in India. Countries like Israel which receive very little rainfall never face water scarcity, thanks to their superb water management techniques. Water management technology is so much developed in Israel that they can convert the salty seawater to drinking water. In our country, we face drought in some states while floods in others. The plan to connect the major rivers of India was proposed decades ago, but, it could not get materialized till now. On the other hand, China has been able to link its northern and southern rivers through canals which were a much more Herculean task than connecting Indian rivers.
Water conservation in the country is facing policy paralysis due to ignorance from previous governments. Drinking water is a major problem in almost every Indian city because there is no efficient infrastructure for water delivery. Gallons of water gets wasted due to water management problems in our cities. Thousands of people suffer from life-endangering diseases due to the consumption of untreated water. We see that in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, many people stand in queues for hours to get a few buckets of freshwater.
According to a report by the World Bank, “The fundamental constraint to India’s long-run growth is the scarcity of natural resources.” India aims to achieve double-digit economic growth in future which is not possible without better conservation of natural resources like water, trees, fresh air etc, and Gujarat has set a fine example for the rest of the country.
Uttar Pradesh, which was, for long, operating like a libertarian state with no law and order and no regulation, has finally a government which is willing to spend financial and human resources on the pertinent issues. The decision by the Yogi government to stop unregulated use of groundwater is laudable, and it must actively work to bring the state up in the water management index.