Water is a prime natural resource and is very essential for all living beings. It is a basic human need and very essential for our socio-economic development. All over the world, due to the increase in population along with rapid industrialisation, the need for water is increasing fast.
Every year, nearly 500,000 km3 of water evaporates from water bodies on the planet and about 74,000 km3 per year evaporates from soil and vegetation. Out of this, 458,000 km3 goes back to the ocean as rain. It has been estimated that out of the total rainfall on land amounting to 118,000 km3 again, nearly 43,000 km3 of freshwater flows back to the oceans.
In view of this, we have got a great scope to refrain most of the freshwater from going back to the ocean and saving and utilise it by applying various techniques such as harvesting rainwater on the surface, recharging the aquifers with
rainwater, developing the wetlands, maintaining the river basin to accommodate more water and constructing small dams at suitable sites on different rivers etc.
In addition to this, necessary steps have to be taken to prevent the pollution of freshwater bodies and make proper arrangements for scientifically transporting water for various purposes with minimum waste. Agriculture being the major water-consuming sector, scientific methods should be developed to maximise the utilisation of water for agricultural production throughout the year.
It is suggested that, during the planning and implementation of water resource development and conservation projects, the following important aspects as summarised below should be taken into consideration.
Surface and Ground Water Development
Integrated and coordinated development of surface water and groundwater resources and their conjunctive use should be defined right from the project planning stage and form an integral part of the project implementation.
Drinking water for all concerned
Adequate safe drinking water facilities should be planned and provided for all the people concerned throughout the year. In this regard, water from deep bore wells should be mostly earmarked for drinking purposes.
Irrigation planning either in an individual project or a basin as a whole should take into consideration, the quantum of land, cost-effective irrigation options, appropriate irrigation techniques for optimising water use, benefits of irrigation to a larger number of families, and the need to maximise production etc.
Resettlement and Rehabilitation
Optimal use of water resources necessitates the construction of storage may be in form of small dams, where resettlement and rehabilitation issues come into the picture. Therefore, careful planning and implementation are necessary to ensure that construction and rehabilitation activities are implemented smoothly.
Financial and Physical Sustainability
Water charges for various uses should be fixed in such a manner, that it covers at least the operation and maintenance charges for providing water. It should also cover a part of capital cost. However, the subsidy on water charges for poor sections of society should be taken into consideration.
Participative Approach to Water Resource Management
In addition to Government agencies, the users and other stakeholders should be associated with various aspects of planning, implementation and management of water resource schemes. Necessary legal and institutional changes should be made at various levels for the purpose as far as possible. The role of women should be ensured in the framing and implementation of various projects.
Private Sector Participation
Private sector participation should help in a big way in introducing new ideas, generating financial resources, introducing corporate management, and improving service efficiency and accountability to users.
Water Quality and Quantity
Both surface and groundwater should be regularly monitored for quality and quantity. Effluents should be treated to acceptable levels before discharging into natural streams. Minimum flow should be ensured in perennial streams for maintaining ecology and social consideration. The principle of “polluter pays” should be followed in the management of polluted water. Necessary legislation should be made for the preservation of existing water bodies.
At the national as well as state levels, there should be a water zoning and the economic activities should be guided accordingly. Industrial and urban developments should be regulated in accordance with such zoning.
Conservation of water
A necessary plan should be made to conserve water resources. Its availability should be augmented by maximising retention, eliminating pollution and minimising losses. The efficiency of utilisation of water should be optimised. Awareness of water as a scarce resource should be fostered.
Flood Control and Management
There should be a master plan for flood control and management for each flood-prone basin. Adequate flood cushions should be provided in water storage projects. There should be strict regulation and economic activity in flood plain zones along with floodproofing to minimise loss of life and property. Flood forecasting activities should be modernised.
Land Erosion by Sea or River
The erosion of land by sea or river should be minimised by suitable cost-effective measures. Each coastal state should prepare a comprehensive coastal management plan keeping in view the environmental and ecological impacts and regulate developmental activities accordingly.
Drought Prone Area Development
Drought-associated problems should be minimised through soil moisture conservation measures, rainwater harvesting, development of groundwater potential, transfer of surface water from surplus areas, development of pastures, forestry etc. which are relatively less water demanding.
Water sharing among the states should be guided by a national perspective plan by taking into consideration water resource availability and needs within the river basin. The inter-state water disputes acts should be suitably reviewed from time to time and amended for timely solving water disputes.
Monitoring of Projects
Close monitoring of projects should be done to remove any bottleneck to implement the projects in time. There should be continuous monitoring and evaluation to follow up on the performance and socio-economic impacts of the project.
Allocation of funds in underwater resource sectors should be reprioritised to ensure that the funds required for development as well as for the operation and maintenance of facilities are available in time.
Maintenance and Modernisation
Structures and systems created in water resource projects should be properly maintained for which financial provisions should be made in the annual budget. Regular monitoring of structures and systems should be made and a modernisation programme should be undertaken as and when necessary.
Safety of Structures
Proper organisational arrangements both at the national and state levels should be made to ensure the safety of storage dams and other water-related structures. Dam safety legislation should be enacted to ensure proper inspection, maintenance and surveillance of existing dams and to ensure proper planning, design and construction of new ones.
Science and Technology Input
For effective and economic management of water resources, advanced science and technology in related areas should be infused into the system to make the programmes techno economically viable.
Training of Personnel
In order to plan, implement and monitor the projects properly, training should be given to involved personnel in areas of project planning and formulation, project management, operation, management of water distribution system etc.
An integrated and multi-disciplinary approach has to be made in planning, formulating, clearing and implementing water resource development and conservation projects, so that all sections of people get benefited throughout the year. The water project planning should give special attention to the needs of the weaker sections of society. The involvement and participation of beneficiaries and other stakeholders should be affected right from the project planning stage through its implementation.
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