Good morning, brothers and sisters. It is my honour to be invited to express my views on the SAARC: CCI Conference on ‘Unlocking climate investment oppor-tunities in SAARC: Water management and scalable business solutions’. My thanks to the organisers.
While creating the Universe, God had created the oceans first. Then God created the solid form, the earth. Water covers 71% of the earth's surface. About 30% of water is saline. Ground water is 17%. Only 2.5% of this water is fresh water. People think that there can never be any dearth of water, though scientists have been warning that this might not be the case.
Over one billion people lack access to safe water. Five decades ago, the common perception was that water was an infinite resource. The consumption and use of water have been increasing in quantity day by day. Over seven billion people need water for drinking, washing, and other purposes. Consumption of water-thirsty meals and vegetables is also rising. Industrial usage of water is increasing. The human body contains around 55% to 78% water depending on one’s body size. To maintain proper hydration water is needed.
Today, almost a fifth of the global population live in areas where water is scarce, another 500 million are fast approaching a similar situation. Water experts have been warning us that the world is heading towards a major water crisis and that water is going to be the cause for the next great war. All including the government need to think seriously and take measures to deal with water crises.
India has been experiencing floods and drought every year. At times, both happen in the same year at certain places. There has been disputes over water between states like for instance, the Cauvery water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka where both states insist on growing water-intensive crops like sugarcane instead of crop mix that would have optimised the use of water. There have been disputes over water between neighbouring countries. Flow of water to other countries is restricted. The dispute should either be resolved or the concerned parties must devise a water sharing agreement. Upstream users cannot and should not monopolise the water of the river and deprive the natural rights of others in the river basin.
To resolve the current water crisis and the greater water crisis in future, all governments should work together with people and involve the private sector on a wider scale. Some of the suggestions as made by experts from time to time are summarised below –
India being a peninsula, having a large coastline, can go for desalination of sea water on a large scale. Cost will be high but it will be less than that of other process of treatment for other sources of water. This can also be done by Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Maldives.
Rivers can be inter-connected and canals can be dug throughout the country, of course, after a detailed impact analysis. This will save the nation from drought and flood. Governments have taken so many social projects. But irrigation project and the national project of inter-linking rivers are being ignored. These can be re-examined for environmental impact, reframed accordingly, and executed. On the surface of rivers, solar energy and cultivation can be
done offsetting the requirement of land. These rivers and canals can be great resources for pisciculture, which will not get wasted during floods and droughts.
Sewerage water treatment plants should be installed in major cities and other cities. Simultaneously, under rural development, according to the size of a village, sewerage treatment plant can be installed. This will save the rivers from pollution. Ganga cleaning will not be successful until focus is given to sewerage plants. All sewerage water get routed to Ganga or other rivers or ocean. This cleaned half-treated water can be used for urban gardening and other commercial purposes.
Rain water harvesting must be a matter of common practice. In Rajasthan, Gujarat, and other dry regions of India, rain water is harvested on roofs and underground reservoirs through pipes from roof. This water can be cleaned by purifier and used for drinking too.
Industrial effluents are harming marine lives in oceans and rivers. Industries should be given 100% tax exemption for capital expenditure on this. It should be brought under the ambit of CSR.
Awareness campaigns to save water are a must. In New York, USA, buses and trains carry the slogan ‒ “A drop of water is gold. Don’t waste it.” In quite a few parts of the country, water taps at public places are kept open. Nobody cares. In some areas, government supplies water free of cost. A great quantity of water is wasted.
There are several suggestions by experts. Government should focus on these and implement innovative suggestions.
I hope and trust that the organisation of the SAARC-CCI will actively work to make water a compulsory subject in all schools’ curriculum. The SAARC will also coordinate with governments and private sectors to ‘Save water for future generation’.
Thanks to all. May God bless the Nation to conserve water and protect Mother Earth.