Water is a lifeline need and its preservation is a global responsibility. The purpose of the session was to glean lessons from works of domain experts on water management and scalable business solutions. In the welcome address by Mr. Ar Rm Arun, Chairman, FICCI TNSC & Chairman, Valingro Group, India, he informed that in a 2014 FICCI Colombia Water Study, inadequate availability of water for industry and inadequate regulatory mechanisms are major problems. There must be water audits. In Tamil Nadu, rainwater harvesting is ensured. No new building permits are given without this facility being present.
Justice Mahesh Chandra Sharma, Hon’ble Justice (Ex), Rajasthan High Court, Jaipur Bench, said that projects to save Ganga and other rivers in India are milestones in water security. SAARC CCI President, Suraj Vaidya said that 1033 water disasters had taken place in recent times, more than 980 thousand people had died and 105 billion dollars earth assets were damaged. Worst droughts and floods have affected South Asia. But while there was a lot of concern about water wars, he urged “talking about water for peace rather than for war.”
Mr. Ahmad Mujuthaba, Former Senior Vice President SAARC chamber of Commerce and Industry, cautioned about five billion tonnes of ice melting in Greenland, more in Antarctica. If all melts, water levels will rise, then nations, civilisations will be at risk. This will affect island countries like Maldives more.
The Chief Guest, Thiru K. Pandiarajan, Minister for Tamil Official Language and Tamil Culture, Government of Tamil Nadu, said that the state was working on four eco parks with support from Germany. There were missions of linking southern rivers. Multilateral agencies and banks were supporting these. Here commercial linkages of SAARC bodies were important. He felt, “We could be the most powerful bloc in the world.” A good step towards this is focussing on water management. “Climate knows no boundaries. We can cooperate on climate change and energy security including water security. Tsunamis are affecting the region. Floods too. We can prevent these disasters together. I have worked in border 10 and 11 projects and know the immense potential of cooperation,” he said.
According to Mr. Vinod Juneja, Vice President, SAARC CCI, “ The word ‘profit’ is a good term. Mix it well with climate security.” Thus, identifying business opportunities here will aid in the cause of environment.
Mr. P. Murari, I.A.S. (Retd.), Advisor to FICCI President & Secretary to President of India (EX), felt that scarce resources can be better managed by communities. The SAARC must support these initiatives. He cited several examples from villages in Tamil Nadu where thousands of pounds were cleaned and desilted to capture rain water and from these channels are created to provide
water to farms and tanks.
Mr. Vijay Kalantri, President, All India Association of Industries and Vice Chairman, World Trade Centre, said in cities like Mumbai, there is 20% more property tax if there is no waste segregation. Awareness on preciousness of water can be built similarly. Flood control, drip irrigation, and water storage and treatment are areas where the private sector can play a crucial role. SAARC can work on a long-term basis on these areas.Mr. Sonam Dorjee, Director, Mawongpa Water Solutions, Bhutan, felt that bodies like the SAARC CCI must encourage research on measuring toxicity levels of water, even bottled waters. Citing the work his company has done on water tanks, he said it was not just necessary to treat water but also store it in clean tanks and distribute it through clean pipes and taps. The procurement process for private sector participation must be business-related friendly and corruption-free. Their should be provisions for rental services and insurance for companies investing in water. The SAARC CCI can integrate technical know-how and markets, help in setting up R&D institutes, have joint ventures within the region, promote franchising and tech transfer within the region, timely monitor and assess water quality, promote water agreements, and set up guidelines for payment of environmental services.Ms. Kusum Athukorala, Global Water Partnership, South Asia Region, Sri Lanka, said that the Lancet has reported nine million deaths due to pollution of which one-time,third was from water. Four SAARC countries figure in the list of countries with the most polluted rivers. Sri Lanka is facing problems of water treatment and landslides post heavy rains. All this amplifies the need for a proper water policy. The SAARC CCI can help in programmes that promote water and food security. Disaster management centres should meet often to analyse ground situation and take effective steps. In Sri Lanka, three experiments have been undertaken to expand the consultative process- the national water committee, coast conservation department and getting banks to sponsor private players involved in different aspects of water security.
The session ended with Mr. Sunil Uplap, Managing Director, Shubham Acqualink, India, talking about they have trained and equipped social entrepreneurs in water management. This is a social needs business. Sankalp has done good work here. He cited the example of Wildpoldsried, where community initiative has borne fruit. Storing rain water in pre-fabricated tanks (till three million litres can be stored) in any terrain can be a solution to water stress. Wildpoldsried is a bioenergy village that produces power through biomass plants and even has surplus energy to sell to national grids. It was a self-funded project. In India, such projects can be replicated, especially for tribal and rural areas. He said that in all problems, lies opportunities, and thus formed a common refrain of the session. Those enterprising enough would capitalise on these.Through such sessions, SAARC- CCI tries to come out with policy directives and promote trade and business in the region.