Droughts are hitting India at regular interval. Every year, from April onwards we see repeat of same tale of water shortage. We see dried fields, parched dams, animals dying for absence of drinking water, farmers committing suicide becaue of crop failure. This year is no different. Already, TV channles are beaming drought conditions in Tamil Nadu. It appears that a comprehensive water management policy is lacking. Regularly, we see drought in one part of the country, whereas another part of gets flooded. Can the excess water not be stored and/or transferred to drought prone areas?
Government proposals to bring water to dry regions usually get mired into big discussion, debates and litigation. Narmada Bachao Andolan had opposed creation of Sardar Sarovar Dam and raising its height. There was issue of submergence of fertile land and rehabilitation of displaced population.The case was decided in favor of the dam by the Supreme Court of India. Today, farmers in arid Gujarat are getting water of river Narmada in their fields.
Proposal to link Indian rivers is moving slowly. Proposal faced opposition for several reasons. Potential of damage to ecology and environment was not known. There has to be a solution to rehabilitate people that will be displaced by river linking projects. There would be impact on livelihood of people because of damage to business like fisheries. There would be unemployment and poverty because of submergence of agricultural land. All these factors contributed to a lack of political consensus.
Out of a total of 28 river linkage projects, feasibility studies have been completed for 13 projects. One project linking Krishna and Godavari rivers has been completed. Another project of linking Ken and Betwa rivers may start soon. Project was being opposed because nearly 10% of Panna Tiger reserve was going to be submerged. National Board of Wild Life has finally agreed to the project provided nearly Ranipur and Rani Durgavati sanctuaries are integrated with Panna Tiger Resever to compensate for loss of tiger habitat. In addition mining has to be banned completely in the area. The Ken Betwa like project is expected to bring water to parched Bundelkhand region.
At least one idea to combat effects of draught may be actually working on the ground. Chief Minister of Maharashtra started Jal Yukta Shivar program after assuming office. Jal Yukta Shivar is a massive water harvesting program that intends to remove water scarcity for farmers of Maharashtra. As part of the program, government of Maharashtra has worked with local population towards creation of nulla bunds, widening and deepening of ponds and rivers, construction of barrages along dams and channelising water through canals to irrigate agricultural lands.
People mocked chief minster of Maharashtra when, after taking oath of office in 2015, he pledged to make Maharashtra drought free by 2020. In April of 2016 Latur district needed 816 water tankers. This year that number has come down to zero. Last April Marathwada region needed 4640 tankers for 3586 villages. This year the number is down to 669 tankers to 886 villages. But last year was one of the worst years when water train had to be supplied to Latur. This year result is for everyone to see. When politicians with a vision and commitment work towards greater common good, things happen, goods gets delivered.