|Interview of Dr C P Thakur, Union water resources minister
Is the role of the union water
resources ministry merely that of a "public relation officer?" We invite your
comments on this interview.
Q. The water crisis is deepening in India. Why have you failed to deal with the
Thakur: Countries that have been able to manage their water resources efficiently are
much more advanced today than those who have mismanaged it. In India, we have failed to
manage water. We have not been able to implement many water-related projects due to
opposition from several fronts. Most of the projects today stand incomplete so their costs
have escalated manifold. Another major factor is that the role of the water resources
ministry is just of a "public relation officer", who liaisons between state
governments. All the powers are in the hands of state governments. We must have a
coordinated effort to find a solution. We have planned to call members of parliament from
all over the country to discuss the water scarcity issue with them. We would seek their
views and cooperation, as to how the projects can be implemented in which a huge amount of
the countrys money is still locked up.
Q. Do you have any concrete plan to deal with the problem?
Thakur: The National Water Policy adopted by government in 1987 emphasizes that
water should be made available to water scarce areas by transfer from other areas
including transfers from one river basin to another. Therefore, we have chalked out a plan
to bring the water in all the water scarce areas in the country. The plan would require an
investment of more than Rs 3,00,000 crore for a period of 25 to 30 years. This National
Water Plan would give additional irrigation benefits of 35 million hectares in the
Q. How do you see the potential of rainwater harvesting to deal with the problem
Thakur: This would be the priority of my
government. Water harvesting concept has shown very good results in areas where it is been
implemented properly. We want to promote and encourage this concept. We are planning to
call non-governmental organisations and people who are involved in such projects to
discuss the concept in detail. We will also chalk out a comprehensive plan in this regard.
We want to take a balanced approach to use both big and small projects to deal with the
Q. You have completely failed to implement the National Water Policy formulated
in 1987. Please comment.
Thakur: I agree that there has been a very little implementation of the policy. But we
want to discuss this issue with the Prime Minister, who heads the National Water Policy,
so that we can get a positive outcome. We are making a proposal in this regard.
Q. What action is the government taking regarding the acute drinking water crisis
following severe drought this year?
Thakur: The role of water resources ministry is to make available water in a particular
area. Then it becomes the job of department dealing with urban affairs or rural
development to utilize the resources and deal with the drinking water or other crises. The
success of such projects depends on coordinated efforts by all the ministries such as
agriculture, water resources, environment and others.
Reference: C P Thakur, Dec 1999, personal communication.
Many coastal areas in the
India are facing the problem of salinity intrusion, particularly the coasts of Saurashtra
peninsula of Gujarat. In coastal areas, an individual pumping the fresh water floating
above brackish or saline water has no means of knowing the optimal rate of pumping to
avoid the incursion of saline water in his well. The Salinity Controlling Device,
developed by the National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad, can be used in such a
situation to prevent inadvertent contamination of a well. The device continuously monitors
the conductivity of water discharged by a well and has a provision for presetting the
conductivity value to a desired level. If the conductivity is set at, say 1500 Mhos, then
if the water coming into the well crosses this value, this device has a relay system for
tripping the power supply and stopping the pump. These devices can be installed on wells
in areas vulnerable to salinity intrusion, to prevent over-extraction and to monitor the
ingress of saline water.
National Geophysical Research Institute
Hyderabad 500 007