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Sharing of water a national issue: PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 22
Calling for a bipartisan approach to the issue of water sharing, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the country should optimise the use of “increasingly scarce and competed resource.”

“We must view the issue of water sharing as a national issue, “ he said, inaugurating the World Water Day function here. Dr Singh emphasised the need of using less water in agriculture, industry and cities. “The challenge is to use less, even as we provide access to clean water to all,” he said. Without directly referring to the raging water disputes in some parts of the country, he said water was fast becoming the most critical constraint in country’s agricultural development. “There is an urgent need to rationalise use of water in agriculture by getting more crops per drop. This requires economic pricing of water, community based cooperation in water use and more efficient cropping pattern,” he said .

The Prime Minister said there was no greater challenge facing the humankind than the challenge of harnessing and using water wisely and efficiently. “We cannot allow human societies to descend into chaos due to conflict on utilisation of water resources, be it within nations or between nations. Humanity has the wisdom and must draw upon it to avert conflict which are sure to arise if water resources are not managed efficiently and wisely,” he said. Citing a verse by Guru Nanak which refers to water as “father,” Dr Singh said reverence for nature was part of the country’s civilisational heritage . “Every morning when I recite my prayers I recall what Guru Nanak has said about great importance of paying attention to the natural resources,” he said.

Dr Singh said Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of utilising common property according to one’s need and not according to one’s greed would help people avert and wastage in use of natural resources, particularly land, water and air.

Expressing concern over river water pollution, he said every river in the country was getting increasingly polluted . “As a people we worship our rivers, our civilisation has grown on banks of these mighty rivers. Yet we treat them with shocking disregard.” He said uncleaned dirty water was a major cause of significant amount of childhood mortality in the country and had begun to hurt the quality of farm produce. Dr Singh said cities must become water efficient and invest in managing and treating their waste water. “We need a new water management paradigm involving cost-effective technologies which will recycle and reuse water and waste. He suggested a review of programmes like Ganga Action Plan and National River Conservation Plan. Dr Singh said India was in some ways most vulnerable to climate change as country’s monsoon systems and flow of Himalayan rivers were all dependent on current climatic patterns. “Any change can have devastating effects on our glaciers, rainfall pattern and our rivers. Our northern rivers, fed by glacier melt, could first see floods and then shortages in freshwater flows. We could also suffer from heat waves, floods and loss of crop productivity.” Suggesting that water management should be individual and combined obsession, he said country’s scientists and engineers must develop new technologies ranging from redesigning flush toilets to finding cost-effective ways to recycle and reuse water at affordable cost.

Pointing out that the government had declared 2007 as the Water Year, he said it had proposed a new programme to recharge wells and hoped the national rainfed areas authority will help focus on the needs of marginalised areas.

He said in developed industrial economies, industry and urban households use over 70 per cent of the water resources, while agriculture gets the remaining 30 per cent. “In our water economy, the reverse is true. But as our cities grow, the competition for this water will grow,” he said.

Water Resources Minister Saiffudin Soz said his Ministry has chosen `People’s Participation in Conservation of Water Resources and Preservation of its Quality’ as the theme for activities during the Water Year 2007. He said mass awareness campaigns on rain water harvesting and artificial recharge of ground water were being conducted in all parts of the country.

Calling for a participatory approach in management of water resources, he said all sections of society should join hands and play an active role in water conservation. The function was attended by several union ministers. 

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