From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Jal Shakti Abhiyan
Mains level : Analysis of JSA
The Central government launched the Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA), a time-bound, mission-mode water conservation campaign to be carried out in two phases, across the 255 districts having critical and over-exploited groundwater levels.
Jal Shakti Abhiyan
- This campaign was not intended to be a funding programme and did not create any new intervention on its own.
- It only aimed to make water conservation a ‘people’s movement’ through ongoing schemes like the MGNREGA and other government programmes.
- The JSA is modelled and driven by success stories such as NGO Tarun Bharat Sangh’s experiment in Alwar, Rajasthan and Anna Hazare-led efforts in Ralegan Siddhi, Maharashtra.
- These projects primarily involved building tanks and ponds to capture rainwater and building recharge wells to recharge groundwater.
- It is unclear whether they were based on reference to watershed management or groundwater prospect maps.
- Hydrological units – Water planning should be based on hydrological units, namely river basins. Political and administrative boundaries of districts rarely coincide with the hydrological boundaries or aquifer boundaries.
- JSA’s units – JSA was planned based on the boundary of the districts, and to be carried out under the overall supervision of a bureaucrat. This divided basins/aquifers into multiple units that followed multiple policies.
- Data – There was no data on basin-wise rainfall, no analysis of run-off and groundwater maps were rarely used. One never came to know whether water harvested in a pond in a district was at the cost of water in adjoining districts.
- Water-stressed basins – Most of India’s water-stressed basins are facing closure, with the demand exceeding supply. Groundwater recharge happened at the cost of surface water and vice versa. The absence of autonomous and knowledge-intensive river-basin organisations is a problem.
Current Status & Limitations of data
- The JSA’s portal displays impressive data, images and statistics. It claims that there are around 10 million ongoing and completed water conservation structures; 7.6 million recharge structures.
- It also says that one billion saplings have been planted and that six million people participated in awareness campaigns.
- Missing data – The data displayed on JSA portal do not speak anything about the pre-JSA water levels, the monthly water levels and impact of monsoon on the water levels across the 255 districts with critical and over-exploited blocks.
- They also don’t convey anything about the quality of the structures, their maintenance and sustainability.
- Even if the water levels had been measured, it is unknown whether the measurement was accurate.
- The results for a 2016 study conducted by the Central Groundwater Board showed that water levels always increase post-monsoon. It requires long-term monitoring of water level data to determine the actual impact of a measure like JSA.
- Lack of parameters – There is no such parameter to measure the outcome of such a mission-mode campaign.
- Common people – it assumes that common people in rural areas are ignorant and prone to wasting water. They are the ones who first bear the brunt of any water crisis.
- Distorted allocation – The per capita water allocation to those living in rural areas is 55 liters, whereas the same for urban areas like Delhi and Bengaluru is 135-150 liters.
- Urban waste – the sewage generated from towns and cities pollutes village water sources such as tanks, ponds, and wells.
- Poor quality – Most of the farm bunds built with soil can collapse within one monsoon season due to rains and/or trespassing by farm vehicles, animals and humans.
- Supervision – there are issues like lack of proper engineering supervision of these structures, involvement of multiple departments with less or no coordination, and limited funding under MGNERGA and other schemes.
- Water-intensive crops – no efforts were undertaken to dissuade farmers from growing water-intensive crops such as paddy, sugarcane, and bananas. Agriculture consumes 80% of freshwater.
Jal Shakti Abhiyan