Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Nov, 12, 2019

National Water Policy (NWP)


  • The Union Water Resources Ministry has finalised a committee to draft a new National Water Policy (NWP).

National Water Policy

  • National Water Policy is formulated by the Ministry of Water Resources of the Government of India to govern the planning and development of water resources and their optimum utilization.
  • The first National Water Policy was adopted in September 1987. It was reviewed and updated in 2002 and later in 2012.
  • Among the major policy innovations in the 2012 policy was the concept of an Integrated Water Resources Management approach that took the “river basin/ sub-basin” as a unit for planning, development and management of water resources.
  • A National Bureau of Water Use Efficiency is also on the cards.

About the committee

  • It will be chaired by Mihir Shah, who is a former Planning Commission member and a water expert.
  • The committee has 10 principal members, including Shashi Shekhar, a former secretary of Water Resources, and A.B. Pandya, former chairman of the Central Ground Water Board.
  • The committee is expected to produce a report within six months.

Focus on minimum levels

  • It also proposed that a portion of river flows ought to be kept aside to meet ecological needs.
  • Such an approach led to the government, in 2018, requiring minimum water levels to be maintained in the Ganga all through the year and hydropower projects, therefore, to refrain from hoarding water beyond a point.
  • That policy also stressed for a minimum quantity of potable water for essential health and hygiene to all its citizens to be made available within easy reach of households.
  • Inter-basin transfers are not merely for increasing production but also for meeting basic human need and achieving equity and social justice.
  • Inter-basin transfers of water should be considered on the basis of merits of each case after evaluating the environmental, economic and social impacts of such transfers.
Oct, 15, 2019

[pib] Local Treatment of Urban Sewage for Healthy Reuse (LOTUS-HR)


  • The launch of the second phase of the Local Treatment of Urban Sewage streams for Healthy Reuse (LOTUS-HR) program was recently held.

LOTUS-HR project

  • The LOTUS-HR project is jointly supported by Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India and Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.
  • The project was initiated in July 2017 and aims to demonstrate a novel holistic (waste) water management approaches that will produce clean water which can be reused for various purposes.
  • The innovative pilot scale modular plant will treat 10,000 L sewage water per day and will showcase a self-sustaining model for the end user.
  • Location: The Barapullah drain systems, New Delhi
Oct, 09, 2019

[oped of the day] Rethinking water management issues

Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.


In NITI Aayog’s ‘Strategy for New India @75’, the strategy for ‘water resources’ is insipid and unrealistic as the successive National Water Policies (NWP). 


  • Effective strategic planning must satisfy three essential requirements
    • acknowledge and analyse past failures
    • suggest realistic and implementable goals
    • stipulate who will do what, and within what time frame
  • The ‘strategy’ for water fails on all three counts.

No new vision – the creation of bodies

  • The document reiterates two failed ideas: 
    • adopting an integrated river basin management approach
    • setting up of river basin organisations (RBOs) for major basins
  • The integrated management concept has been around for 70 years, but not even one moderate size basin has been managed anywhere in the world.
  • 32 years after the NWP of 1987 recommended RBOs, not a single one has been established for any major basin.
  • The water resources regulatory authority is another failed idea. Maharashtra established a water resources regulatory authority in 2005. Water management in Maharashtra has gone from bad to worse. Without analysing why the WRA already established has failed, the recommendation to establish water resources regulatory authorities is inexcusable.

Irrigation gap

  • The strategy document notes that there is a huge gap between irrigation potential created and utilised.
  • It recommends that the Water Ministry draw up an action plan to complete command area development (CAD) works to reduce the gap. 
  • This recommendation is made without analysing why CAD works remain incomplete.

Other goals

  • They include:
    • providing adequate and safe piped water supply to all citizens and livestock
    • providing irrigation to all farms
    • providing water to industries
    • ensuring continuous and clean flow in the “Ganga and other rivers along with their tributaries”, i.e. in all Indian rivers
    • assuring long-term sustainability of groundwater
    • safeguarding proper operation and maintenance of water infrastructure
    • utilising surface water resources to the full potential of 690 billion cubic meters
    • improving on-farm water-use efficiency
    • ensuring zero discharge of untreated effluents from industrial units. 
  • These goals are not just over-ambitious, but absurdly unrealistic for a five-year window. 
  • Not even one of these goals has been achieved in any State in the past 72 years.

Lack of accountability

  • The strategy document did not specify who will be responsible and accountable for achieving the specific goals, and in what time-frame. 
  • Take one goal: “Encourage industries to utilise recycled/treated water”. Merely encouraging someone to do something, is not a “goal”. NITI Aayog does not say who will do this encouraging, and how? 

Issues identified by NITI

  • Of the issues listed under ‘constraints’, only one, the Easement Act, 1882, which grants groundwater ownership rights to landowners, and has resulted in uncontrolled extractions of groundwater, is actually a constraint. 
  • The remaining such as irrigation potential created but not being used; poor efficiency of irrigation systems; indiscriminate use of water in agriculture; poor implementation and maintenance of projects; cropping patterns not aligned to agroclimatic zones; subsidised pricing of water; citizens not getting piped water supply; and contamination of groundwater are not constraints; they are problems, caused by  misgovernance in the water sector.
  • There is no recommendation to amend the Easement Act or to stop subsidised/free electricity to farmers
  • It recommends promoting solar pumps. These are environmentally correct and ease the financial burden on electricity supply agencies. However, the free electricity provided by solar units will further encourage unrestricted pumping of groundwater, and will further aggravate the problem of a steady decline of groundwater levels.

Reforms overlooked

  • The document fails to identify real constraints. It notes that the Ken-Betwa River inter-linking project, the India-Nepal Pancheshwar project, and the Siang project in Northeast India need to be completed. 
  • A major roadblock in the completion of these projects is public interest litigations filed in the National Green Tribunal, the Supreme Court, or in various High Courts. 
  • The government should have a plan to arrest the blatant misuse of PIL for environmental posturing.

Way ahead

  • National Water Framework law
  • Amendments to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act
  • Dam Safety Bill
  • India’s water problems can be solved with existing knowledge, technology, and available funds.
Oct, 01, 2019

Scientists find ‘ancient river’ in UP


  • The Union Water Ministry has excavated an old, dried-up river in Allahabad that linked the Ganga and Yamuna rivers.

About the river

  • The “ancient buried river” is around 4 km wide, 45 km long and consisted of a 15-metre-thick layer buried under soil.
  • The newly discovered river was a “buried paleochannel that joins the Yamuna river at Durgapur village, about 26 km south of the current Ganga-Yamuna confluence at Allahabad.
  • The paleochannels reveal the course of rivers that have ceased to exist.

Significance of this river

  • Knowledge on subsurface connectivity between Ganga and Yamuna rivers will play a very crucial role in planning of Ganga cleaning and protecting safe groundwater resources.
  • The aim is to develop it as a potential groundwater recharge source.
  • The evidence from paleochannels also suggests that the mythological Saraswati river did indeed exist.
Aug, 24, 2019

[pib] Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) 2.0  


  • NITI Aayog is set to release the second Round of Composite Water Management Index (CWMI 2.0).

About CWMI2.0

  • This has been done through a first of its kind water data collection exercise in partnership with Ministry of Jal Shakti, Ministry of Rural Development and all the States/ Union Territories.
  • The index would provide useful information for the States and also for the concerned Central Ministries/Departments enabling them to formulate and implement suitable strategies for better management of water resources.
  • CWMI 2.0 ranks various states for the reference year 2017-18 as against the base year 2016-17.

States Ranking

  • In the report released today, Gujarat hold on to its rank one in the reference year (2017-18), followed byAndhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
  • In North Eastern and Himalayan States, Himachal Pradesh has been adjudged number 1 in 2017-18 followed by Uttarakhand, Tripura and Assam.
  • The Union Territories have first time submitted their data and Puducherry has been declared as the top ranker.
  • In terms of incremental change in index (over 2016-17 level), Haryana holds number one position in general States and Uttarakhand ranks at first position amongst North Eastern and Himalayan States.
  • On an average, 80% of the states assessed on the Index over the last three years have improved their water management scores, with an average improvement of +5.2 points.


Composite Water Management Index

  • NITI Aayog has come up with the Composite Water Management Index as a useful tool to assess and improve the performance in efficient management of water resources.
  • This index is an attempt to inspire States and UTs towards efficient and optimal utilization of water, and recycling thereof with a sense of urgency.
  • The index would provide useful information for the States and also for the concerned Central Ministries/Departments enabling them to formulate and implement suitable strategies for better management of water resources.

Sectors Prioritized for Water Management Index

  • Restoration of Water Bodies– Source Augmentation
  • Groundwater– Source Augmentation
  • Major and Medium Irrigation – Supply Side Management
  • Watershed Development – Supply Side Management
  • Participatory Irrigation Practices – Demand Side Management
  • Sustainable on-farm Water Use Practices – Demand Side Management
  • Rural Drinking Water
  • Urban Water Supply and Sanitation
  • Policy and Governance

Managing Water Resources

  • In view of limitations on availability of water resources and rising demand for water, sustainable management of water resources has acquired critical importance.
  • The index can be utilized to formulate and implement suitable strategies for better management of water resources.
Aug, 17, 2019

[op-ed snap] A jan andolan for water


This Independence Day,  the Prime Minister announced the Jal Jeevan Mission, which plans to supply water to all households by 2024. 

Importance of the mission

  1. For many years, the central and state governments have been making efforts to increase access to safe and adequate drinking water.
  2. Household water supply issues – Though the basic quantity of drinking water in rural India has been provided through hand pumps etc.,  household water supply remains a challenge. A low percentage of rural Indian households have access to this service.
  3. Institutional unity – Institutions for water at both the Centre and state governments have been fragmented, with several ministries in Delhi and departments in states dealing with different aspects of water management. Jal Shakti Mantralaya to integrate the management of water resources is a landmark step. 
  4. Source conservation – Inadequate attention to sustain the source of the water. Instead of simple and local measures like creating rainwater harvesting structures, the emphasis has been more on maximizing the pumping of water and distributing it through pipes. Many of the systems have either shut down or function suboptimally as the groundwater source has dried up.
  5. Decentralization –
    1. Provision of drinking water was viewed primarily as an engineering solution, with schemes planned and executed by the public health and engineering departments. 
    2. Programs like the Swajal project in UP and WASMO program in Gujarat demonstrated that water can be most efficiently managed at the lowest appropriate level. 
    3. Single village ground water-based schemes would be managed by the community itself through the setting up of a village water and sanitation committee. Local innovations such as solar-based schemes will be encouraged.
  6. Household water – household wastewater amounts to about 75% of the amount of water supplied.
    1. Under the Jal Jeevan Mission, huge quantities of household wastewater will be generated across the country.
    2. It is planned to include a mandatory provision under the Jal Jeevan Mission for the effective channeling and treatment of household wastewater through appropriate and low-cost drainage and treatment systems. 

Extensive information, education, and communication will be needed to create a jan andolan for water management.

Aug, 16, 2019

Decoding post-Flood Landslides in Kerala



  • Almost 60 people are feared dead, buried alive under layers of mud and rocks in the Kavalappara landslide.
  • It is the worst tragedy in Kerala’s devastating monsoon so far this year.

What causes landslides?

  • Destabilizing geological processes, coupled with extreme rainfall events and unscientific farming and construction activities, pose a serious threat to human habitation in the highlands of Kerala.
  • A team of scientists from the National Centre for Earth Science Studies (NCESS) had found that land subsidence, lateral spread, and soil piping were an immediate threat to life and property in the uplands.


Need for stabilization measures

  • Lateral spreading, subsidence, and crack development are quite unusual phenomena and the sites need immediate rehabilitation.
  • Most of the slopes were used for raising crops and farmers had blocked the natural drainage systems.
  • Any developmental activity like construction of roads and buildings in such vulnerable areas requires remedial measures for slope stabilization.
  • Based on the recommendations of the NCESS, the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has initiated steps to establish a network of landslip monitoring stations in the highlands.
Aug, 13, 2019

Explained: Why Gujarat and MP are arguing over Narmada water and hydro power


  • Over few weeks, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have engaged in war of words over the sharing of Narmada river waters.
  • MP has threatened to restrict the flow of water into the Sardar Sarovar Dam, located in Gujarat.
  • This was after Gujarat had requested the Narmada Control Authority for permission — which was granted — not to start generation at a power house until the dam fills to its full level.

Issue over water release

  • The Sardar Sarovar Project includes two power houses, the River Bed Power House (RBPH; 1,200 MW) and the Canal Head Power House (250 MW).
  • The RBPH has been shut since 2017, when the gates were closed and the reservoir height was raised to 138.63 m.
  • Gujarat has sought that generation should not start until the water reaches the full reservoir level (FRL).
  • The protocol is that once the dam crosses 131 m, dam authority is ought to release some water as it fills to its FRL.
  • For this power generation has to be resumed in the RBPH, where the turbines release the water downstream into the river.
  • If the inflow exceeds the capacity of the water released by the turbines after power generation, then too gates have to be opened.
  • The dam cannot just be filled to 138.63 metres without balancing the outflow.

What Gujarat wants

  • Gujarat has been facing a rain deficit in 2017 and 2018, when the reservoir reached levels of 130.75 m and 129 m.
  • Engineers in Gujarat say reaching the FRL is necessary for testing whether the concrete can withstand the thrust at that level.
  • The construction has lasted close to five decades with gaps of several years.
  • Filling the reservoir is possible only when the RBPH is closed because the water used for generating hydro power cannot be reused — it is drained into the sea.
  • Once a weir is ready, the water can be stored and pumped back using reversible turbines during non-peak hours of the grid.


Sardar Sarovar Project

  • The Sardar Sarovar Dam is a gravity dam on the Narmada river near Navagam, Gujarat.
  • It includes two power houses, the River Bed Power House (RBPH; 1,200 MW) and the Canal Head Power House (250 MW).
  • Power is shared among Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat in a 57:27:16 ratio.
Aug, 12, 2019

[op-ed snap] Rethinking water governance strategies


India’s severe ‘water crisis’ is in the news recently. India’s cities are running out of water. Chennai witnessed the worst drinking water woes.


  1. Niti Aayog’s report ‘Composite Water Management Index: A tool for water management’ stated that 21 major cities are expected to run out of groundwater as soon as 2020, affecting nearly 100 million people.
  2. The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has been reporting on the increasing number of over-exploited blocks across India, labeled as the ‘dark’ category blocks.  The recent annual book of CGWB has reported 1,034 units, out of the 6,584 units it monitors, as over-exploited.
  3. CGWB’s 2013 estimates say that the groundwater development in India is just about 62% of the utilizable groundwater reserves.
  4. A recent report by the Central Water Commission and ISRO asserted that India is not yet in “water scarcity condition”, but in a “water-stressed condition”, with reducing per capita water availability.

Way ahead

  1. Ensure adequate access to quality water, more so in urban areas where inequities over space and time are acute.
  2. With rapid urbanization, demand cannot be met by groundwater reserves alone. Groundwater meets just 10% of Delhi’s drinking water needs. The rest is met by surface water sources transported from outside Delhi.
  3. Water resource departments in States are following conventional approaches to supply augmentation. They should reorient themselves and deploy demand management, conservation, and regulation strategies.
  4. Centre and states should work towards an institutional change by building federal governance of water resources.
Aug, 10, 2019

‘Samagra Shiksha-Jal Suraksha’

The Department of School Education & Literacy, MHRD has launched the ‘Samagra Shiksha-Jal Suraksha’ drive to promote water conservation activities for School Students.

Five Major Objectives:

  1. To educate Students learn about conservation of water
  2. To sensitize Students about the impact of scarcity of water
  3. To empower Students to learn to protect the natural sources of water
  4. To help every Student to save at least one litre of water per day
  5. To encourage Students towards judicious use and minimum wastage of water at home and school level


One Student            –       One Day      –       To Save One Litre of Water

One Student            –       One Year     –       To Save 365 Litres of Water

One Student            –       10 Years      –       To Save 3650 Litres of Water

Aug, 09, 2019

Ocean warming, overfishing increase methylmercury toxin in fish

Despite a decrease in seawater concentration of methylmercury since the late 1990s, the amount of toxin that gets accumulated in certain fish which are higher in the food chain have been found to increase. 


  1. The amount of methylmercury in fish higher in the food chain can change due to two reasons — ocean warming and dietary shifts due to overfishing by humans.
  2. Researchers have found that there has been an up to 23% increase in methylmercury concentration in Atlantic codfish in the Gulf of Maine in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean.
  3. The increase in the methylmercury concentration in codfish has been due to changes in the diet caused by overfishing.
  4. As a result of diet change, cod fish in the 2000s relied more on larger herring and lobster, which have higher concentrations of the toxin than other prey fish consumed in the 1970s.
  5. Besides dietary changes, ocean warming too causes changes in the methylmercury accumulation in fish.
  6. Fish metabolism is temperature-dependent. So as ocean temperature increases, fish experience higher metabolism and more energy obtained from food is spent on maintenance rather than growth, leading to more methylmercury getting concentrated in predatory fish.

The researchers warn that human exposure to the toxin through fish consumption is bound to increase as a result of climate change. Hence, there is a need for stronger regulations to protect ecosystem and human health.

Aug, 08, 2019

India world’s 13th most water-stressed country: WRI


India is placed thirteenth among the world’s 17 ‘extremely water-stressed’ countries according to the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas released by the World Resources Institute (WRI)

Details about the report

  1. Twelve of the 17 were from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region
  2. The gap between supply and demand will likely widen due to climate change and drought-like situations, coupled with uncontrolled groundwater extraction
  3. A region is said to be under ‘water stress’ when the demand for water exceeds the available volume or when poor quality restricts the use
  4. ‘Extremely high’ levels of water stress means an average 80% of the available water in a country is used by irrigated agriculture, industries and municipalities every year

Details about India

  1. Both surface water and groundwater in India was highly exploited
  2. Groundwater levels declined at more than eight centimeters per year between 1990 and 2014 in northern India
  3. Chandigarh was the most water-stressed, followed by Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh
  4. Groundwater resources were over-exploited in 1,186 of 6,881 assessment units in India
  5. Groundwater runs 94.5% of all minor irrigation schemes in India

Way ahead

  1. The government must focus on more sustainable surface water schemes
  2. Reusing wastewater could help countries overcome water stress and become water secure
  3. Using safely-treated wastewater has been included in the water resources management plans of several Arab countries
  4. Oman treats 100% of its collected wastewater and reuses 78% of it
Aug, 02, 2019

Explained: How India intends to make its dams safer


  • The Dam Safety Bill was recently introduced in the Lok Sabha.

Dam Safety Bill, 2019

  • The Bill provides for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of dams to prevent disasters, and institutional mechanisms to ensure safety.
  • It applies to over 5,000 dams across the country, many of which are currently in poor conditions.
  • It has been met with significant opposition, particularly from several states that claim the bill oversteps the Centre’s mandate.

Which dams are covered?

  • All dams in India with a height above 15 metres come under the purview of the bill.
  • Dams between 10 to 15 metres of height are also covered but only if they meet certain other specifications in terms of design and structural conditions.

National Committee on Dam Safety

  • The Bill provides for the constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS) which is to be chaired by the Central Water Commissioner (CWC).
  • The other members of the NCDS will be nominated by the Centre and will include up to 10 representatives of the Centre, 7 state government representatives, and 3 experts on dam safety.
  • The NCDS is to formulate policies for dam safety and to prevent dam failures.
  • In the event of a dam failure, the NCDS will analyse why the failure occurred, and suggest changes in dam safety practices to ensure there aren’t any repetitions.

National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA)

  • The bill provides for the formation of a NDSA which will be responsible for implementing the policies of the NCDS, and will resolve issues between State Dam Safety Organisations (or SDSOs) and dam owners.
  • The NDSA will also specify regulations for the inspection of dams and will provide accreditation to the various agencies working on the structure of dams and their alteration.

State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs)

  • The bill will also result in the establishment of SDSOs, and State Committees on Dam Safety (SCDSs).
  • The jurisdiction of the SDSOs will extend to all dams in that specific state.

Cross jurisdictions

  • The NDSA will, in some cases, possess this jurisdiction, for example, if a dam owned by one state is situated in another or crosses multiple states, or if a dam is owned by a central public sector undertaking.
  • SDSOs will be in charge of scrutinizing dams under their jurisdiction and maintaining a database of the same.
  • The SCDS will review the work of the SDSO, and will also have to assess the impact of dam-related projects on upstream and downstream states.
  • The bill gives the Central government the power to amend the functions of any of the above bodies through a notification, whenever it is deemed necessary to do so.

How does Bill change the functioning of dams?

  • If the bill is made into a law, then dam owners will have to provide a dam safety unit in each dam.
  • The dam safety unit will be required to inspect the dam before and after the monsoon session, and also during and after natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.
  • The bill requires dam owners to prepare emergency action plans. Risk-assessment studies will also have to be undertaken by owners, regularly.
  • At specified, regular intervals, and in the event of either a modification to the dam’s structure or a natural event that may impact the structure, dam owners will have to produce a comprehensive safety evaluation by experts.

Issues with bill

  • The primary objection to the bill is that is unconstitutional, as water is one of the items on the State List.
  • Tamil Nadu, which currently possesses four dams situated in Kerala, is opposed to the Bill as it would result in the four dams (currently regulated through long-standing agreements with Kerala) falling under the NDSA.
  • This will be doing away with Tamil Nadu’s rights over the maintenance of the dam.
  • The Bill states that the NCDS will be chaired by the Central Water Commissioner, but the Supreme Court has ruled in the past that such a scenario is prohibited, as it involves the CWC, an advisor, functioning both as a regulator and the head of the NCDS.
Aug, 01, 2019

Water Stress Index


Water Stress Index

  • The sub-national Water Stress Index is formulated by London-based risk analytics firm Verisk Maplecroft.
  • It lists India as the 46th highest risk country in the world.
  • 11 of India’s 20 largest cities face an ‘extreme risk’ of water stress and seven are in the ‘high risk’ category.
  • According to the index, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Nashik, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Indore are among the cities facing ‘extreme risk’.
  • The index measures the water consumption rates of households, industries and farm sectors and the available resources in rivers, lakes and streams.

Indian cities are at risk

  • According to the report the average population growth rate among the 11 extreme risk cities is 49%; more than 127 million people will call them home by 2035.
  • The UN estimates that Delhi’s population will grow from 28 million people to above 43 million by 2035, a 52% rise while Chennai will grow by 47% to top 15 million over the same period.
  • The study says Chennai is the tip of the iceberg for India’s water stressed cities.
Jul, 15, 2019

Jalyukta Shivar Scheme


  • PM in his latest Mann ki Baat emphasized on the need for dedicated efforts towards water conservation and ‘Jal Shakti, Jan Shakti’ initiative which is inspired from Jalyukta Shivar scheme of Maharashtra.
  • Such regional schemes can be a benchmark for their replication at pan India level.

Jalyukta Shivar Scheme

  • Jalyukta Shivar is the flagship programme of the Maharashtra government launched in December 2014 which aims to make 5,000 villages free of water scarcity.
  • The scheme targeted drought-prone areas by improving water conservation measures in order to make them more water sustainable.
  • It envisaged to arrest maximum run-off water, especially during the monsoon months, in village areas known to receive less rainfall, annually.

Initiatives under the scheme

  • Under the scheme, decentralized water bodies were installed at various locations within villages to enhance the groundwater recharge.
  • Besides, it also proposed to strengthen and rejuvenate water storage capacity and percolation of tanks and other sources of storage.
  • Dedicated committees were formed to assist in construction of watersheds like farm ponds, cement nullah bunds alongside rejuvenating the existing water bodies in the villages.

Why such scheme?

  • About 82 per cent area of Maharashtra falls is rainfed sector while 52 per cent of area is drought prone.
  • This, when coupled with natural rainfall variability and long dry spells during the monsoons, severely hampers agriculture activities.
  • Since 2014, hundreds of villages in Marathwada, central Maharashtra and Vidarbha have experienced droughts for consecutive years.
  • For instance, when the scheme was launched in 2014, a total of 23,811 villages in 26 out of the total 36 districts were declared drought-hit.
  • The scheme, thus, aimed at addressing these water issues mainly by building decentralized water bodies at local levels that could aid in better groundwater recharge especially in areas where water scarcity was very high.

 How does this intervention work?

  • Under the scheme, water streams in a locality are deepened and widened, which would later be connected to the newly constructed chains of cement nullah bunds in the village.
  • Besides, efforts would be made to arrest and store water in small earthen dams and farm ponds in such areas.
  • While new interventions are made, maintenance of existing sources like canals and all kinds of wells would be undertaken.
  • Activities like desilting of water conservation structures and repairs of canals are undertaken to help improve water storage and percolation at the site.
  • Additionally, recharge of dug and tubewells would be taken up in specific locations.
  • A mobile-app developed by the Maharashtra Remote Sensing Application Centre (MRSAC) for quick monitoring of the scheme is functional in this respect.

Expected Outcomes

  • While there are both short and long-term outcomes envisioned by the government, the purpose remains to strengthen the rural economy, which continues to be largely agriculture-driven.
  • The government plans to achieve this goal of improving farmer income by addressing the basic problem pertaining to availability of water for farming or irrigation purposes.
  • Included in the immediate outcomes of the scheme are reduction in the run-off water and diverting it to some kind of storage, increasing water storage capacity, increasing the rate of groundwater recharge, enhancing soil fertility and ultimately, improving farm productivity.
  • The long-term outcomes after the scheme matures, include reducing water scarcity in villages that have limited natural supply, improving in risk management or becoming drought resilient and improving water availability through effective management.
  • Through such timely interventions, the government aims to address the food and water security of its villages.

Progress card of the scheme

  • More than 11,000 villages where Jalyukta Shivar was introduced are declared drought-free.
  • The water storage capacity has been improved to 1.6 lakh Trillion Cubic Metre (TMC).
  • The overall scheme has so far benefitted 20 lakh hectares of protected irrigated land, which increased the cropping intensity to 1.25 to 1.5 times than before.
  • The overall agriculture productivity jumped up 30 to 50 per cent from areas where the intervention measures reached.
  • Importantly, the water tanker dependency in these areas has also dropped.
Jul, 11, 2019

Single Tribunal for hear water disputes


  • The Union Cabinet has approved the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019

  • The Bill seeks to amend the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 to streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes.
  • A key feature of the bill is the constitution of a single tribunal with different Benches, and the setting of strict timelines for adjudication.
  • It will help adjudicate disputes relating to waters of inter-State rivers and river valleys.
  • A version of this bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2017 but subsequently lapsed.

Why need a single tribunal?

  • Any State Government may request under the 1956 Act is for any water dispute on the inter-State rivers.
  • When the Central government is of the opinion that the dispute cannot be settled by negotiations it constitutes a Water Disputes Tribunal for the adjudication.
  • There are about a dozen tribunals that now exist to resolve disputes among States on sharing water from rivers common to them.
  • The standalone tribunal so envisaged will have a permanent establishment and permanent office space and infrastructure so as to obviate with the need to set up a separate Tribunal for each water dispute, a time consuming process.

Dispute Resolution Committee

  • The Bill also proposes a Dispute Resolution Committee set up by the Central Government for amicably resolving inter-State water disputes within 18 months.
  • Any dispute that cannot be settled by negotiations would be referred to the tribunal for its adjudication.
  • The dispute so referred to the tribunal shall be assigned by the chairperson of the tribunal to a Bench of the tribunal for adjudication.
  • The Bill can also affect the composition of the members of various tribunals, and has a provision to have a technical expert as the head of the tribunal.
  • Currently all tribunals are staffed by members of the judiciary, nominated by the Chief Justice.
Jul, 08, 2019

Water Desalination



  • With warnings from India’s top policy-makers and reports of major cities in India struggling to stave off a water crisis, there’s talk about exploring technologies to harness fresh water.
  • The one idea that’s been around for a while is desalination, or obtaining freshwater from salt water.
  • Desalination technology is not an esoteric idea — the city of Chennai already uses desalinated water. However, it only has a limited application, given the operation costs.

What is desalination technology?

  • To convert salt water into freshwater, the most prevalent technology in the world is Reverse Osmosis (RO). RO desalination came about in the late 1950s.
  • A plant pumps in salty or brackish water, filters separate the salt from the water, and the salty water is returned to the sea. Fresh water is sent to households.
  • Osmosis involves ‘a solvent (such as water) naturally moving from an area of low solute concentration, through a membrane, to an area of high solute concentration.
  • A reverse osmosis system applies an external pressure to reverse the natural flow of solvent and so seawater or brackish water is pressurized against one surface of the membrane.
  • This causes salt-depleted water to move across the membrane, releasing clean water from the low-pressure side’.

Why seawater needs desalination?

  • Seawater has Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) — a measure of salinity close to 35,000 parts per million (ppm), or equivalent to 35 g of salt per one litre/kg of water.
  • An effective network of RO plants reduces this down to about 200-500 ppm.
  • There are about 18,000 desalination plants in the world across 150 countries and nearly half of Israel’s water is sourced through desalination.

How popular is it in India?

  • For now, India’s real-world experience with desalination plants is restricted to Chennai.
  • Years of water crises in Chennai saw the government set up two desalination plants between 2010 and 2013.
  • These were at Minjur, around 30 km north of Chennai, in 2010, and Nemmeli, 50 km south of Chennai, in 2013.
  • Each supplies 100 million litres a day (MLD); together they meet little under a fourth of the city’s water.

What are the problems with RO plants?

  • Because RO plants convert seawater to fresh water, the major environmental challenge they pose is the deposition of brine (highly concentrated salt water) along the shores.
  • Ever since the Chennai plants have started to function, fishermen have complained that the brine being deposited along the seashore is triggering changes along the coastline and reducing the availability of prawn, sardine and mackerel.
  • Environmentalists second this saying that hyper salinity along the shore affects plankton, which is the main food for several of these fish species.
  • Moreover, the high pressure motors needed to draw in the seawater end up sucking in small fish and life forms, thereby crushing and killing them — again a loss of marine resource.
  • Another unexpected problem, an environmentalist group has alleged, was that the construction of the RO plants required troves of groundwater.
  • This was freshwater that was sucked out and has since been replaced by salt water, rendering it unfit for the residents around the desalination plants.

Stressful power use

  • On an average, it costs about ₹900 crore to build a 100 MLD-plant and, as the Chennai experience has shown, about five years for a plant to be set up.
  • To remove the salt required, there has to be a source of electricity, either a power plant or a diesel or battery source.
  • Estimates have put this at about 4 units of electricity per 1,000 litres of water. Therefore, each of the Chennai plants needs about 400,000 units of electricity.
  • It is estimated that it cost ₹3 to produce 100 litres of potable water.

Is RO water healthy?

  • In the early days of RO technology, there were concerns that desalinated water was shorn of vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium and carbonates collectively referred to as TDS.
  • Higher quantities of these salts in desalination plants tend to corrode the membranes and filtration system in these plants.
  • So ideally, a treatment plant would try to keep the TDS as low as possible.
  • Highly desalinated water has a TDS of less than 50 milligrams per litre, is pure, but does not taste like water.
  • Anything from 100 mg/l to 600 mg/l is considered as good quality potable water.
  • Most RO plants, including the ones in Chennai, put the water through a ‘post-treatment’ process whereby salts are added to make TDS around 300 mg/l.
  • Several of the home-RO systems that are common in affluent Indian homes, too employ post-treatment and add salts to water.

LTTD: the technological alternatives

  • The alternative desalination technology used is thermal energy sourced from the ocean. There is a low-temperature thermal desalination (LTTD) technique.
  • It works on the principle that water in the ocean 1,000 or 2,000 feet below is about 4º C to 8º C colder than surface water.
  • So, salty surface water is collected in a tank and subject to high pressure (via an external power source). This pressured water vaporizes and this is trapped in tubes or a chamber.
  • Cold water plumbed from the ocean depths is passed over these tubes and the vapour condenses into fresh water and the resulting salt diverted away.
Jul, 02, 2019

“Sanchay Jal, Behtar Kal” Campaign


  • Rolling out its water conservation plan under the Jal Shakti Abhiyan, the Centre said it would focus its time-bound, mission-mode campaign on 1,592 “water-stressed” blocks in 257 districts.

Sanchay Jal, Behtar Kal Campaign

  • It is a campaign for rainwater harvesting and water conservation.
  • The plan would rely largely on mass awareness programmes.
  • It will also involve focused implementation and convergence of existing water conservation schemes under the NREGS, Integrated Watershed Management Programme, and PMKSY’s per-drop-more-crop (micro-irrigation) programme.
  • The five targeted interventions would include water conservation and rainwater harvesting, renovation of traditional and other water bodies/ tanks, re-use and borewell recharge structures, watershed development, and intensive afforestation.

Why such move?

  • India’s water availability is estimated to decline to 1,341 cubic meter per capita per year by 2025 (from 5,177 cubic meter per capita per year in 1951).
  • But there are also examples of states such as Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and others that have undertaken efforts to resolve it.
  • The United Nations, under its sustainable development goals, expects all countries to provide clean drinking water to every household by 2030.
  • At present, only 8% of the total rainwater in the country is harvested — one of the many reasons why it needs to become a people’s movement.
Jun, 29, 2019

[op-ed snap] Things to do to avoid another water crisis


The severe situation in Chennai

Chennai has been reeling under its worst water crisis in decades with its four main reservoirs (Sholavaram, Chembarambakkam, Poondi and Red Hills) nearly empty.

The city has not had rain in nearly 200 days; only over the past few days has the city has seen light rainfall. Groundwater too has been over extracted.

Problematic Structure in Chennai

An audit by the non-governmental organisation Rain Centre has shown that most government buildings in Chennai do not have a functioning RWH (Rainwater harvesting)structure; these include several police stations and municipality buildings.

Now, the Greater Corporation of Chennai has ordered the inspection of RWH structures, much after the crisis.

Chennai’s Day Zero: It’s not just meteorology but mismanagement that’s made the city run dry

Lack of systematised solutions –

The issue with any crisis in India is the fire-fighting strategy that we adopt in response as opposed to systematised solutions.

These stop-gap arrangements are soon forgotten when things temporarily go back to normal instead of making an attempt to deeply ingrain these practices in the system.

Case Study of Floods in Chennai -During the floods in Chennai in December 2015, the encroachment of wetlands was widely cited as a key issue. Vanishing catchment areas had resulted in floods. Three-and-a-half years later, no formal mechanism has been put in place to check whether wetlands are being desilted and whether we can avoid a similar flood-like situation again.

Need for water governance

  • According to a recent NITI Aayog report, 21 Indian cities will run out of groundwater by 2020 if usage continues at the current rate.
  • Water governance in cities across India has been ad hoc.

1. Urban water planning and management board – Learning their lessons from the Chennai crisis, other metropolitan cities should now set up urban water planning and management boards, a permanent body similar to urban development authorities, that regulate the supply, demand and maintenance of water services and structures.

2.Regulation of water Supply –

  • Regulate groundwater supply – On the supply side, this authority should monitor and regulate groundwater in Chennai.
  • Water supply by private tankers must also be regulated with pricing for their services having reached exorbitant levels.
  • Desalinisation Plants – Additional desalination plants should also be commissioned as this water can result in water prices reaching to below 6 paise a litre.
  • Deepening of Existing Lakes – Experts are of the opinion that the beds of existing lakes can be deepened for greater water storage and better water percolation.

3.Demand Side Improvements

  • Measuring and pricing of water supply – Thus, on the demand side of things, Metro Water and groundwater use should be measured and priced progressively, similar to the electricity tariff, where the quantity of use determines the price.
  • Differential Pricing – The board can practise differential pricing and cross-subsidise those households with a lower per capita income use of water.
  • Water meters – For this to be implemented effectively, water meters are a must.

4.Stakeholder coordination

  • Desilting of lakes – The urban water management board should also oversee the desilting of lakes in the city on a regular basis.
  • Maintenance of RWH – The board must also have regulatory powers to monitor the maintenance of RWH structures at homes and in offices.
  • Problems with Existing RWH – In existing RWH structures, pipes are either broken or clogged, filtration equipment is not cleaned, bore pits have too much silt and drains are poorly maintained.
  • Granting approvals –  The body also needs to work in coordination with governments on granting approvals to new mass working spaces.
  • Case Study of  Sriperumbudur-Oragadam belt –  The manufacturing sector around the Sriperumbudur-Oragadam belt, where a number of companies and large manufacturing units have been able to maintain production due to efficient water management practices. For example, in one unit, there is a rainwater harvesting pond and all buildings inside the complex are equipped with facilities for artificial ground water recharge.


  • The scarcity of essential resources not only leads to economic losses but also social unrest.
  • We must also learn from the experiences of other cities across the world such as Cape Town, South Africa, where water saving is being driven through the concepts such as Day Zero, thus prompting better and more efficient use of water.
  • A sustainable governance solution to this problem along with public participation is essential to ensure that our future generations do not suffer as a result of our failures.
Jun, 27, 2019

[op-ed snap] Not just pipes and tankers


  • Many metropolis in the country has been in news recently for its water crisis.
  • Scuffles and water realetd crimes have been reported from different parts of the country.
  • Cape Town in South Africa was the first major city in the modern era to face the threat of running out of drinking water, as reported by the BBC.
  • The BBC listed another 11 cities most likely to run out of water. This list included Bengaluru.

Water Crisis: A problem with no solution?

I. Irrigation losses

  • Water scarcity in India has come about not so much from insufficient supply as from the way in which we manage the water we have.
  • Agriculture uses 78 per cent of India’s water, and uses it very inefficiently
  • Notwithstanding the large investments in irrigation networks, about two-thirds of water used for irrigation comes from groundwater.
  • Two factors — the huge electricity subsidies for farmers to pump groundwater and the fact that groundwater is largely unregulated — have led to a steady explosion in groundwater use through tube-wells.
  • About 80 per cent of the rural demand for drinking water is also met by groundwater.
  • Above all, increaed water-use efficiency in agriculture is critical to release water supply from agriculture for other uses.

II. Urban inefficieny in water use

  • Urban India’s inefficiency in water use arises from inadequate, old and dilapidated distribution networks, inefficient operations, inadequate metering, incomplete billing and collection, and a general state of poor governance.
  • Another source of inefficiency comes from not treating wastewater and using the recycled water for specialised uses such as horticulture, and also for flushing toilets.
  • Under-pricing of urban water also contributes to wasteful use. If something is under-priced, users will use more of it.
  • The Niti Aayog has projected that the groundwater of 21 cities will run out by 2020 (that is, next year) and the cities include Bengaluru, Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad.

III. Poors : Yet  deprived of piped Drinking water

  • Most of us living in cities expect to have access to drinking water from taps in our homes.
  • This requires a distribution network of pipes which can bring water from the basic source of bulk supply to our homes.
  • However, access to treated tap water is available to only 62 per cent of urban households (Census 2011).
  • Those who are unconnected to the piped network and include mostly, but not only, the poor, have to rely on buying water from tankers at exorbitant rates.
  • This leads to increasing but unaccounted use of groundwater by extensive digging of borewells to meet the demand deficit.

The usual hinderance: Finance

  • There is clearly a need to expand coverage to the “unconnected” population.
  • This will call for the expansion and renovation of the infrastructure of the distribution network.
  • Financing the expansion in urban water supply will be a problem.
  • Even if the capital cost of the infrastructure is made available either through National Missions or PPP, the operation and maintenance cost will have to be recovered through user charges.
  • Pricing water is important both for demand management and for economic viability of water delivery systems.

What needs to be done?

I. Diversifying resources

  • We also need to mobilise more supply of water from basic natural sources. Only then can greater connectivity result in piped water delivery to all in urban areas.
  • The mobilisation of additional supplies poses a major challenge since the natural recharge zones are increasingly eroded because of unplanned urbanisation.
  • We also need to deal with the supply constraints arisingfrom the neglect of the rivers, lakes, ponds and other waterbodies in and around our cities that feed the reservoirs which are the bulk sources of water.
  • These water bodies need to be protected from encroachment so that our catchment area for water storage and rainwater harvesting is not reduced.

III.Ensuring  quality

  • The quality of water issue is also very significant because of its serious implications for public health. Water is even more important than food for survival.
  • Only about 30 per cent of the municipal waste water or sewage is treated and the rest is released untreated into the rivers and/or the ground.
  • Because of the density and concentration in urban areas, contamination from wastewater happens much faster.
  • Surveys of groundwater in recent years show higher and higher levels of microbiological contamination

Way Forward

  • It is clear that management of water requires a holistic approach, taking account of the multiple aspects that have been spelt out above.
  • In a way, setting up of the Ministry of Jal Shakti is a recognition of this, except that the ministry deals with rural water needs only.
  • We cannot split urban water from rural. Water will flow from rural to urban and vice-versa, and has always done so.
  • Besides, reshaping water governance will require state governments and local governments to take coordinated action in a federal system.
  • What is needed is a political compact between the Centre and states to jointly address the challenges of saving India’s water, while actively involving local governments and engaging with the communities of water users.
  • It is a tall order but there is no alternative but to begin.
Jun, 27, 2019

Govt. to start Jal Shakti Abhiyan for 255 water-stressed districts


  • The Centre is set to initiate the Jal Shakti Abhiyan to ramp up rainwater harvesting and conservation efforts in 255 water-stressed districts of the country.

Jal Shakti Abhiyan

Effective monitoring

  • The Jal Shakti Abhiyan would aim to accelerate water harvesting, conservation and borewell recharge activities already being carried out under the MGNREGS and the Integrated Watershed Management Programme of the Rural Development Ministry.
  • Progress would be monitored in real time through mobile applications and an online dashboard at indiawater.gov.in.
  • Block and district-level water conservation plans would be drafted, and Kisan Vigyan Kendras would hold melas to promote better crop choices and more efficient water use for irrigation.
  • A major communications campaign on TV, radio, print, local and social media would be carried out, with celebrities mobilised to generate awareness for the campaign.
Jun, 25, 2019

‘Jal Hi Jiwan’ Scheme in Haryana


  • Farmers in paddy-growing districts of Haryana have agreed to opt for maize and other alternatives after the state government offered major incentives for crop diversification.
  • This was done in an attempt to address the rapidly falling groundwater levels in the state.

 ‘Jal Hi Jiwan’ Scheme

  • The ‘Jal Hi Jiwan’ scheme envisages diversification of 50,000 hectare area of non-basmati rice mainly into maize, pulses or oilseeds to achieve the target.
  • Apart from seeds and financial assistance of Rs 5,000 per hectare, the farmer’s share of crop insurance will also be borne by the government.
  • After it emerged that the groundwater level has depleted in 76% area of the state, Haryana launched the pilot scheme.
  • The objective of the scheme is to replace paddy with maize in seven major paddy-growing districts: Ambala, Yamuna Nagar, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Jind, Karnal and Sonipat.
  • According to the state Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Department, the farmers have formally registered for alternative plantations over 40,000 hectares of land.

Why substitute Paddy Cultivation?

  • Paddy is not suitable for Haryana because it puts tremendous stress on the groundwater due to its water-intensive nature.
  • According to agriculture department officials, 1 kg of rice requires 2,000-5,000 litres of water, depending upon its variety, soil type and time of sowing.
  • With paddy production jumping, the number of tubewells in the state also shot up from a few thousand to 8 lakh, resulting in overdrawing of groundwater.
  • Experts also say that it has exhausted the soil health while the crops like arhar, pulses and oilseeds require minimum fertilizers.
  • If farmers opt for maize in place of rice, the water saved per hectare will be about 14 lakh litres per crop season.

Rise in dark zones

  • These are zones where the water table has fallen to a critical level, and the rate at which water is being drawn is much more than the pace at which it is being recharged.
  • In the last two decades, the farmers have pumped out much as 74% of the groundwater reservoirs.
  • If over-exploitation of the water continues, parts of Haryana will turn into a desert in the coming years.

First such scheme ever

  • Haryana is the first state to implement water-saving scheme involving sowing maize as an alternative crop.
Jun, 24, 2019

[op-ed snap] Running dry

After a dry spell of almost 200 days, Chennai received monsoon showers last week. But this has not mitigated the water crisis in Tamil Nadu’s capital.


  • Clashes over water have been reported from different parts of the city and firms in Chennai’s Information Technology Park have asked employees to either work from home or bring their own water.
  • The state government and the city’s municipality have blamed the crisis on the deficient Northeast Monsoon in October-November last year.
  • They are not completely wrong.
  • However, the fact also is that in the past five years, Chennai’s water supply has consistently fallen short of the city’s requirement.
  • The Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board has been able to supply only 830 million litres a day (mld) as against the demand of about 1,200 mld. This year, the agency’s water supply dipped to 550 mld.
  • Chennai is a rain-shadow city.
  • It gets more than 80 per cent of its water from the Northeast Monsoon.
  • In the past, this water was stored in ponds, canals and lakes which would minimise the run-off — that a coastal city is susceptible to — and recharge groundwater.
  • Besides, according to a study by researchers at the geology department of Chennai’s Anna University, the city had more than 60 large water bodies at the turn of the 20th century.
  • Three major waterways — the Buckingham canal and the rivers, Adyar and Cooum — crisscrossed Chennai.
  • But Tamil Nadu’s capital today has only 28 water bodies, large or small, notes the Anna University study.
  • The Pallikaranai marshland which used to sprawl over more than 6,000 hectares has shrunk to about 650 hectares.
  • A growing body of literature has shown that urban planners gave short shrift to the imperatives of Chennai’s hydrology to meet the city’s infrastructural demands.
  • A parliamentary panel that enquired into the causes of the Chennai floods in 2015, for example, reported that that real estate business had “usurped” the city’s water bodies.
  • Today, Chennai gets its water from four reservoirs, which have gone dry after the retreating monsoon failed last year. Chennai’s desalination plants can barely supply a fifth of the city’s water requirements.


  • Chennai is amongst the 21 Indian cities which the Niti Aayog fears will run out of groundwater by 2020.
  • The city’s water crisis bares a critical challenge for the new Jal Shakti ministry.
  • It has to play a leading role in resolving the tension in India’s current urban planning paradigm between the developmental needs of people and water security imperatives.
  • The new ministry should start by coordinating with local authorities in Chennai to rejuvenate the city’s aquifers.
Jun, 17, 2019

Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico


  • Scientists say this year’s oceanic ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico will be one of the largest in recorded history.
  • It’s expected to grow to over 8,000 sq. miles, and scientists predict severe harm to marine habitat, impacting fish harvests.

Dead Zone

  • Dead zones are hypoxic (low-oxygen) areas in the world’s oceans and large lakes.
  • They are caused by “excessive nutrient pollution from human activities coupled with other factors that deplete the oxygen required to support most marine life in bottom and near-bottom water.
  • Historically, many of these sites were naturally occurring.
  • However, in the 1970s, oceanographers began noting increased instances and expanses of dead zones.
  • These occur near inhabited coastlines, where aquatic life is most concentrated.
  • The vast middle portions of the oceans, which naturally have little life, are not considered “dead zones”.

Why do they occur?

  • Dead zones can be caused by natural and by anthropogenic factors.
  • Natural causes include coastal upwelling and changes in wind and water circulation patterns.
  • Use of chemical fertilizers is considered the major human-related cause of dead zones around the world.
  • Runoff from sewage, urban land use, and fertilizers can also contribute to eutrophication
  • They can be caused by an increase in nutrients (particularly nitrogen and phosphorus) in the water, known as eutrophication.
  • These chemicals are the fundamental building blocks of single-celled, plant-like organisms that live in the water column, and whose growth is limited in part by the availability of these materials.
  • Eutrophication can lead to rapid increases in the density of certain types of these phytoplankton, a phenomenon known as an algal bloom.

How is hypoxia created?

  • The major groups of algae are Cyanobacteria, green algae, Dinoflagellates, Coccolithophores and Diatom algae.
  • Cyanobacteria are not good food for zooplankton and fish and hence accumulate in water, die, and then decompose.
  • The bacterial degradation of their biomass consumes the oxygen in the water, thereby creating the state of hypoxia.

With inputs from:

National Geographic

Jun, 06, 2019

'Nal Se Jal' Yojana


  • Hon’ble PM will soon launch Jal Se Nal Yojana in the entire country.

Nal Se Jal Yojana

  • Nodal Agency: Ministry of Jal Shakti
  • Aim: To provide piped drinking water to every rural home by 2024
  • It is a component of the government’s Jal Jivan Mission.

Why such scheme?

  • According to a 2018 NITI Aayog report, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
  • By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual ~6% loss in the country’s GDP.
  • Studies also show that 84% of rural homes have no access to piped water, with more than 70% of the country’s water contaminated.
Jun, 04, 2019

Government launches new ‘Jal Shakti’ Ministry


  • Fulfilling its poll promise, the government has launched a new unified ‘Jal Shakti’ ministry that is aimed at providing clean drinking water as well as fight India’s water woes.

Jal Shakti Ministry

  • The new ministry has been formed by merging the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
  • All water related works will be merged under one ministry.
  • The new ministry will encompass issues ranging from providing clean drinking water, international and inter-states water disputes, to the Namami Gange project aimed at cleaning Gang and its tributaries, and sub tributaries.

Why such move?

  • All water projects are complementary to each other. It’s good to have one ministry to have an integrated data management system.
  • In two separate ministries, there was no integration and one will not know where the gap is.
  • The need of the hour is the creation of water availability data from various resources on both quality and quantity at one platform.
May, 24, 2019

[op-ed snap] Sops to shun paddy


ALARMINGLY dire situations call for urgent and immediate measures. With 75 per cent of its groundwater already extracted, it is imperative for Haryana to arrest the depleting water table.

Ways to address the crisis

The last mile reach – It must ensure that its schemes reach the last acre and are implemented in totality so that soil health and its hydrological levels are restored.

No corruption – Any whiff of a scam or siphoning off of funds meant for the endeavour, if not dealt with strictly, will cost the state dearly, with the shadow of desertification looming large.

Incentives to other crops – The latest incentives to steer farmers away from the water-guzzling non-basmati paddy variety to maize or pulses include Rs 2,000 per acre, subsidised seeds and free crop insurance.

Of the 1.95 lakh hectares under this cultivation, the government hopes to divert 50,000 hectares to alternative crops.

Close Monitoring – An eagle eye on every transaction is needed to ensure that every penny of this scheme is accounted for; only that will make the intended difference.

Saathi (summer paddy) was banned about a decade ago, but efforts to curb its plantation have left a lot to be desired.


  • The peasant is not able to break free from the paddy-wheat cycle to crop diversification because paddy continues to give him higher returns and MSP.
  • Plus, the ad hoc nature of the doles promised rather than long-term lucrative prices and marketing of alternative crops make him wary of shifting.
  • Attractive prices for these crops should not be difficult to give. Weighing in the cost factor of paddy against the other crops reveals its feasibility.
  • Consider this: the production of 1 kg rice leaves the soil drier by 2,497 litres of water.
  • On top, a large portion of the power subsidy — worth Rs 6,700 crore was given in the state in 2017 as per the Haryana Electricity Regulatory Commission — goes into paddy cultivation.
  • Punjab, too, would do well to urgently review whether power subsidy doled out to paddy farmers is not rendering the state a net loser.
  • The irretrievable loss of groundwater and soil health is staring the state in the face.
May, 13, 2019

Arsenic bio-remediation using two soil bacteria


  • Using two indigenous strains of bacterium isolated from arsenic-contaminated field, researchers from CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute (CSIR-NBRI) and the University of Lucknow have shown that arsenic can be effectively removed from contaminated soil with the help of microbes.

Arsenic bioremediation

  • The strains are named as Bacillus flexus and Acinetobacter junii.
  • Several studies have pointed out that using arsenic-contaminated water for agricultural purposes can lead to increased concentration of arsenic in fruits and grains, proving toxic to humans.
  • The researchers studied the two bacteria under different concentrations of arsenate and arsenite, the toxic forms of heavy metal.
  • Arsenic treatment did not stunt or delay the growth of both the bacterial strains.
  • flexus exhibited resistance to high levels (150 mmol per litre) of arsenate and A. junii to about 70 mmol per litre of arsenite.
  • This is higher than previously reported arsenic tolerant bacteria and so were regarded as hyper-tolerant strains.
  • Further gene detection studies pointed out that both the bacteria have a special ars C gene, which aids in arsenic detoxification.

Promotes plant growth

  • The bacterial strains were further scrutinised to understand if they can help in plant growth too. In studies carried out in the lab, both the bacteria were able to solubilise phosphorus.
  • Phosphate solubilising bacteria have been reported to increase phytoavailability of phosphate, thus facilitating plant growth.
  • These two bacterial strains were also found to produce siderophores and ACC deaminase enzyme.
  • Siderophore increase the bioavailability of iron and other metal ions in polluted soil environment and ACC deaminase is a well known plant growth promoting enzyme.
  • These bacteria can live symbiotically in the roots of plants in arsenic- contaminated soils and help them uptake the required nutrients without causing toxicity.


Hazards of Arsenic contamination

  • Arsenic is an element widely distributed in earth’s crust, and in groundwater in many countries.
  • Long-term intake of arsenic contaminated water leads to arsenic poisoning or arsenicosis, with cancer of skin, bladder, kidney or lung or diseases of skin (colour changes, and hard patches on palms and soles), or blood vessels of legs and feet.
  • Fresh evidence indicates possible association between intake of contaminated water to onset of diabetes, hypertension and reproductive disorders.
  • In India, the states of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Chhattisgarh are reported to be most affected by arsenic contamination of groundwater above the permissible level.
  • WHO’s provisional guideline value for arsenic in drinking water – 0.01 mg/l (10 μg/l).
Apr, 23, 2019

Bacteriophages in Ganga Water


  • A study commissioned by the Union Water Resources Ministry to probe the “unique properties” of the Ganga found that the river water contains a significantly higher proportion of organisms with antibacterial properties.
  • Other Indian rivers also contain these organisms but the Ganga — particularly in its upper Himalayan stretches — has more of them.

Assessing Ganges Water

  • The Nagpur based NEERI team was tasked with assessing the water quality for “radiological, microbiological and biological” parameters in the Bhagirathi and the Ganga at 20 sampling stations.
  • As part of the assessment, five pathogenic species of bacteria (Escherichia, Enterobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio) were selected and isolated from the Ganga, Yamuna and the Narmada.
  • Their numbers was compared with the bacteriophages present in the river water.

Uniqueness of Ganga

  • That the Ganga may contain unique microbial life, which makes it relatively more resilient to putrefaction, was suggested by British colonial scientists about 200 years ago.
  • Because bacteriophages are a kind of virus that kill bacteria, they are frequently found in proximity to each other.
  • In the river Ganga, the bacteriophages were detected to be approximately 3 times more in proportion than bacterial isolates.
  • Though it isn’t evident that there are bacteriophage species unique to the Ganga, the study suggests there are many more of them in the Ganga than in other rivers.
  • Samples drawn from the Ganga contained almost 1,100 kinds of bacteriophage, and proportionally there were less than 200 species detected in the samples obtained from the Yamuna and the Narmada.
  • However, these antibacterial properties varied widely along the length of the river.

Uses of Bacteriophages

  • Phage therapy or viral phage therapy is the therapeutic use of bacteriophages to treat pathogenic bacterial infections.
  • Phage therapy has many potential applications in human medicine as well as dentistry, veterinary science, and agriculture.
  • Bacteriophages are much more specific than antibiotics. They are typically harmless not only to the host organism, but also to other beneficial bacteria.
Apr, 10, 2019

Discolouration of Periyar


  • There has been continued discolouration of water in the Periyar River turning into pitch black.

What caused discolouration?

  • The discolouration was due to the poor quality of water as a result of eutrophication.
  • When excessive nutrients reach the waterbody, it leads to algal bloom.
  • A few days later, algae die and decay, resulting in a foul smell and discolouration of water.
  • Water in some reaches of the river system has been stagnant. Reduced water flow in the system has added to the deteriorating water quality.
  • Huge quantities of organic load in the form of sewage from nearby townships are regularly reaching the river system.

What is Eutrophication?

  • Eutrophication is the response to the addition of nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates naturally or artificially, fertilizing the aquatic ecosystem.
  • Algal blooms are the consequence of Eutrophication.
  • Eutrophication occurs naturally due to deposition of nutrients [such as in depositional environments] carried by flood waters. It takes over centuries for eutrophication to occur naturally.
  • Phytoplankton (algae and blue-green bacteria) thrive on the excess nutrients and their population explosion covers almost entire surface layer. This condition is known as algal bloom.
  • Oxygen in aquatic ecosystem is replenished by photosynthetic aquatic plants. Algal Blooms restrict the penetration of sunlight resulting in death of aquatic plants, and hence restricts the replenishment of oxygen.
  • The oxygen level is already depleted due to the population explosion of phytoplankton.
Mar, 23, 2019

Groundwater assessment in India


Mains Paper 1: Geography| Distribution of key natural resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Groundwater assessment

Mains level: Status of groundwater availability in India


  • With about 250 cubic km of extraction in a year, of which 85 per cent is used for agriculture, India is the largest extractor of groundwater in the world.
  • Almost the entire rural water supply and over half of urban water demand is catered by aquifers.
  • It is essential to assess this invaluable, invisible resource for its proper management.

Groundwater types in India

  • In India, we divide ground- water resource into dynamic or replenishable and static or in-situ.
  • The dynamic component is the annual recharge of aquifers while the static resource is the groundwater volume available at depth of rock formations, stored over hundreds or thousands of years.


  • Southwestern monsoon is the major source of groundwater recharge.
  • India is one of the few countries engaged in a detailed assessment of the dynamic component at regular intervals since 2005.
  • Post 2009, the estimation is made every two years, the latest being in 2013.
  • The resource is assessed for each block/taluka/firka for all states and union territories in a joint endeavour by states and the Centre under the supervision of the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB).
  • The assessment calculates the recharge to aquifer and the extraction to work out the Stage of Groundwater Development (extraction/resource 100), or SOD.
  • The lower the SOD, the better the aquifer or area is.

Utility of SOD

  • The dynamic resource and SOD are extensively used in policy and governance, for instance, to prioritise government funding for schemes or issuing NOC by the Central Ground Water Authority to extract groundwater by industries.
  • The latest assessment in 2013 pegs India’s dynamic resources at 447 cu km, an increase of 14 cu km from 2011.
  • The extraction (an estimate of how much is taken out from aquifer for different societal uses) has also increased by 8 cu km.
  • SOD has remained the same, at 62 per cent.
  • However, recharge of the deeper aquifers and extraction from the deeper aquifer is not a part of this assessment.

Static component is more exploited

  • In overexploited areas there is an incremental eating up of the static resource, resulting in permanent damage to aquifers.
  • The static component should be used in case of emergency like drought.
  • Effort should be made to assess the static resource countrywide.

Assist this newscard with:

[pib] Management of Ground Water

Mar, 12, 2019

Scientists transform black soot into a boon for water purification


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievement of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Black Carbon Soot

Mains level: Effective treatment of Waste water


  • A group of Indian scientists have come up with a new process which promises to help utilize black carbon soot, which is a major air pollutant, for treating industrial waste containing highly poisonous organic dyes.

What is Black Carbon Soot?

  • Soot includes the fine black particles, chiefly composed of carbon, produced by incomplete combustion of coal, oil, wood, or other fuels.
  • Soot can consist of acids, chemicals, metals, soils, and dust.
  • It is emitted from gas and diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and other processes that involve burning of fossil fuel. It is known to be highly carcinogenic.
  • Organic dyes, in turn, are an important component of industrial waste and are generally non-biodegradable and deadly.
  • They enter water bodies and make them not only unfit for human consumption but also highly poisonous.

What has scientists transformed?

  • The scientists have converted black soot into graphene nanosheets.
  • They utilized the nanosheets to remove organic dyes such as crystal violet, rhodamine B, and methylene blue from industrial waste.
  • Treatment of waste water with organic dyes has remained a major challenge. The available methods are generally costly and cumbersome.
  • Black soot is available everywhere and even a lay person can convert it into graphene nanosheets at home.
  • The scientists tested the sustainability and the suitability of the overall process by using the treated water for growing wheat.
Feb, 12, 2019

[pib] India-Norway Ocean Dialogue


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: India-Norway Ocean Dialogue

Mains level: Marine pollution and measures being undertaken to address it


  • The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has signed a letter of Intent establishing the India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative together with the Norwegian ministry of Foreign Affairs.

India-Norway Ocean Dialogue

  1. Earlier, the Indian and Norwegian governments agreed to work more closely on oceans by signing a MoU and establishing the Dialogue.
  2. A joint Task Force on Blue Economy with government officials, researchers and experts as well as private sector was established to develop sustainable solutions within strategic areas of the blue economy, such as maritime and marine sector in addition to energy sector.
  3. Both partners will share experiences and competence, and collaborate on efforts to develop clean and healthy oceans, sustainable use of ocean resources and growth in the blue economy.
Feb, 08, 2019

[pib] Management of Ground Water


Mains Paper 1: Geography| Distribution of key natural resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CGWB, NAQUIM

Mains level: Status of dams groundwater availability in India


Central Ground Water Board (CGWB)

  1. CGWB has been entrusted with the responsibilities of developing & disseminating technologies, monitoring national policies for the scientific and sustainable development and management of India’s ground water resources.
  2. It periodically takes up various studies which include ground water management studies, exploratory drilling programmes, monitoring ground water level and water quality through a network of ground water observation wells etc.
  3. The result collected is shared with the concerned States for taking up suitable ground water specific interventions.

National Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme (NAQUIM)

  1. The NAQUIM is an initiative of the Ministry of Water Resources for mapping and managing the entire aquifer systems in the country.
  2. It maintains the Hydrological Map of India.
  3. It aims:
  • to identify and map aquifers at the micro level,
  • to quantify the available groundwater resources, and
  • to propose plans appropriate to the scale of demand and aquifer characteristics, and institutional arrangements for participatory management.
  1. It was initiated as a part of the Ground Water Management and Regulation scheme to delineate and characterize the aquifers to develop plans for ground water management.
  2. The AQUIM project is implemented in six selected areas in different hydrogeological environs of the country as shown below:

Jan, 23, 2019

[op-ed snap] India stares at water scarcity


Mains Paper 3: Disaster Management| Disaster and disaster management.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing as such.

Mains level: The news-card discusses about tackling drought that must be the immediate priority for administrators across the country today, in a brief manner.


  • The coming elections to the Lok Sabha which are crucial to the future of our democracy, pluralism and federalism, are only a few weeks away.
  • However, according to the experts, tackling drought must be the immediate priority for administrators across the country.


  • India is facing a low rainfall year. The rains’ let down this time comes on top of an already low-rain and, in many places, no-rain ground situation.
  • The next nearest rains are six months away and there is no guarantee that June will see the onset of a normal monsoon.
  • The political class is ware of the situation since the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has given them enough data.
  • But when droughts and elections intersect, it is extremely uncomfortable to leaders.

Need to create awareness over the issue

  • Just weeks before the elections, the reservoirs might dry up, taps will sputter to a stop and we may well be looking at water-rationing.
  • Public awareness, prodded by public discussions on meteorological data and media reports, has kept droughts from deepening into famines in our country.
  • However, the IMD report on scant rains has not received much attention so far, with exceptions being provided by several experts of relentless warnings and observations.
  • The failure of rains this time is so serious that ‘drought’ now means not just a farm crisis but a national crisis that will affect towns and cities no less than villages.

Rain deficit facts

  • The actual deficit last monsoon was modest — barely 10%.
  • But the post-monsoon rainfall (October to December, 2018) or PMR as it is called by meteorologists has registered a 44% deficit.
  • This national average deficit conceals shortages in some regions where it is much higher.
  • In Marathwada, according to the IMD, the deficit is 84%, in Vidarbha, 88%.

 Reasons to worry this time

  • This low-rain and no-rain situation is going to aggravate the water crisis that we have brought upon ourselves without the ‘help’ of a dry sky.
  • Years of policy-driven, corporate-driven water transfers from rural to urban, agriculture to industry, poor to rich and so on have made our country-side chronically water-scarce.
  • Urban India does not realise this well enough until when there are power-outages and air-conditioners do not work.
  • According to experts, by April-May, this drought could be tormenting millions in several States and that is when election-campaigning will be at its peak.

Drought is going to be the real issue for the next general Elections

  • The pre-election mood nowadays is all about agrarian distress and farm-loan waivers. However, the need is to think about drought and what can be done to address it.
  • It does not take more than one failed farm-season to turn the farmers to impatience and then to rage.
  • It is going to be the biggest and immediate test for the new governments in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh.
  • The drought is going to be the real challenge to the ‘collective opposition’ as it seeks to oust the present regime.
  • The rural voter will vote against the government unless the ‘government party’ makes drought relief, water-use, food security and massive earth-related programmes its absolute priority.

Way Forward

  • Appointing a commission like the Farmers’ Commission: The next Prime Minister should appoint a commission like the Farmers’ Commission, which Dr. M.S. Swaminathan headed, to advise him or her on how water scarce India needs to face drought.
  • The Commission must be given just one month to complete its study and make its recommendations.
  • Penalties should be incorporated rather than making mere advisories or appeals to the defaulters.
  • Addressing the deepening drought, agrarian distress and water-management are the most critical issues that India faces today.
Jan, 12, 2019

Centre signs pact with 5 States on Renukaji dam


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Renukaji Dam

Mains level:  Not Much


  • Union Water Resources Ministry has signed an agreement with the CMs of Haryana, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan for the construction of a Renukaji multipurpose dam project.

Renukaji Multipurpose Dam Project

  1. The dam is conceptualized as a three-way project to be constructed along the Yamuna and two of its tributaries, the Tons and Giri.
  2. The project envisages construction of 148-metre high rock-filled dam for supplying 23 cubic metres per second water to Delhi and other basin states.
  3. Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are the two states involved.
  4. The projects were conceived in 2008. Most of irrigation cost and the drinking water component of these projects will be funded by the central government.
  5. The six beneficiary states would chip in with 10 per cent of the expenditure.

Execution details

  1. The project is proposed to be executed by Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd.
  2. The project will also generate 40 MW of power and the Delhi government has agreed to fund 90% of the cost of the power plant.
  3. After the construction of the dam, the flow of river Giri will increase by about 110 per cent which will meet the drinking water needs of Delhi and other basin states up to some extent in the lean period.
Dec, 21, 2018

[op-ed snap] Dam Safety Bill: its objective, the objections


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Dam Safety Bill, 2018, Artice 252

Mains level: Status of dams in India and need for ensuring their safety


Dam Safety Bill, 2018

  1. The government has introduced the Dam Safety Bill, 2018 in Lok Sabha
  2. The Bill provides for “surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams for prevention of dam failure related disasters and to provide for an institutional mechanism to ensure their safe functioning”

Why dam safety?

  1. Of India’s 5,254 large dams, some 75% are over 25 years old, and 164 more than 100 years old
  2. There have been 36 dam failures
  3. There has been a lack of a uniform law and an administrative regime for dam safety
  4. While the Central Water Commission (CWC) has made efforts through National Committee on Dam Safety, Central Dam Safety Organisation and State Dam Safety Organisations, these agencies do not have statutory powers and can only make recommendations

History of the bill

  1. The Dam Safety Bill was first introduced in Lok Sabha in 2010
  2. It sought to mandate the Centre, state governments and individual owners of dams to establish a mechanism for safety
  3. It was to be initially applicable only to Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and the Union Territories; the two states had passed resolutions under Article 252(1) of the Constitution requesting Parliament to make a law
  4. The Speaker referred the Bill to a Parliamentary Standing Committee, which submitted its report in 2011
  5. It suggested that provisions be added for punishing the owner in case of dam failure and fixing liability for compensating affected people and that an independent regulatory authority on safety measures and a national-level early warning system be set up
  6. On June 13, 2018, the Cabinet approved the draft of the Dam Safety Bill, 2018
  7. Most of the recommendations of the standing committee were incorporated in the draft

Regulatory structure for dams

  1. The legislation provides for a National Committee on Dam Safety, to be headed by the CWC chairperson and with members nominated by the Centre
  2. There will be representatives of the Centre and states (through rotation) as well as dam safety experts
  3. The committee will formulate policies and regulations, which are to be implemented by a centrally appointed National Dam Safety Authority, headed by an officer of at least Additional Secretary rank
  4. The authority will also resolve issues between State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs) or between an SDSO and any individual dam owner, lay down regulations for dam inspection and for accreditation to construction and designing agencies
  5. The Bill provides for a safety unit in each dam to be set up by individual dam owners

Opposition to the bill

  1. In cases where a dam is owned by one state and located in another, or extends over multiple states, or is owned by a central public sector undertaking, the Bill provides that the National Dam Safety Authority will act as the SDSO
  2. This provision is the primary reason for opposition from Tamil Nadu
  3. Tamil Nadu’s Mullaiperiyar, Parambikulam, Thunakkadavu and Peruvaripallam dams are owned, operated and maintained by the Government of Tamil Nadu by virtue of Inter-state Agreements, but are located in a neighbouring state Kerala
  4. The government has argued that Article 252 empowered the Centre to legislate for two or more states by consent
  5. The states have pointed out that water is listed as a state subject
  6. As regulation of the safety of dams has not yet been declared by Parliament to be expedient in public interest, it would be prudent to believe that Parliament has no powers to make law for the state or for that matter by the Union Government at this juncture
Dec, 15, 2018

[pib] Revised Guidelines for Ground Water Extraction


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WCF

 Mains level: Regulation of groundwater use, Groundwater Bill, 2017 and its provisions


Guidelines for ground water extraction

  1. In order to comply with various directions of the NGT regarding ground water extraction, the Central Ground Water Authority, Ministry of Water Resources has notified revised guidelines for ground water extraction.
  2. These will be effective from 1st June 2019.
  3. The revised guidelines aim to ensure a more robust ground water regulatory mechanism in the country.

Water Conservation Fee (WCF)

  1. One of the important features of the revised guidelines is the introduction of the concept of Water Conservation Fee (WCF).
  2. The WCF payable varies with the category of the area, type of industry and the quantum of ground water extraction.
  3. It is designed to progressively increase from safe to over-exploited areas and from low to high water consuming industries as well as with increasing quantum of ground water extraction.
  4. Through this design, the high rates of WCF are expected to discourage setting up of new industries in over-exploited.
  5. The WCF would also compel industries to adopt measures relating to water use efficiency and discourage the growth of packaged drinking water units, particularly in over-exploited and critical areas.

Other Features

  1. Other salient features include encouraging use of recycled and treated sewage water by industries, provision of action against polluting industries, mandatory requirement of digital flow meters, piezometers and digital water level recorders.
  2. It mandates water audit by industries abstracting ground water 500 m3/day or more in safe and semi-critical and 200 m3/day or more in critical and over-exploited assessment units.
  3. It also suggests for roof top rain water harvesting except for specified industries and measures to be adopted to ensure prevention of ground water contamination in premises of polluting industries/ projects.

Certain Exemptions

  1. As per the revised guidelines, exemption from requirement of NOC has been given to agricultural users, users employing non-energized means to extract water, individual households (using less than 1 inch diameter delivery pipe) and Armed Forces Establishments.
  2. Other exemptions (with certain requirements) have been granted to strategic and operational infrastructure projects for Armed Forces, Defence and Paramilitary Forces Establishments and Government water supply agencies.


Groundwater extraction in India

  1. India is the largest user of ground water in the world, extracting ground water to the tune of 253 bcm per year, which is about 25% of the global ground water extraction.
  2. Ground water extraction in India is primarily for irrigation in agricultural activities, accounting for nearly 228 BCM (Billion Cubic Meter), which amounts to 90% of the annual ground water extraction.
  3. The remaining 10% of extraction (25 BCM) is for drinking & domestic as well as industrial uses.
  4. Industrial use is estimated to account for only about 5% of the annual ground water extraction in the country.
  5. Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), constituted under the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 has the mandate of regulating ground water development and management in the country.
  6. CGWA has been regulating ground water development for its sustainable management in the country through measures such as issue of advisories, public notices, grant of NOC for ground water withdrawal.

For Groundwater Bill, 2017, please refer :

[op-ed snap] A gathering crisis: the need for groundwater regulation

Dec, 15, 2018

TN demands withdrawal of Dam Safety Bill


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the draft Bill

Mains level:  Dam safety and unresolved points of issues between the states which share dam territory.


Tamil Nadu disputes with Kerala

  1. That as the proposed draft Dam Safety Bill, 2018 contains clauses which violate the rights of Tamil Nadu especially with respect to the Dams constructed by it.
  2. Tamil Nadu owns dams in Mullaperiyar, Parambikulam, Thunakadavu and Peruvaripallam in Kerala.
  3. The two states have engaged in dispute over the Mullaperiyar dam.
  4. When TN wanted to increase storage of the dam, Kerala opposed it citing safety threats.

SC intervention

  1. Eventually, a Supreme Court team inspected the dam and confirmed in November 2014 that the dam was safe.
  2. In May 2014, the SC had struck down a Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act 2006 limiting the full reservoir level to 136 feet.
  3. The dispute was over the TN government’s demand to raise the water level to 142 feet and carry out repair.
  4. While that order went against Kerala, the latest move by the Centre has made TN cautious about its authority and assets.

An Unconstitutional move

  1. The aforementioned dams are operated and maintained by the Tamil Nadu government by virtue of inter-State agreements, but are located in a neighbouring State.
  2. The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had upheld the rights of Tamil Nadu over the Mullaiperiyar dam in its judgment in May 2014.
  3. Therefore, to deny Tamil Nadu the right to be the Dam Safety Authority with regard to these dams and vesting the powers on the National Dam Safety Authority would tantamount to encroaching on the rights of Tamil Nadu, which is unconstitutional.

For Dam Safety Bill, please refer:

[pib] Cabinet approves proposal for enactment of Dam Safety Bill, 2018

Dec, 10, 2018

Are drugs discharged into the Yamuna toxic to aquatic life?


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Drugs mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: Water pollution crisis faced by India and how it can be toned down


Discharge of drug-containing effluents can cause drug resistance

  1. By studying nine different pharmaceutical active compounds in Yamuna River, researchers have now pointed out that it can “possibly cause chronic toxicity” to aquatic life and to humans who use this water.
  2. As our body does not use the entire quantity of the drug we take, most of it is excreted and end up in aquatic systems via domestic sewage.
  3. The researchers from IIT-Delhi and National Mission for Clean Ganga collected water samples from six sites across the 25 km river stretch during three different seasons (November 2010, April and July 2011).
  4. Using different extraction processes, the pharmaceutical residues in the water were recovered and analysed.

Findings of the Research

  1. The team looked at six over-the-counter drugs (aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, ranitidine, caffeine, diclofenac) and three prescription drugs (carbamazepine, codeine, diazepam).
  2. Ibuprofen and paracetamol were found at a high concentration of 1.49 and 1.08 microgram per litre respectively.
  3. Previous studies have shown that even small concentration of ibuprofen could cause an antagonistic effect on aquatic organisms.
  4. Studies have also shown that ibuprofen exposure could increase cyanobacterial growth in the water.
  5. Caffeine was found in high concentration in most of the sites. Caffeine is used as a stimulant in medicine; residue from beverages and other food products may be a contributor.
  6. Even prescription drugs such as carbamazepine were found in the samples with the highest level at 1.35 microgram per litre.

Hazards of the effluents

  1. Though the individual levels were small and cannot cause acute toxicity to the marine life, the mixture of compounds can cause chronic toxicity.
  2. We need more studies on the pharmaceutical residues as this is found to be an emerging problem in many countries.
  3. This not only affects the biodiversity of the river but can also lead to the rise of superbugs.

Way Forward

  1. Uncontrolled discharge of drug-containing effluents in our rivers and other water bodies can potentially make many microbes drug-resistant.
  2. Our sewage treatment plants are not designed to take care of these pharmaceutical compounds.
  3. Also, we have no guidelines or specific rules in place about this.
  4. There is a need to sensitize the government and this report is the first step toward it.
Dec, 10, 2018

[pib] 1st International Conference on Sustainable Water Management


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Conference on Sustainable Water Management

Mains level: India’s dual challenge of water conservation and interventions that can be made to prevent a water crisis


International Conference on Sustainable Water Management

  1. The first International Conference under the aegis of National Hydrology Project, Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation is being organised by Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) in Mohali.
  2. The aim of the Conference is:
  • to foster the participation of and dialogue between various stakeholders, including governments, the scientific and academic communities, so as to promote sustainable policies for water management,
  • to create awareness of water-related problems, motivate commitment at the highest level for their solution and thus promote better management of water resources at local, regional, national and international levels.
  1. The theme of the Conference “Sustainable Water Management” deals with promoting integrated and sustainable development and management of Water Resources.
Nov, 19, 2018

[op-ed snap] Further stressed by thermal power


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Composite Water Management Index (CWMI)

Mains level: India’s projected energy demand and how it will affect the water availability


Water crisis in India highlighted by CWMI

  1. The Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) by the NITI Aayog, which was released this June, shows that 600 million people face high to extreme water stress in India
  2. The report, which was published in association with the Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation and the Ministry of Rural Development, places India at a dismal 120 among 122 countries in the water quality index
  3. It predicts that a persistent water crisis will lead to an eventual 6% loss in the country’s Gross Domestic Product by 2030

Gap between demand and supply

  1. A significant key to this stress is the vast gulf — of about 1498 billion cubic metres (BCM) versus 744 BCM — that has been predicted between the demand and supply of fresh water, by 2030
  2. In the projections that the Central Water Commission (CWC) released in 2015, the sector-wise requirement of water (that is, for drinking and domestic use, industry and energy) will rise steeply between 2030 and 2050
  3. This mounting rise in demand is starkly evident in the energy sector, which is key to India’s ambitious developmental plan
  4. The share of water consumed by this sector was 0.62% in 2010, which is pegged to rise up to 1.37% in 2030 and 8.98% in 2050
  5. The projected water demand of the energy sector makes it an important point for the NITI Aayog to consider while bringing out future iterations of the CWMI
  6. As the power sector consumes more water, competition between power and the other thirsty players is only likely to increase — a factor that future editions of the CWMI will have to consider

Water demand of the energy sector

  1. As per the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), March 2018, thermal electricity accounts for more than 86% of India’s total power generation
  2. The analysis shows that 77% of India’s total electricity comes from thermal power plants that are dependent on freshwater sources
  3. Of all the freshwater-cooled thermal plants, 38.9% of generation capacity is installed in areas with high or extremely high water-stress
  4. By 2030, more than 70% of India’s existing thermal power utilities are likely to experience an increased level of water competition from agricultural, urban, and other industrial demands

Need of measuring water consumption data of energy sector

  1. The CWMI also raises three main issues related to data: limited coverage, unreliable data and limited coordination and sharing
  2. It can easily be tackled by using the existing CEA reporting mechanism for the daily generation. To do so, daily water withdrawal and consumption reporting should be mandated
  3. These can be measured with existing technology and added to this reporting framework
  4. In addition, information about water stress, power plant siting (location) and so on must be shared seamlessly across departments — a service that the CWMI could perform
  5. Such information will also help in the implementation of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Notification (dated December 7, 2015), which mandates specific water consumption norms for existing and new thermal power plants

Way forward

  1. Factoring in the water-energy nexus linkages, especially the metrics around power plant water withdrawal and consumption, will only help make the Index better and the States better prepared to manage their water and power resources
Oct, 31, 2018

[op-ed snap] India’s neglected groundwater crisis


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Water Development Report, UNESCO, NITI Aayog Composite Water Management Index (CWMI)

Mains level: India’s dual challenge of groundwater conservation and interventions that can be made to prevent a water crisis


Importance of groundwater & declining levels

  1. Groundwater is one of the most important water sources in India accounting for 63% of all irrigation water and over 80% of rural and urban domestic water supplies
  2. The UNESCO World Water Development Report states that India is the largest extractor of groundwater in the world
  3. NITI Aayog Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) report states that the majority of states have scored less than 50% in the source augmentation of groundwater resource index
  4. Fifty-four percent of India’s groundwater wells have declined over the past seven years, and 21 major cities are expected to run out of groundwater by 2020
  5. India faces a dual challenge: to regulate the growing demand for groundwater while replenishing its sources

Reasons behind the groundwater crisis

  • Subsidies on electricity
  1. Subsidies on electricity are thought to play a central role in the Indian groundwater crisis
  2. The vast majority of groundwater pumps are unmetered, and if charged, are billed at a flat, non-volumetric, and highly subsidized tariff
  3. This flat rate is responsible, at least in part, for inefficient usage and excessive withdrawal of groundwater
  • MSP declaration
  1. The government encourages farmers to produce water-intensive crops like rice and sugarcane through increased minimum support prices (MSP)
  2. Research indicates that although MSP has led to assured incomes, it has also led to groundwater depletion, income inequality and unsustainable agriculture

Possible interventions

  • Reducing electricity subsidies
  1. An analysis of panel data across 370 districts in India found that a reduction in electricity subsidy was correlated with a decrease in groundwater extraction
  2. On average, a 10% reduction in electricity subsidy generated a 6.7% decrease in groundwater extraction
  3. In order to avoid adversity on farmers, the government(s) can limit the electricity subsidy offered to farmers and compensate them with a direct cash transfer for every unit they save
  4. This provides farmers an incentive to use groundwater judiciously without any additional cost to the government
  5. The government of Punjab has entered into a partnership with a private company to conduct a randomized evaluation to test this model
  • Encouraging farmers to adopt micro-irrigation techniques
  1. Techniques such as drip irrigation and micro-sprinklers can be used
  2. According to the CWMI report, adopting micro-irrigation techniques can save roughly 20% of the groundwater used annually on irrigation in India
  3. A study by has shown that the adoption of drip irrigation increased in areas where less water-intensive crops such as banana, grapes and coconut were grown
  4. The adoption of drip irrigation was higher in regions where water and labour were scarcer
  5. It would be prudent for policymakers and researchers to encourage adoption of drip irrigation practices and rigorously evaluate its impact on groundwater levels in such areas
  • Creating a bottom-up approach to conserve groundwater
  1. This can be done by empowering the local community to become active participants in managing groundwater
  2. In line with this, the central government in its 12th five-year plan proposed a policy of participatory groundwater management (PGM), which involves a collaborative approach among government departments, researchers, NGOs and community members
  3. The plan involves training community workers to carry out aquifer mapping and implement innovative ways to use groundwater conservatively with the local community

Way forward

  1. Groundwater has helped India overcome food shortage in the 1960s by playing an instrumental role in ushering in the green revolution
  2. The NITI Aayog CWMI report is a timely reminder of the need for policymakers and researchers to come together and conduct rigorous evaluations in order to understand what works and what doesn’t work for groundwater conservation
  3. Systematic analysis of groundwater conservation methods must be conducted to forestall the water crisis
Oct, 18, 2018

[pib] CSIR develops affordable Water Disinfection System “OneerTM”


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: OneerTM

Mains level: Provision of Safe Drinking Water



  1. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (CSIR-IITR) has developed a Drinking Water Disinfection System with trade name OneerTM.
  2. It is useful for continuous treatment of water and eliminates all disease causing pathogens such as virus, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and cyst.
  3. It provides safe drinking water to domestic and communities settings as per National and International standards prescribed for potable water (BIS, WHO etc.).
  4. It will provide access to safe and clean drinking water at a cost of just 2 Paise / Ltr.

Importance of the development

  1. A large proportion of India’s rural community is consuming water that does not meet the WHO drinking water quality standards.
  2. According to the World Health Organization, access to safe drinking-water is essential to health, a basic human right and a component of effective policy for health protection.
  3. The Community level model is of 450 LPH capacities which can be scaled up to 5000 to 1 lakh L/day; and is also maintenance and membrane free.
  4. The technology will be helpful especially for rural people since it can be solar powered and this development is in line with the ‘Make in India’ Mission.
Sep, 17, 2018

More river stretches are now critically polluted: CPCB


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: BOD, List of the most polluted rivers.

Mains level: Water pollution crisis faced by India and how it can be toned down.


Water Quality Indicators on Decline

  1. The number of polluted stretches in India’s rivers has increased to 351 from 302 two years ago.
  2. The number of critically polluted stretches has gone up to 45 from 34, according to an assessment by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Mumbai’s Mithi among the worst

  1. The most significant stretches of pollution highlighted by the CPCB assessment include:
  • Mithi river — from Powai to Dharavi — with a BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) of 250 mg/l,
  • Godavari — from Someshwar to Rahed — with a BOD of 5.0-80 mg/l;
  • Sabarmati — Kheroj to Vautha — with a BOD from 4.0-147 mg/l;
  • Hindon — Saharanpur to Ghaziabad — with a BOD of 48-120 mg/l.
  1. In its compilation of polluted stretches in Uttar Pradesh, the Ganga with a BOD range of 3.5-8.8 mg/l is indicated as a ‘priority 4’ river.
  2. The higher the BOD worse is the river. The CPCB considers BOD less than 3 mg/l an indicator of a healthy river.

Graded scale for Measurement

  1. The CPCB, since the 1990s, has a programme to monitor the quality of rivers primarily by measuring BOD, which is a proxy for organic pollution. The health of a river and the efficacy of water treatment measures by the States and municipal bodies are classified depending on BOD.
  2. With a BOD greater than or equal to 30 mg/l is termed ‘priority 1,’ while that between 3.1-6 mg/l is ‘priority 5.’

Way Forward: Need to shift focus

  1. The cultural significance of the Ganga is such that there’s been greater focus on it but many more rivers are far more polluted.
  2. However the CPCB says several of the river’s stretches in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are actually far less polluted than many rivers in Maharashtra, Assam and Gujarat.
  3. These three States account for 117 of the 351 polluted river stretches.
  4. Based on the recommendations of the National Green Tribunal, the CPCB apprised the States of the extent of pollution in their rivers.


Biochemical Oxygen Demand

  1. BOD is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed (i.e. demanded) by aerobic biological organisms to break down organic material present in a given water sample at certain temperature over a specific time period.
  2. The BOD value is most commonly expressed in milligrams of oxygen consumed per litre of sample during 5 days of incubation at 20 °C and is often used as a surrogate of the degree of organic pollution of water.
  3. BOD is similar in function to chemical oxygen demand (COD), in that both measure the amount of organic compounds in water.
  4. However, COD is less specific, since it measures everything that can be chemically oxidized, rather than just levels of biodegradable organic matter.
Sep, 17, 2018

In managing water, Surat takes lead


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims Level: Not Much

Mains Level: The newscard emphasizes need to prioritize waste water treatment and highlights benchmark efforts by Surat.



  1. India is facing its worst water shortage in history, according to the composite water management index prepared by the Niti Aayog.
  2. Nearly 600 million Indians faced high to extreme water stress and about 2,00,000 people die every year in the country because of inadequate access to safe water.

Surat Municipality to supply 115 MLD treated water

  1. India’s ‘Diamond City’ offers a lesson for the country’s ever-expanding cities on water management and the optimal use of water, which is rapidly becoming a scarce resource.
  2. Surat’s civic body is setting up state-of-the-art sewage treatment plants (STPs) to ensure every drop of waste water is treated and reused for purposes other than drinking.
  3. From March 2019, the Surat Municipal Corporation will be supplying 115 MLD (million litres per day) treated water to industries located within the city to meet the entire industrial requirement.

What makes it Special?

  1. This is the largest capacity of tertiary water treatment in the country.
  2. In fact, Surat was the first city in the country to start selling recycled water to industries in 2014.
  3. The entire quantum of water will be treated from domestic sewerage water in tertiary treatment plants at the Bamroli and Dindoli areas
  4. This will supply water to mainly adjacent textile factories housing over many dying and printing units.
  5. This cost effective water management system is most advantageous for its contribution towards reducing the dependency on conventional resources of water, and thus optimal use of the resource.
Sep, 04, 2018

Panel urges plan to save Himalayan springs


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level:  Need for conserving the natural springs in Himalayan region.



  1. While Meghalaya with 3,810 villages with springs had the highest number of these water sources in the Eastern Himalayan States, Sikkim had the greatest density with 94% of its villages having a spring.
  2. In the Western Himalayas, Jammu & Kashmir had both the highest number of villages with springs at 3,313 and the greatest density of 50.6%.
  3. These springs are under threat due to ever increasing urbanisation in region.

Mission to revive Himalayan springs

  1. NITI Aayog constituted a group of experts that has urged the government to set up a dedicated mission to salvage and revive spring water systems in the Himalayan States.
  2. This is due to their vital importance as a source of water for both drinking and irrigation for the region’s inhabitants.

Why such move?

  1. The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) has been heavily reliant on the natural groundwater sources that are under increasing threat from the urbanisation.
  2. Almost half of the perennial springs have already dried up or have become seasonal and tens of thousands of villages are currently facing acute water shortage for drinking and other domestic purposes
  3. Almost 60% of low-discharge springs that provided water to small habitations in the region have reported clear decline during the last couple of decades.

Shimla crisis

  1. The extent of the crisis plaguing the mountainous region was recently evident when some districts of Himachal Pradesh and the capital Shimla faced a severe drinking water crisis this summer.
  2. Reduced snowmelt and depressed flow from springs was the main reason of the crisis.
  3. Also, with almost 64% of the cultivable area in the Himalayas fed by natural springs, they are often the only source of irrigation in the region.

Pollution of these Springs

  1. There were multiple sources of pollution in springs and these were due to both geogenic and anthropogenic.
  2. Microbial content, sulphates and nitrates were primarily because of anthropogenic reasons and contamination from fluoride, arsenic and iron was mainly derived from geogenic sources.
  3. Coliform bacteria in spring water could originate from septic tanks, household wastewater, livestock facilities, and manure lagoons in the source area or in the aquifers feeding springs.
  4. Similarly, nitrate sources were septic tanks, household wastewater, agricultural fertilisers, and livestock facilities.

Way Forward

  1. A multidisciplinary, collaborative approach of managing springs involving the existing body of work on spring water management must be developed.
  2. The programme could be designed on the concept of an action-research programme as part of a hydrogeology-based, community-support system on spring water management.
  3. The task force moots an 8-year programme to overhaul spring water management.
  4. This includes: preparing a digital atlas of the country’s springsheds, training ‘para-hydrogeologists’ who could lead grassroots conservation and introduction of a ‘Spring Health Card.’
Aug, 07, 2018

[pib] Pollution due to Synthetic Fertilizers and Agricultural Pollutants


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Measures to control water pollution in India



Water bodies in the country are polluted due to the discharge of untreated sewage, industrial effluent, agricultural runoff containing fertilizers, pesticides, etc.

National Water Monitoring Programme (NWMP)

1. Central Pollution Control Board monitors the water quality of both surface and groundwater under the National Water Monitoring Programme (NWMP) through a network of monitoring stations in the country.
2. The water quality is assessed for various parameters, including physicochemical, bacteriological, heavy metals, pesticides, etc.

Steps taken by the Government

To check the pollution of water bodies, steps taken by the government include:

  • formulation and notification of standards for effluents from industries, operations or processes;
  • enforcing of these standards by State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs)/Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) through consent mechanism and regular monitoring; setting up of the monitoring network for assessment of water quality;
  • Installation of Online Continuous Effluent Monitoring systems (OCEMS) to check the discharge of effluent directly into water bodies;
  • promotion of cleaner production processes; installation of Common Effluent Treatment Plants for the cluster of Small Scale Industrial units;
  • issuance of directions for implementation of Zero Liquid Discharge in certain categories of highly polluting industries;
  • issuance of directions under Section 5 of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and under Section 18(1)(b) of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, etc”.
Aug, 02, 2018

[op-ed snap] Scaled-up solutions for a future of water scarcity


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: water crisis in India and steps that can be taken to reduce expolitation of natural resources


India’s water problems increasing

  1. Precious evolutionary living resources, natural infrastructure, are going extinct
  2. While we thoughtlessly build artificial infrastructure, we forget that this kills natural infrastructure which took evolution aeons to create and cannot be engineered
  3. Forests, rivers, mountains, aquifers and soil are being lost at an alarming rate
  4. Today, India is in the midst of a suicidal water crisis as urban and rural landscapes go thirsty

Root of the problem

  • First, cities today are vast agglomerations that continue to spread, with bursting populations of tens of millions
  1. They are huge parasites on water, food, energy and all other resources
  2. High densities of our cities do not allow for water harvesting to fill the gap
  3. Invasive schemes like dams to service these large cities and the huge needs of agriculture have caused extreme ecological devastation
  • Second, in our global market economies, the products and services that are derived from natural infrastructure have often led to the terminal loss of the source itself
  1. The global free market, and with it the scale of human intervention, now exceeds the scale of the planet
  2. These resources (forests, mountains, floodplains and rivers) are often lost to the greed of governments, institutions, corporations and individuals
  3. This is a long-term loss for short-term gain

Using non-invasive schemes

  1. They can provide a perennial supply of water to large populations in cities and towns
  2. Engage the natural landscape
  3. Sustain ecological balance and
  4. Have major economic and health benefits

Some examples of non-invasive schemes

  • Floodplains of rivers are exceptional aquifers where any withdrawal is compensated by gravity flow from a large surrounding area and can be used as a source of providing water to cities
  1. Some floodplains, such as those of Himalayan rivers, contain up to 20 times more water than the virgin flow in rivers in a year
  2. Since recharge is by rainfall and during late floods, the water quality is good
  3. If we conserve and use the floodplain, it can be a self-sustaining aquifer wherein every year, the river and floodplain are preserved in the same healthy condition as the year before
  4. Land on the floodplains can be leased from farmers in return for a fixed income from the water sold to cities
  5. The farmers can be encouraged to grow orchards/food forests to secure and restore the ecological balance of the river ecosystem
  • Forested hills are a result of evolution over millions of years. They are not polluted and sit on a treasure of underground aquifers that contain natural mineral water comparable to that found in a mountain spring
  1. This is because the rain falls on the forest and seeps through the various layers of humus and cracked rock pathways, picking up nutrients and minerals and flows into underground mineral water aquifers
  2. If a scheme of ‘conserve and use’ is applied correctly, it would allow a forest (like Asola Bhatti in Delhi) to be sustained as a mineral water sanctuary
  3. About 30 sq.km of the forest could then provide enough natural mineral water to 5 million people in the city
  4. This water can substantially improve the health of citizens and preserve forests at the same time

Way Forward

  1. Such non-invasive, local, large-scale ‘conserve and use’ projects till now have not been part of our living scheme
  2. The evolutionary resources once lost, will be lost forever
  3. It is time we understood this is natural infrastructure bequeathed to us by nature and start preserving it
Jun, 27, 2018

How Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bengaluru, Chennai are tackling water crisis


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Composite Water Management Index

Mains level: The newscard talks about innovative solutions to tackle acute water shortages through community involvement. Best examples discussed below can be surely replicated to other parts of the country.


Community measures for water conservation

  1. NITI Aayog has come up with the Composite Water Management Index as a useful tool to assess and improve the performance in efficient management of water resources.
  2. It has come up with a reality that an estimated 600 million people in the country live in extreme water stress.
  3. While there are, of course, fights that break out along the endless lines that await water tankers, many living through the crisis also mobilize, petition and propose solutions.

How Maharashtra gamed water conservation

  1. A train commissioned by the railways had to be arranged to supply water to Latur city in Marathwada in 2016. This shook the nation.
  2. In the same year, there was a citizens’ response to drought when the Paani Foundation was formed with a mission to make Maharashtra ‘drought-free’.
  3. The foundation selects drought-hit tehsils, trains a group of residents in watershed development and organizes a 45-day ‘water cup’ contest among villages to see who creates the maximum possible rainwater storage capacity, thereby gaming water conservation.
  4. In 2016, the foundation began modestly by selecting only 3 tehsils for the mission but has scaled up this year to as many as 4,032 villages spread over 75 drought-hit tehsils in all regions of Mh.
  5. In 2016 and 2017, the participating villages created an aggregate storage capacity of 10,000 crore liters of water.

Gujarat’s attempt to revive water user collectives

  1. When Verghese Kurien was offered to replicate the model to create a network of farmer collectives for the sharing of water flowing through Gujarat’s irrigation canals, he refused due to the “challenge of defaulters”.
  2. The thinking was that water supply could not be cut off for the entire channel just because of one default farmer.
  3. However, staring at a severe water deficit this year due to reduced flow of Narmada water, the state has come full circle on the idea of giving farmers power to manage their own water and is planning to revive water user associations.
  4. The experience from other states, particularly Andhra Pradesh, has shown that granting power to local cooperatives work far better than government mandates.
  5. The state now has ambitious plans to get over 4,400 ‘irrigation cooperatives’ up and running by 2020.

Citizens come together to protect lakes in Bengaluru

  1. In May 2018, a slew of lake preservation groups in Bengaluru came together to create a joint federation, which is perhaps the largest gathering of urban residents anywhere in the country to tackle a water-related concern.
  2. Amidst the recurring water shortages and conflicts over Cauvery, the lakes have emerged as a symbol of one possible way forward.
  3. Friends of Lakes, for example, has grown from trying to conserve one lake in Bengaluru to now offering conservation services for around 22 water bodies in the city.
  4. Whitefield Rising, another citizen’s initiative in the residential hub of IT professionals is trying out a new strategy by getting the local elected legislator to appoint officials who can bring marked improvements.

Chennai’s groundwater turnaround

  1. Chennai is one of the few urbanized zones in the country where the groundwater table has consistently gone up on a number of occasions over the past decade, including last year.
  2. The reason: the city managed to implement the simplest possible solution of installing rainwater harvesting structures in a large proportion of homes and buildings.
  3. Now the city claims the distinction of hosting an estimated half a million buildings with rain-catching devices.

Way Forward

  1. Rain is the predominant source of freshwater on earth.
  2. While some form of natural recharge was hardly possible in cities earlier, artificial recharge is the only way forward.
  3. There should be recharge plans at both the micro level in houses and the macro level led by the government in parks, roads and public buildings.
Jun, 27, 2018

[pib] Outcomes of 13th Executive Committee meeting of National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Clean Ganga Mission, Ganga Mitra

Mains level: Enhancing Clean Ganga Mission


2019 Kumbh Mela, Allahabad

  1. In the run-up to the upcoming Kumbh Mela 2019 in Allahabad, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) in its 13th Executive Committee meeting approved two projects for community toilets and procurement of dustbins.
  2. More than 12 crore people are expected to attend the Mela and NMCG is committed to ensuring that pollutants are not dumped into river Ganga.

Cultivation of Medicinal Plants

  1. A project for the promotion of cultivation of medicinal plants indigenous to the Ganga Basin, along the River Ganga in Uttar Pradesh has been approved.
  2. So far, 8 species of medicinal plants have been identified which will be planted during the project. These are Vach, Kalmegh, Shatavari, Tulsi, Arjuna, Khas-Khas grass, Bel and Sarpgandha.
  3. The expected outcomes of the project are improved soil health, reduction in water pollution, livelihood and increase in farmers income through diversification for high-value medicinal plants.

Training of the Ganga Mitras

  1. In an attempt to develop a self-sufficient cadre for the Clean Ganga Mission at the grassroots level, one pilot project for training of the Ganga Mitras has been approved.
  2. Once trained, the main task of Ganga Mitras will be to promote eco-tourism, spread public awareness among school children in particular and local people in general, develop green belts in their localities etc.
  3. The Ganga Mitras will be trained in specialized water testing, sources of pollution and the adverse impact of pollution on health etc.
  4. The nomenclature of the Ganga Mitras is also used by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) who has trained some local people. The development of Ganga Mitras by NMCG will be an addition to the WWF efforts.
Jun, 18, 2018

[op-ed snap] Parched or polluted: on India's water crisis


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Composite Water Management Index, NITI Aayog

Mains level: Water crisis faced by India and how it can be toned down


India’s impending water crisis

  1. According to the Composite Water Management Index developed by Niti Aayog, 70% of the water resources are identified as polluted
  2. If the water accessible to millions is contaminated, the problem is infinitely worse than that of availability
  3. The trends that the data reflect of high to extreme stress faced by 600 million people call for speedy reforms

Focus Areas

Two areas that need urgent measures are

  1. Augmentation of watersheds that can store more good water, for use in agriculture
  2. Strict pollution control enforcement

Mihir Shah Committee recommendations

  1. The Committee on Restructuring the Central Water Commission and the Central Ground Water Board, chaired by Mihir Shah, has called for a user-centric approach to water management, especially in agriculture
  2. It advocates decentralisation of irrigation commands, offering higher financial flows to well-performing States through a National Irrigation Management Fund

Way forward

  1. Groundwater extraction patterns need to be better understood through robust data collection
  2. Steady urbanization calls for a new management paradigm, augmenting sources of clean drinking water supply and treatment technologies that will encourage reuse
  3. Pollution can be curbed by levying suitable costs
  4. A legal mandate will work better than just competition and cooperation as it would make governments accountable
Jun, 18, 2018

Time to shift focus from land to water productivity in farming, says NABARD


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country

From UPSC perspectives, following things are important:

Prelims level: NABARD, Particulars of the report

Mains level: The newscard highlights need for effective management of water for irrigation purpose based on stats from study.


The report calls for a shift in policy focus from land productivity to an efficiency of water use

  1. Indian agriculture needs to stop being “obsessed” with the land productivity and instead start worrying about water productivity, says a report released by the NABARD this week based on study of 10 states.
  2. Titled Water Productivity Mapping of Major Indian Crops, the report is part of a research project with ICRIER, mapping a water atlas for ten major crops — rice, wheat, maize, red gram or tur, chickpea or chana, sugarcane, cotton, groundnut, rapeseed-mustard and potato.
  3. Given that Indian agriculture uses almost 80% of all the country’s water resources, which are increasingly under stress, changing the objective of agriculture development to increasing productivity per unit of water, especially irrigation water, is crucial, says the report.


  1. Most differences between land and water productivity are seen in rice and sugarcane cultivation, the report says.
  2. Punjab reports the highest land productivity for rice, producing four tonnes per hectare. However, it only produces 0.22 kg of rice for every meter cube of irrigation water.
  3. Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, on the other hand, produce 0.75 and 0.68 kg for the same amount of water.
  4. However, low irrigation coverage results in low land productivity in these States. Jharkhand has only 3% of its land under irrigation.
  5. For sugarcane, another water-guzzling crop, Tamil Nadu reports the highest land productivity, producing 105 tonnes per hectare. Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh also have high rates of land productivity.
  6. In fact, an average of 40 rounds of irrigation are needed in Tamil Nadu. In the Gangetic Plain States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, on the other hand, need five and eight rounds of irrigation respectively.

Key Recommendations

  1. The report recommends that cropping patterns be re-aligned to water availability, using both demand and supply-side interventions.
  2. With water and power subsidies skewing cropping patterns, it also recommends reform in these areas, with a shift from the price policy approach of heavily subsidizing inputs to an income policy approach of directly giving money farmers on per hectare basis.
  3. Prices will then be determined by market forces.
Jun, 15, 2018

India faces worst water crisis: NITI Aayog


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims Level: Particulars of the report

Mains Level: The newscard emphasizes need to prioritize water conservation amidst other environmental crises.


Demand for potable water will outstrip supply by 2030, says NITI  

  1. The NITI Aayog released the results of a study warning that India is facing its ‘worst’ water crisis in history and that demand for potable water will outstrip supply by 2030 if steps are not taken.
  2. Nearly 600 million Indians faced high to extreme water stress and about 2,00,000 people died every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
  3. Twenty-one cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people, the study noted.
  4. If matters are to continue, there will be a 6% loss in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2050, the report says.

Ranking the States

  1. The NITI Aayog’s observations are part of a study that ranked 24 States on how well they managed their water.
  2. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh took the top three spots, in that order, and Jharkhand, Bihar and Haryana came in last in the ‘Non-Himalayan States’ category.
  3. Himachal Pradesh — which is facing one of its worst water crises this year — led a separate 8-member list of States clubbed together as ‘North-Eastern and Himalayan.
  4. These two categories were made to account for different hydrological conditions across the two groups.

Low performers

  1. About 60% of the States were marked as “low performers” and this was cause for “alarm,” according to the report.
  2. Many of the States that performed badly on the index — Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh — which accounted for 20-30% of India’s agricultural output.

Conservation counts, not Scarcity

  1. The index noted, several of the high and medium performers — Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana — irrespective of droughts in recent years.
  2. Therefore, a lack of water was not necessary grounds for States not initiating action on conservation.
  3. Most of the gains registered by the States were due to their restoration of surface water bodies, watershed development activities and rural water supply provision.

The Way Forward

  1. Given the combination of rapidly declining groundwater levels and limited policy action this is likely to be a significant food security risk for the country.
  2. Envisioned as an annual exercise, the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI), to evaluate States, has been developed by the NITI Aayog to raise awareness for the concern.
  3. Experts however say unless India woke up to its water crisis, disaster loomed.
  4. There is great awareness now about air pollution however; India’s water crisis does not get that kind of attention.
Jun, 14, 2018

[pib] NITI Aayog to launch Composite Water Management Index


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Components of Composite Water Management Index

Mains level: Need for sustainable use of water

Composite Water Management Index

  1. NITI Aayog has come up with the Composite Water Management Index as a useful tool to assess and improve the performance in efficient management of water resources.
  2. This index is an attempt to inspire States and UTs towards efficient and optimal utilization of water, and recycling thereof with a sense of urgency.
  3. The index would provide useful information for the States and also for the concerned Central Ministries/Departments enabling them to formulate and implement suitable strategies for better management of water resources.

Sectors Prioritized for Water Management Index

  • Restoration of Water Bodies– Source Augmentation
  • Groundwater– Source Augmentation
  • Major and Medium Irrigation – Supply Side Management
  • Watershed Development – Supply Side Management
  • Participatory Irrigation Practices – Demand Side Management
  • Sustainable on-farm Water Use Practices – Demand Side Management
  • Rural Drinking Water
  • Urban Water Supply and Sanitation
  • Policy and Governance

Managing Water Resources

  1. In view of limitations on availability of water resources and rising demand for water, sustainable management of water resources has acquired critical importance.
  2. The index can be utilized to formulate and implement suitable strategies for better management of water resources
Jun, 06, 2018

[pib] World Bank approves Rs. 6,000 crore Atal Bhujal Yojana


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Atal Bhujal Yojana

Mains level:  Schemes for water resources management


The World Bank has approved Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY), a Rs.6000 crore Fund.

Type: Central Sector Scheme

Related Ministry/Department: Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation

Period: The scheme is to be implemented over a period of 5 years from 2018-19 to 2022-23, with World Bank assistance.

Aim of the Scheme

  1. The scheme aims to improve groundwater management in priority areas in the country through community participation.
  2. The priority areas identified under the scheme fall in the states of  Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
  3. These States represent about 25% of the total number of over-exploited, critical and semi-critical blocks in terms of groundwater in India.  
  4. They also cover two major types of groundwater systems found in India – alluvial and hard rock aquifers- and have varying degrees of institutional readiness and experience in groundwater management.


  1. Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) is regulating groundwater development in 23 States/UTs.
  2. For enforcement of the regulatory measures in these areas, concerned Deputy Commissioners/ District Magistrates have been directed under Section 5 of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to take necessary action in case of violations of directives of CGWA.

Funds Mobilization

  1. Funds under the scheme will be provided to the states for strengthening the institutions responsible for ground water governance, as well as for encouraging community involvement for improving ground water management to foster behavioural changes that promote conservation and efficient use of water.
  2. The scheme will also facilitate convergence of ongoing Government schemes in the states by incentivizing their focussed implementation in identified priority areas.
  3. Implementation of the scheme is expected to benefit nearly 8350 Gram Panchayats in 78 districts in these states. Funds under the scheme will be made available to the participating states as Grants.

Community Participation

  1. The scheme envisages active participation of the communities in various activities such as formation of Water User Associations, monitoring and disseminating ground water data, water budgeting etc.
  2. Preparation and implementation of Gram-Panchayat wise water security plans and IEC activities related to sustainable ground water management is also to be carried out.
  3. Community participation is also expected to facilitate bottom-up groundwater planning process to improve the effectiveness of public financing and align implementation of various government programs on groundwater in the participating states
Mar, 31, 2018

[op-ed snap] Rivers, floodplains, cities and farmers


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Prelims Level: What are floodplains?

Mains Level: In the article, the writer is suggesting a ‘conserve and use scheme’ for using(primarily for urban use) water from floodplains in a sustainable manner.


Importance of the floodplains

  1. Floodplains of rivers can provide a new source of water
  2. They are a local, non-polluting, perennial and non-invasive source of water for urban centresFloodplains of rivers can provide a new source of water
  3. They are a local, non-polluting, perennial and non-invasive source of water for urban centres
  4. If we conserve and use the floodplain, it can be a self-sustaining aquifer wherein every year
  5. Palla floodplain scheme: Work and research on the Palla floodplain scheme which was launched by the Delhi Jal Board in 2016 is a tangible realisation of this idea

Caution: ‘conserve and use’ principle

  1. The ‘conserve and use’ principle demands that no more than is recharged by rain and floods each year can be withdrawn from this aquifer
  2. This ensures that the groundwater level in the floodplains remains steadily above that in the river in the lean non-monsoon months when the river is often polluted
  3. Drawing out any more water than is recharged can contaminate and eventually finish off this precious resource
  4. A floodplains ‘conserve and use’ scheme, which is a socio-economic-environmental scheme, can provide water to urban centres along rivers;
  5. it can also engage farmers by providing them an assured income and restore rivers to a healthy condition

Floodplains can satisfy the need of water in urban areas

  1. Floodplains have more water than the needs of cities
  2. Half the water can be drawn and provided to meet the needs of cities by developing a grid of about 120 wells, each of which operate at 0.3 million gallons a day
  3. If priced at the domestic Delhi Jal Board tariff of Rs. 30 per kilo litre, we can sell the water for Rs. 162 crore a year

How can the Engaging farmers help?

  1. Preserving the floodplain in its entirety is critical for this scheme to work
  2. This can be done by engaging farmers whose land will have to be leased for such an effort
  3. Farmers today have an erratic income and this scheme can be realised through a public-private partnership,
  4. where farmers on this land tract of 1 km on either side of the river can be provided an assured and steady income
  5. In addition, farmers can grow a food forest, fruit orchards or nut trees but not water-intensive crops on this land
  6. It would guarantee not only a good farming income but also great earnings from the water for the farmers without taking the ownership of the land away from them

Other possible benefits of the suggested(by the writer) scheme: ‘conserve and use’ scheme

  1. The capital cost for building such a scheme would be minimal (a few hundred crores) and the revenue generated would be able to pay for the costs and for farmers’ income without any subsidy
  2. It would also generate substantial revenue for the cities
Mar, 21, 2018

[op-ed snap] Awash in water crises


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Water Development Report, 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UN Environment Programme, Central Pollution Control Board

Mains level: Challenges related to water availablity


Approaches to water security

  1. This year’s World Water Development Report makes it clear that nature-based solutions can offer answers to our most pressing water-related challenges
  2. These are also aligned with the principles and aims of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The scope of nature-based solutions

  1. Sustainable food production
  2. Improved human settlements
  3. Access to drinking water supplies and sanitation
  4. Water-related disaster risk reduction
  5. Helping to respond to the impact of climate change on water resources

Water-related challenges

  1. The world’s population is expected to increase from 7.6 billion (2017) to between 9.4 and 10.2 billion people (2050)
  2. Two-thirds of these will be living in cities
  3. Those most in need of water will be in developing or emerging economies
  4. Climate change is also impacting the global water cycle with wetter regions generally becoming wetter and drier regions drier
  5. An estimated 3.6 billion people now live in areas that could face water scarcity for at least a month in a year, with that number increasing to 4.8 and 5.7 billion by 2050
  6. By 2050, countries already facing water scarcity challenges may also be forced to cope with the decreased availability of surface water resources

Threats to India

  1. Most water bodies near urban centers are heavily polluted
  2. Inter-State disputes over river resources are also becoming more intense and widespread

The issue of water quality

  1. Since the 1990s, water pollution has worsened in most rivers in Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
  2. An estimated 80% of industrial and municipal wastewater is released without any prior treatment, with detrimental impacts on human health and ecosystems
  3. A Central Pollution Control Board report indicates that almost half of India’s inter-State rivers are polluted
  4. It found that the untreated sewage and industrial waste was a major cause of pollution in 16 of 40 inter-State rivers in the country

Solutions to this problem

  1. Environmentally-friendly agricultural systems like those which use practices such as conservation tillage, crop diversification, legume intensification and biological pest control work as well as intensive, high-input systems
  2. Constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment that provides effluent of adequate quality for several non-potable uses (irrigation) and additional benefits that include energy production
  3. Watershed management is another nature-based solution

Advantages of nature-based solutions

  1. Nature-based solutions are closely aligned with traditional and local knowledge including those held by indigenous and tribal peoples in the context of water variability and change
  2. They could also spur local economic development, job creation, biodiversity protection and climate resilience
  3. Natural and constructed wetlands also biodegrade or immobilize a range of emerging pollutants
  4. Nature-based solutions to increase sustainable agricultural production would result in decreased pressures on land conversion and reduced pollution, erosion, and water requirements

Way forward

  1. Nature-based solutions are crucial to achieving our Sustainable Development Goals
  2. Adopting them will not only improve water management but also achieve water security
Jan, 24, 2018

Constitute Mahanadi tribunal: Supreme Court


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory & various quasi-judicial bodies.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: River tribunals, Mahanadi river (origin, tributaries), Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2017

Mains level: River water disputes in India and mechanisms for their resolution


SC orders constitution of river tribunal

  1. The Supreme Court directed the Centre to set up a tribunal within a month
  2. The tribunal will be constituted to resolve the long-standing dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh over the sharing of Mahanadi water

Why the dispute?

  1. Odisha has been opposing Chhattisgarh’s plans to build 13 barrages and seven pick up weirs (small dams) across Mahanadi river
  2. Chattisgarh plans to extract more water
  3. Odisha has said this would adversely affect the interests of its farmers

Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2017

  1. Centre is in the process of finalizing a bill to constitute a composite tribunal which would deal with all the inter-state river water disputes in the country
  2. The Bill proposes to set up an Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal, for adjudication of water disputes, if a dispute is not resolved through the Disputes Resolution Committee


Interstate River Water Disputes Act

  1. The Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 (IRWD Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted under Article 262 of Constitution of India
  2. It was enacted to resolve the water disputes that would arise in the use, control, and distribution of an interstate river or river valley
  3. Article 262 of the Indian Constitution provides a role for the Central government in adjudicating conflicts surrounding inter-state rivers that arise among the state/regional governments
  4. River waters use/harnessing is included in states jurisdiction (entry 17 of state list, Schedule 7 of Indian Constitution)
  5. However, union government can make laws on regulation and development of inter-State rivers and river valleys when expedient in the public interest (entry 56 of union list, Schedule 7 of Indian Constitution)
  6. When public interest is served, President may also establish an interstate council as per Article 263 to inquire and recommend on the dispute that has arisen between the states of India
  7. IRWD Act is applicable only to interstate rivers/river valleys
Jan, 22, 2018

India’s automated ocean pollution system to begin this year


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Automated moorings, INCOIS, Anoxic water

Mains level: Rising levels of sea pollution and measures being udertaken to address it


Indigenous ocean pollution observation system

  1. India is all set to have its own automated ocean pollution observation system this year
  2. It will help keep a tab on ocean pollution levels apart from offering insights on how the marine system is changing
  3. The system is being developed by Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) will become functional by April this year

Automated moorings

  1. The new ocean data acquisition system, called automated moorings, will do away with the present practice of collecting water samples from sea and studying their pollution levels thereafter
  2. This is a very effective system for getting the data about the ocean pollution
  3. It will help in monitoring the pollution level of the ocean water and the impact of climate change

Water becoming anoxic

  1. It is estimated that more than 80 per cent of the pollution in the ocean is from lands with marine debris, especially plastics, killing thousands of seabirds, mammals and sea turtles every year
  2. There are reports that the water is becoming anoxic and it could change the marine sytem
  3. Anoxic waters are areas of sea water that are depleted of dissolved oxygen


Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS)

  1. INCOIS was established as an autonomous body in 1999 under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES)
  2. It is a unit of the Earth System Science Organization (ESSO)
  3. ESSO- INCOIS is mandated to provide the best possible ocean information and advisory services to society, industry, government agencies and the scientific community through sustained ocean observations and constant improvements through systematic and focused research
  4. It provides round-the-clock monitoring and warning services for the coastal population on tsunamis, storm surges, high waves, etc. through the in-house Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre (ITWEC)
  5. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO designated ITWEC as a Regional Tsunami Service Provider (RTSP) to provide tsunami warnings to countries on the Indian Ocean Rim
  6. It also generates Global Ocean Analysis data using mathematical models and observations on a daily basis to provide the initial conditions to ocean-atmosphere coupled models used for the prediction of the monsoon and to understand oceanic processes
  7. It is a founding member of the Indian Ocean Global Ocean Observing System (IOGOOS) and the Partnership for Observing the Oceans (POGO) which is actively engaged in capacity building and international exchange of students and researchers
Nov, 11, 2017

[op-ed snap] Water Commission’s case for water rates

Image source


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Different types of irrigation & irrigation systems storage

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Central Water Commission, Union, state and concurrent lists of constitution, 14th Finance Commission,

Mains level: Need to rationalize water usage in India


CWC paper on pricing water

  1. India has 17% of the world’s population but only 4% of its freshwater resources
  2. India needs to rationalize water usage both in agriculture and industry, with transparent governance and attendant institutional mechanism
  3. Central Water Commission (CWC) has put out a paper on pricing of water for agriculture, proposing methodology and principles

Constitutional provisions related to water

  1. As per the Constitution, water is a state subject
  2. State governments tend to levy water charges on a crop-area basis
  3. These rates are unrevised for years, often decades, contributing to water wastage, and thwarting of much-needed resources for maintenance of irrigation infrastructure
  4. Water usage for our major crops is about 2-4 times that in other major farming nations

Points highlighted in CWC paper

  1. The CWC paper notes that the 14th Finance Commission has recommended full volumetric measurement of irrigation water supply nationally
  2. Water charges need to be proportionately higher for water-intensive crops, vary by season, duly take into account reliability of supply and factor in equity considerations such as farm size
  3. This surcharge would not yield significant amounts but we need to disincentivize water usage, by researching better seed varieties

Underutilisation of resources

  1. India’s ultimate irrigation potential is estimated at 140 million hectares
  2. Today our infrastructure from myriad major, medium and minor irrigation projects including groundwater schemes covers well over 81% of that target
  3. Unrealistic water rates prevent proper utilization or preservation of the assets that have been created
Aug, 02, 2017

Water conservation scheme a big success


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims Level: Particulars of the JSA

Mains Level: A good and effective solution to water problem. The solution can be used all over India for solving water problems and to counter effects of climate change on water bodies.


Jal Swavalamban Abhiyan (JSA) 

  1. It is a programme of Rajasthan Government
  2. It has turned out to be a success in Pratapgarh district
  3. In the district
    (1) the groundwater table has increased
    (2) green agricultural fields have expanded and
    (3) no tankers with drinking water had to be sent to as many as 94 villages this year

NGT hails efforts

  1. The National Green Tribunal lauded the efforts made under the programme
  2. The NGT’s Bhopal declaration has described the JSA as a massive climate change adaptation programme
  3. The JSA is praised as an initiative which would make every village of the State self-reliant in water by using scientific tools for rejuvenating traditional water bodies


Oct, 06, 2016

Don’t dig well when house is on fire, SC tells Centre

  1. SC warned the Centre of not repeating last year’s mistakes in tackling the drought situation in various parts of the country this time
  2. Asked the Govt to be ready with relief measures for drought in certain parts of country this year
  3. Context: The observation came when it was pointed out that several districts have had deficient rainfall and a situation like last year may emerge again which may catch the government napping

Discuss: In general, successive governments in India have failed to manage droughts effectively. What are the factors that have hindered effective management of droughts?

Sep, 16, 2016

Free power for farmers is fuelling water crisis: Environment Minister- III

  1. Water intensive crops: India has 17% of the world’s population but only 4% of the fresh water reserves
  2. Despite this, we are consuming three times more water for agriculture than USA, Brazil or China
  3. Need: Moving towards less water-intensive crops
  4. Soil degradation: Has resulted from excessive use of inorganic fertilisers like urea & India must pursue policies based on its own realities.
  5. India’s decolonisation is still pending: The British had drafted the Indian Penal Code and the Forest Act
  6. Shouldn’t independent India now have its own forest law, where the forests, its dwellers, scheduled tribes and wildlife can live in an integrated manner?

Discuss: Researches have shown that there is excess groundwater exploitation in India. What are the reasons for continuing groundwater exploitation? What measures need to be taken for its judicious use?

Sep, 16, 2016

Free power for farmers is fuelling water crisis: Environment Minister- II

  1. We think about consumption but we don’t talk about utility & disciplined consumption
  2. If the country’s future water problem has to be tackled, then it needs the Gandhian philosophy that others also have a right on water bodies and one must take only as much as you need
  3. Not only do we have to enhance and improve water consumption for irrigation, we need very strong regulations for ground water management
  4. Too much of water is being consumed because we are not charging people for electricity
  5. Groundwater consumption for irrigation: It has gone up from 20% in the 1950s to over 64% now
Sep, 16, 2016

Free power for farmers is fuelling water crisis: Environment Minister- I

  1. Issue: Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change linked the rampant extraction of groundwater to the free electricity supplied to farmers
  2. Solution: A fresh approach towards rivers and water bodies to impose discipline on water consumption
  3. He stressed that India’s environmental challenges — be it about water or degrading soil quality — are rooted in policy decisions taken without factoring in India’s needs
  4. Regulations: Backed a call for stronger ground water management regulations made by NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant
  5. NITI CEO: Free electricity has made people drill deeper to get water for irrigation and is turning large parts of States such as Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana barren
Aug, 24, 2016

PMO open to single water panel

  1. News: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is receptive to the idea of forming the proposed National Water Commission (NWC) by merging the Central Water Commission (CWC) and the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB)
  2. Context: The NWC was the key recommendation of a report submitted by Mihir Shah committee that was tasked with reorganising river water management in the country
  3. Power with states: As of today, States must get a technical clearance from the CWC before they can go ahead with constructing dams and other reservoirs
  4. With NWC into existence, this power would devolve to the States and other research institutions
  5. NWC would be a research organisation and a repository of data on India’s river basins
Aug, 15, 2016

Central Water Commission facing an identity crisis

  1. News: The Central Water Commission will formally protest against a proposal to subsume it into a new organisation
  2. Context: The proposal resulted from the report of a high-powered committee led by Mihir Shah that was submitted to the Water Resources Ministry in July
  3. Background: This is the third time since 2000 that reports have been placed for restructuring the CWC and it is still unclear how seriously the Govt is likely to go ahead with restructuring
  4. However the recent water crises in the face of droughts in 2014 and 2015 and growing concerns with groundwater contamination have provided a fresh trigger
Aug, 10, 2016

Govt panel moots National Water Commission- II

  1. River interlinking: Panel has warned against its perils and of dependence on large dam projects
  2. Last-mile irrigation: Dismal spread of irrigation facilities over decades
  3. Rec: The Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh model of participatory last-mile connectivity be deployed across the country
  4. States should only concentrate on technically and financially complex structures, such as main systems up to secondary canals and structures at that level
  5. Tertiary level canals and below, minor structures and field channels should be handed over to Water Users Associations of farmers
  6. Command area development: (Setting up last-mile irrigation channels down to the farms) Be integrated into the planning and cost developing process for all irrigation projects
  7. Water-use efficiency: CWC study on 30 completed major and medium irrigation projects- 9 projects have efficiency less than 30% & the average across 30 projects is 38%
Aug, 10, 2016

Govt panel moots National Water Commission- I

  1. News: Mihir Shah committee set up by the Ministry of Water Resources has recommended that a National Water Commission be set up
  2. NWC: Will be an autonomous body & will to have a countrywide base and mandate, and greater human-power
  3. Dual structure: The Central Water Commission & the Central Ground Water Board have continued to function un-reformed since their formation over several decades
  4. NWC will subsume these 2 organisations
  5. HR: Bring more human resources as well as different kind of expertise into the new commission, including ecologists and social scientists to do away with the existing biases of the two apex organisations
  6. Integrated management: With presence across all river basins, NWC should look at both surface and groundwater management in an integrated fashion
  7. Industrial water use: Should be brought under its ambit, which is rapidly increasing
Jun, 14, 2016

Water resources ministry becomes nodal agency to implement PMKSY

  1. The Union water resources ministry will once again become the nodal ministry for implementing the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY)
  2. It was initially the nodal department for implementing the programme, but the responsibility was later shifted to agriculture department
  3. However, as most big projects and dams are executed under the ministry of water resources, PMKSY has once again gone back to the ministry
Apr, 15, 2016

Water levels in 91 major reservoirs alarmingly low

  1. Context: Weekly data released by Central Water Commission (CWC)
  2. Live storage: It is 35.839 BCM (Billion Cubic Meters), which is 23% of the total live storage capacity of these reservoirs
  3. Also, overall, 74 of the total 91 reservoirs have storage levels lower than the average of last ten years
  4. Current storage: It is 67% of the storage of corresponding period of last year and 77% of storage of average of last ten years
  5. Reason: The depleting water levels are due to two years of poor rainfall in the country
  6. Regions: The central and eastern regions have storage levels better than the national average whereas the western and southern regions are the most affected
Apr, 09, 2016

Govt. organizes India Water Week - 2016

  1. Basics: India Water Week is a key initiative for sharing best practices and exchanging ideas to identify timely solutions to critical water issues confronting our world today
  2. Purpose: To showcase technologies and solutions for improving efficiencies in water use
  3. Focus: On the multi-disciplinary approach to water
  4. Future: To prioritize resilient eco-systems, modern data management systems and innovations in technology
Apr, 08, 2016

No stay on IPL inaugural match: Bombay HC

  1. Context: The Bombay High Court refused to stay the first match of IPL
  2. Background: It was hearing a PIL petition by Loksatta Movement
  3. What? 60 lakh litres of water is being wasted for maintaining pitches for the IPL when the State is reeling under its worst drought
  4. Source: Court has asked the Maharashtra government to hold an inquiry to know the source of water provided to cricket stadiums
Apr, 07, 2016

Union Cabinet clears National Hydrology Project

  1. News: Union cabinet has given its approval for Implementation of the National Hydrology Project
  2. Purpose: It is intended for setting up of a system for timely and reliable water resources data acquisition, storage, collation and management
  3. It will help in gathering Hydro-meteorological data which will be stored and analysed on a real time basis
  4. The data can be seamlessly accessed by any user at the State/District/village level
  5. Coverage: The project envisages to cover the entire country as the earlier hydrology projects covered only 13 States
Mar, 29, 2016

Noyyal restoration begins

  1. News: Launch of Noyyalai Nokki project to restore Noyyal River and its tributaries
  2. Context: Stakeholders in Coimbatore, Tirupur, and Erode and Karur Districts will jointly take efforts to restore the river
  3. Restoration project includes: Installation of decentralised sewage treatment plants, developing parks where space is available
  4. Project will be implemented on divide-distribute-develop model by forming committees for every 500 metres of river
  5. Nodal Organisation: Norfed (Noyyal River Restoration Federation)
  6. About Noyyal River: Rises from the Vellingiri hills in Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu
  7. Passes through Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode and Karur to join the Cauvery at Noyyal village (total of 160 km)
Mar, 28, 2016

Govt to build 500,000 ponds in rural areas

  1. News: The govt will build 500,000 ponds in rural areas which can be used for drinking water
  2. How? MGNREGA will be used for asset creation in rural areas, especially in the field of water conservation
  3. Digital India: The govt had come up with a Kisan Suvidha app which can be used by farmers for information about weather conditions, crops and new farming techniques
Mar, 23, 2016

World Water Day being observed on March 22

  1. Context: It is to mark the importance of water to human civilisation and nature
  2. Relevance: Part of Decade for Water (2005-2015) activity by the United Nations
  3. Theme: Better water, better jobs
  4. Aim: To highlight how water can create paid and decent work while contributing to a greener economy and sustainable development
  5. Focus: On importance of freshwater and advocates for the sustainable management of freshwater resources
  6. First proposed in: Agenda 21 of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro
Mar, 14, 2016

Water levels in reservoir at alarming levels

  1. Context: NTPC Ltd has been forced to curtail electricity production at a plant in West Bengal
  2. Why? Because of low water levels in the Farakka feeder canal
  3. Data: Weekly data by Central Water Commission shows that storage availability at 91 major reservoirs in the country is a mere 29% of their total storage capacity
  4. The same measure last year was a respectable 40%
  5. These reservoirs account for about 62% of the estimated capacity to have been created in India
Mar, 01, 2016

Budget thrust on SHGs could help drought-hit areas

  1. News: Union Budget’s thrust on promoting self-help groups (SHGs)
  2. Context: It will promote multiple sources of livelihood in drought-prone areas and throw out a large number of moneylenders, pawnbrokers and private finance corporations out of business
  3. How? Every block in distress areas would be taken up as an intensive block under the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Mission
  4. Formation of SHGs: would be expedited to promote multiple livelihoods
  5. Cluster Facilitation Teams (CFT): set up under MNREGA to ensure water conservation and natural resource management
  6. These districts would also be taken up on a priority under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana
  7. Benefit to: Karnataka, the most drought-prone State after Rajasthan
Feb, 18, 2016

80% of India’s population faces severe water scarcity: study

  1. Context: The study published in international journal Science Advances
  2. Severe water scarcity: for at least one month of the year- About 4 billion people, or 66% of the global population
    Of these, nearly a billion are in India
  3. Moderate to severe water scarcity: for at least a month of the year- 4.3 billion people, which is about 71% of the global population.
  4. Relevance: Every 2nd person in the world facing severe water scarcity for at least a month a year is from India and China
  5. Concern: 80% of India’s 1.25 billion population faces severe water scarcity for at least a month every year
Feb, 15, 2016

To sink differences, government plans National Water Commission

  1. Context: Union govt’s proposal to set up National Water Commission for allocation of water resources
  2. Aim: To reduce inter-state water disputes, bring greater efficiency, better planning and increased emphasis on conservation of water
  3. Reason: To ensure that all water resources in the country are managed in a holistic manner and not separately as surface water, ground water or river water
  4. How? – Complete restructuring of the organisations responsible for regulating the use of water resources
  5. Agency:  Currenly, the Central Water Commission oversees irrigation projects, flood management and drinking water supply
Feb, 04, 2016

Progress of Jal Kranti Abhiyan reviewed

Ministry of Water Resources proposed to extend the programme for 2 more years

  1. The Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation initiated Jal Kranti Abhiyan during 2015-16
  2. For creating awareness on aspects of water security and water conservation.
  3. The Abhiyan was inaugurated by Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation in Rajasthan in June 2015.
  4. Under Jal Kranti Abhiyan, 2 villages, preferably facing acute water scarcity are being selected as “Jal Grams”.
  5. An integrated water security plan, water conservation and allied activities are being planned by Panchayat level committee to ensure optimum and sustainable utilization of water.
  6. Totally 1348 villages have to be identified in 674 districts, out of which 1001 have been selected as Jal Grams.
Sep, 15, 2015

‘Aerobic’ rice cultivation reduces water usage

  1. Growing rice plant as irrigated crop like cultivating maize and wheat in aerobic condition, where oxygen is plenty in soil.
  2. The suitable areas includes irrigated lowlands,delta regions, irrigated system of rice cultivation and favourable upland system has access to supplementary irrigation.
  3. In aerobic rice cultivation, rice is cultivated as direct sown in non-puddle aerobic soil under supplementary irrigation and fertiliser.
  4. Mechanised way of sowing with no puddling, transplanting and not need of frequent irrigation.
  5. A new improved upland rice variety, Apo developed by International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) under aerobic rice cultivation system raised during dry season.
  6. Constrains in aerobic rice cultivation is increased weed growth, poor crop stand, crop lodging, high percentage of panicle sterility and root-knot nematode infestation.
  7. In environmental point of view, emission of methane is lower substantially in aerobic rice.
Apr, 10, 2015

Water, water everywhere & not a drop to drink

  1. Aquifers in 15% of assessment blocks are overexploited.
  2. Groundwater in many areas is also found to be contaminated by geogenic arsenic, fluoride, nitrate and iron.
  3. The National Water Policy (NWP) expresses the need to treat water resources as a national resource.
  4. Irrigation accounts for over 70% of the total water usage and hence the greatest need to adopt good practices is in this sector.
  5. Instead of flooding the field, try to adopt – drip and sprinkler systems + lining of canals and common water channels.
Mar, 27, 2015

World Water Day observed on March 22

  1. Every year World Water Day is marked on 22 March. It is observed to preserve and ration consumption of water.
  2. Proposed in Agenda 21 of United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1992).
  3. Later, the UN General Assembly accepted the recommendation of UNCED and celebrated first World Water Day on 22 March 1993.
Mar, 22, 2015

'Water Man' Rajendra Singh wins Stockholm Water Prize

  1. He was awarded this prize for his innovative water restoration efforts.
  2. Rajendra Singh worked with the NGO-Tarun Bharat Singh (TBS) & started a movement to purify traditional rainwater tanks.
  3. He helped in the rejuvenation of Arvari River & was awarded ‘International River Prize’.
  4. Was also member of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) from 2009-12.
  5. He was awarded with Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2001.

    Discuss: The Stockholm award was founded (1991) and financed by Stockholm Water Foundation. 

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