Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Radioactive Pollution in Water


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Raidioactivity

Mains level : Water Pollution

Radioactive pollution of water is newly emerging but is of grave concern for water pollution and human health.

Quick recap: Radioactivity

  • Radioactivity is the phenomenon of spontaneous emission of particles or waves from the unstable nuclei of some elements.
  • There are three types of radioactive emissions: Alpha, Beta and Gamma.
  • Alpha particles are positively charged He atoms, beta particles are negatively charged electrons and gamma rays are neutral electromagnetic radiations.
  • Radioactive elements are naturally found in the earth’s crust.

Radioactive contamination of Water

  • Natural: Percolation of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) from the soil sediments to the aquifer causes groundwater contamination.
  • Man-made: Anthropogenic sources of such pollution include- nuclear weapon investigation, nuclear calamities, nuclear powerhouses and dumping of radioactive waste.

Various contaminant elements

  • Uranium, thorium and actinium are three NORM series that contaminate water resources.
  • A number of radionuclides are found in surface and subsurface waters, among which 3H, 14C, 40K, 210Pb, 210Po, 222Rn, 226Ra, 228Ra, 232Th and 234,235,238U are common.
  • Strontium-90, Caesium-137, etc are also formed by nuclear reactors, along with numerous unnecessary radioisotopes wastes.
  • 40K and 7Be are the most commonly found radioactive elements in the sludge generated in sewage treatment plants.
  • Nuclear reactors produce radioisotopes (Cobalt-60, Iridium-192, etc) that hand out as sources of gamma radiation in radiotherapy and numerous industrial appliances.

Oceanic sources

  • Oceans and seas are the natural repositories of naturally occurring uranium. It is found in the form of uranyl carbonate ion.
  • A significant concentration of uranium is supposed to be found in the greater salinity of the marine water.
  • 40K (Radioactive Potassium) is also found in considerable concentration in the marine environment.

Measuring radioactive pollution

  • Radioactivity is measured in Becquerel (SI unit) or in Curie.
  • Energy absorbed per unit mass is measured by Gray, while the unit Sievert measures the quantity of radiation absorbed by human tissues.
  • A small amount of radiation is found in all types of water but the extended amount of radiation is harmful to human health.
  • Radioactivity in drinking water can be determined by a gross alpha test.

Hazards of such pollution

  • Radioactive elements have an effect on the environment and can cause a risk to human healthiness if inhaled, injected or exposed.
  • Human tissues absorb radiation through polluted water and foodstuff, which can cause serious health risks.
  • High doses of radiation can cause acute radiation syndrome or cutaneous radiation injury.
  • Exposure to radiation causes various disorders in human physiology, including cancer, leukaemia, genetic mutations, osteonecrosis, cataracts and chromosomal disruption.


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Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Froth formation in Yamuna


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Froth Formation

Mains level : Not Much

The visuals of devotees taking a dip in the froth-filled waters of the Yamuna River sent chills down the spine of the residents of Delhi.

What is Froth Formation?

  • This is a phenomenon that takes place on many lakes and streams.
  • Foam bubbles are produced when organic matter decomposes.
  • These foam-producing molecules have one end that repels water and another that attracts water and they work to reduce the surface tension on the surface of the water.
  • These foam bubbles are lighter than water, so they float on the surface as a thin film that gradually accumulates.

What causes the froth?

  • The presence of phosphates and surfactants in untreated sewage from Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh is a major reason behind frothing.
  • While these two components comprise of 1 per cent, the remaining 99 percent is air and water.

What are the sources of pollution that cause foam formation?

  • Untreated sewage may contain soap-detergent particles.
  • The other sources are industrial effluents, organic matter from decomposing vegetation, and the presence of filamentous bacteria.
  • The pollution from the sugar and paper industries in Uttar Pradesh also causes pollution in the Yamuna.

What are its health hazards?

  • Short-term exposure can lead to skin irritation and allergies.
  • If ingested, these chemicals may cause gastrointestinal problems and diseases like typhoid.
  • Long-term exposure to heavy metals in industrial pollutants can cause neurological issues and hormonal imbalances.


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Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

What India’s new water policy seeks to deliver


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- National Water Policy


Over a period of one year, the committee set up to draft the new National Water Policy (NWP) received 124 submissions by state and central governments, academics and practitioners. The NWP is based on the striking consensus that emerged through these wide-ranging deliberations.

Major suggestion in NWP

Demand-side: Diversification of public procurement operations

  • Irrigation consumes 80-90 per cent of India’s water, most of which is used by rice, wheat and sugarcane.
  • Thus, crop diversification is the single most important step in resolving India’s water crisis.
  • The policy suggests diversifying public procurement operations to include nutri-cereals, pulses and oilseeds.
  • This would incentivise farmers to diversify their cropping patterns, resulting in huge savings of water.

2) Reduce-Recycle-Reuse

  • Reduce-Recycle-Reuse has been proposed as the basic mantra of integrated urban water supply and wastewater management, with treatment of sewage and eco-restoration of urban river stretches, as far as possible through decentralised wastewater management.
  • All non-potable use, such as flushing, fire protection, vehicle washing must mandatorily shift to treated wastewater.

3) Supply-side measure: Using technology to utilised stored water in dams

  • Within supply-side options, the NWP points to trillions of litres stored in big dams, which are still not reaching farmers.
  • NWP suggests how the irrigated areas could be greatly expanded at very low cost by deploying pressurised closed conveyance pipelines, combined with Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and pressurised micro-irrigation.

4) Supply of water through “nature-based solutions”

  • The NWP places major emphasis on supply of water through “nature-based solutions” such as the rejuvenation of catchment areas, to be incentivised through compensation for ecosystem services.
  • Specially curated “blue-green infrastructure” such as rain gardens and bio-swales, restored rivers with wet meadows, wetlands constructed for bio-remediation, urban parks, permeable pavements, green roofs etc are proposed for urban areas.

5) Sustainable and equitable management of groundwater

  • Information on aquifer boundaries, water storage capacities and flows provided in a user-friendly manner to stakeholders, designated as custodians of their aquifers, would enable them to develop protocols for effective management of groundwater.

6) Rights of Rivers

  • The NWP accords river protection and revitalisation prior and primary importance.
  • Steps to restore river flows include: Re-vegetation of catchments, regulation of groundwater extraction, river-bed pumping and mining of sand and boulders.
  • The NWP outlines a process to draft a Rights of Rivers Act, including their right to flow, to meander and to meet the sea.

7) Emphasis on water quality

  • The new NWP considers water quality as the most serious un-addressed issue in India today.
  • It proposes that every water ministry, at the Centre and states, include a water quality department.
  • The policy advocates adoption of state-of-the-art, low-cost, low-energy, eco-sensitive technologies for sewage treatment.
  • Widespread use of reverse osmosis has led to huge water wastage and adverse impact on water quality.
  • The policy wants RO units to be discouraged if the total dissolved solids count in water is less than 500mg/L.
  • It suggests a task force on emerging water contaminants to better understand and tackle the threats they are likely to pose.

8) Reforming governance of water

  • The policy makes radical suggestions for reforming governance of water, which suffers from three kinds issues: That between irrigation and drinking water, surface and groundwater, as also water and wastewater.
  • Government departments, working in silos, have generally dealt with just one side of these binaries.
  • Dealing with drinking water and irrigation in silos has meant that aquifers providing assured sources of drinking water dry up because the same aquifers are used for irrigation, which consumes much more water.
  • And when water and wastewater are separated in planning, the result is a fall in water quality.

9) Creation of National Water Commission

  • The NWP also suggests the creation of a unified multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder National Water Commission (NWC), which would become an exemplar for states to follow.
  • Governments should build enduring partnerships with primary stakeholders of water, who must become an integral part of the NWC and its counterparts in the states.


The new National Water Policy calls for multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach to water management.

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Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Who was Hermann Bacher?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hermann Bacher

Mains level : Watershed development in India

Hermann Bacher, popularly known as the ‘father of community-led watershed development in India’, passed away at the ripe old age of 97 years in Switzerland September 14, 2021.

Hermann Bacher

  • Born in 1924, Bacher, came to India in 1948 at the young age of 24 years.
  • He was to spend the next 60 years of his life here, most of it in Maharashtra.
  • Struck by the poverty he saw in rural Maharashtra, he dedicated his life to the upliftment of the poor, the landless and rural women.
  • Bacher was given Germany’s highest civilian award, the Federal Cross of the Order of Merit in 1994, in recognition of his outstanding efforts.
  • In 2017, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertifiucation (UNCCD) awarded WOTR the prestigious ‘Land for Life Award 2017’.
  • He is widely regarded and respected as a true ‘man of God’ for whom selfless service of the poor was worship at its most sublime. He is fondly remembered as ‘Bacher Baba’.

Notable works

  • The 1972 droughts in Maharashtra led him to re-calibrate his developmental approach.
  • This meant that in rain-dependent rural Maharashtra, a shift had to be made from ‘resource exploitation’ to sustainable resource use, or ‘resource mobilisation’, as he described it.
  • He helped thousands of landless labourers’ secure title to land under the Land Reforms Act, 1957, beginning in 1965.
  • He also organised lakhs of farmers to develop their farms and increase their agricultural productivity by helping them access irrigation, improved and hybrid seeds etc.

Pioneering water harvest

  • Since rain fell in the watersheds and landscapes villagers lived in, the only way to harvest and conserve rainwater wherever it fell was to undertake watershed development measures.
  • The idea was that “running water must be made to walk; walking water made to stop and sink underground”.
  • This meant, planting trees and grasses, conserving forests, undertaking soil and water conservation works such as digging contour trenches, raising farm bunds, etc.
  • It also meant building water harvesting structures on the streams (check dams, earthen bunds, etc) in a systematic manner across the entire landscape of the village, beginning from the top.

Establishing the IGWDP

  • Through his work, was born the idea which later became the large-scale Indo-German Watershed Development Program (IGWDP) that he conceived and launched in Maharashtra in 1989.
  • This was in collaboration with and the support of the Governments of India, Maharashtra and Germany, NABARD and the non-profit sector.
  • Its unique and ground-breaking feature was that it put the villagers in the driver’s seat — the community would plan the programme, implement it and maintain the watershed assets.
  • Funds, substantial amounts, would be given directly to them and they would have to manage and account


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Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Wastewater Treatment in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Important facts mentioned

Mains level : Wastewater treatment in India

Sewage treatment plants (STPs) in India are able to treat a little more than a third of the sewage generated per day, according to the latest report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

What is Wastewater?

Wastewater is used water from any combination of domestic, industrial, commercial or agricultural activities, surface runoff/ stormwater, and any sewer inflow or sewer infiltration.

In everyday usage, wastewater is commonly a synonym for:

  • Sewage also called domestic wastewater or municipal wastewater which is wastewater that is produced by a community of people.
  • Industrial wastewater, water-borne waste generated from a variety of industrial processes, such as manufacturing operations, mineral extraction, power generation, or water and wastewater treatment.
  • Cooling water, released with potential thermal pollution after use to condense steam or reduce machinery temperatures by conduction or evaporation
  • Leachate, precipitation containing pollutants dissolved while percolating through ores, raw materials, products, or solid waste
  • Return flow, carrying suspended soil, pesticide residues, or dissolved minerals and nutrients from irrigated cropland
  • Surface runoff, the flow of water occurring on the ground surface when excess rainwater, stormwater, meltwater, or other sources, can no longer sufficiently rapidly infiltrate in the soil.
  • Urban runoff, including water used for outdoor cleaning activity and landscape irrigation in densely populated areas created by urbanization
  • Agricultural wastewater, generated from confined animal operations

Wastewater in India

  • India generated 72,368 MLD (million litres per day) whereas the installed capacity of STPs was 31,841 MLD (43.9 per cent), according to the report.

Treatment facilities available

  • Of this installed capacity, developed and operationalized capacity was 26,869 MLD (84 per cent).
  • Of the total operationalised capacity, 20,235 MLD (75 per cent) was the actual utilised capacity.
  • In other words, out of total 72,368 MLD sewage generated every day, only 20,235 MLD is treated.

Skewed distribution

  • Five states and Union Territories (UT) — Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Karnataka — account for 60 per cent of the total installed treatment capacity of the country.
  • These, along with five other states and UTs — Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan — alone constitute 86 per cent of the total installed capacity.
  • Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland have not installed sewage treatment plants.
  • There are states like Bihar which do have a small installed capacity of STPs. But on the operational front, they score a zero.
  • Chandigarh ranks first in terms of total sewage generated to what is actually treated. It generates 188 MLD of sewage and has an operational capacity to treat 271 MLD.

Major issue: Reuse of sewage

  • The reuse of treated sewage is an issue which hasn’t assumed much importance in the policy planning of many state governments.
  • Treated sewage water can be reused for horticulture, irrigation, washing activities (road, vehicles and trains), fire-fighting, industrial cooling, toilet flushing and gardening.
  • The proportion of the reuse of treated sewage is maximum in Haryana (80 per cent) followed by Puducherry (55 per cent), Delhi (50 per cent), Chandigarh (35 per cent), Tamil Nadu (25 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (20 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (5 per cent).

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Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Universal Declaration of the Rights of Rivers


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rights of River

Mains level : River conservation

Activists have highlighted the plight of rivers as well as the support building up for according rights to them under the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Rivers.

What constitutes the Rights of Rivers?

  • Flow: If we look at a river as an ecosystem instead of cubic metres of water, then the ambit of rights gets broadened.
  • Flora and fauna: It includes aquatic flora and fauna, the biodiversity in its catchment areas, forests, its tributaries, groundwater, the rocks and soil in its bed and banks.
  • Human settlements: The rights of rivers in a sense would mean the ecological causes and conditions making up the natural habitat. Human settlements dependent is the prime factor.
  • Economy: Such rights should not put an end to fishing or other localized, subsistence-based human needs related to the river, but rather push for a healthy relationship respecting the river as an ecosystem.

Universal Declaration of the Rights of Rivers

  • The declaration is a civil society initiative to define the basic rights to which all rivers are entitled, according to a note by non-profit, International Rivers.
  • This trend of granting rights to nature, taking place across the world, signals the beginnings of a radical shift from an extractive mindset to one where conservation safeguards are being extended to nature.
  • The right to recognize rivers as living entities rather than mere human property started in 2008.
  • That year, Ecuador became the first country to constitutionally recognize the Rights of Nature.

Present campaigns

  • In the one year since the declaration, rights have been recognised or declared for the Boulder Creek watershed in the US, the Magpie River in Canada, the Alpayacu river in Ecuador and the Paraná river and its wetlands in Argentina.
  • Several campaigns calling for rights to be accorded to rivers have also incorporated the declaration.
  • These include campaigns for the Lempa river in El Salvador, Tavignanu river in France, Ethiope river in Nigeria, the Indus river in Pakistan and the Frome river in the UK.
  • In 2017, a treaty agreement between the Whanganui Iwi (a Māori tribe) and the New Zealand government recognized the Whanganui River as a legal person.

Recognition of such rights in India

  • In 2017, the Uttarakhand HC ruled that the Indian rivers Ganga and Yamuna, the Gangotri and Yamunotri glaciers, as well as other related natural elements are “legal persons” with all corresponding rights, duties, and liabilities of a living person.
  • Subsequently, in 2018, the same high court ruled that the entire animal kingdom has rights equivalent to that of a living person.


  • Cultural practices: Activists and communities have been arguing for a need of cultural change that can bring about the ethic of care with regard to the rest of nature. Indigenous people have had such an ethic in their worldviews and ways of living.
  • Development paradigm: The most critical challenge is whether can rights be protected without changing the current development paradigm. Any paradigm shift also needs questioning of fundamental forms of injustices, including capitalism, statism, anthropocentrism, and patriarchy.
  • Cross-boundary issues: Rivers don’t necessarily follow human-made political boundaries. Indus, one of the longest that runs through China, Pakistan, and India, doesn’t flow as per political boundaries. Its contiguity demands a cross-boundary approach.
  • Cooperation deficit: There is still very limited understanding across the world on how a law on the rights of rivers can be implemented. What would be the best ways to ensure custodianship, restitution, compensation.

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Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Water shortage in Colorado River Basin


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Major rivers of the world

Mains level : NA

The federal government in the US has declared a water shortage for the Colorado river basin due to a historic drought.

Try this PYQ

Q. Consider the following pairs

River – Flows into

  1. Mekong — Andaman Sea
  2. Thames — Irish Sea
  3. Volga — Caspian Sea
  4. Zambezi — Indian Ocean

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?(CSP 2020)

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 3 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2 and 4 only


Post your answers here (you need to sign-in for that).
Please leave a feedback on thisx

Colorado River

  • The Colorado River flows from the Rocky Mountains into the southwestern US and into Mexico.
  • The river is fed by snowmelt from the Rocky and Wasatch mountains and flows a distance of over 2,250 km (river Ganga flows through a distance of roughly 2,500 km) across seven states and into Mexico.
  • The Colorado River Basin is divided into the Upper (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and northern Arizona) and Lower Basins (parts of Nevada, Arizona, California, southwestern Utah and western New Mexico).
  • In the Lower Basin, the Hoover Dam controls floods and regulates water delivery and storage.
  • Apart from the Hoover dam, there is the Davis Dam, Parker Dam and the Imperial Dam that regulate the release of water from the Hoover Dam.

Major lakes in its basin

  • Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the US in terms of volume and was formed in the 1930s by the Hoover Dam in Southern Nevada.
  • Its main source of water is obtained from the Rocky Mountain snowmelt and runoff.
  • The other is Lake Powell, the reservoir created by the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona.

Reasons for shortage

  • Since the year 2000, this river basin has been experiencing a prolonged drought.
  • This persistent drought has led to a lowering down of the water levels in the basin’s reservoirs to meet the demand over the years.
  • But even with great water storing capacity, over the years the demand for water from the basin has increased whereas supply is restricted.

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Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Microplastics Pollution in Ganga


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Microplastic pollution

Mains level : Water Pollution


The Ganga is heavily polluted with microplastics at Varanasi, Haridwar, and Kanpur, Delhi-based non-profit Toxics Link claimed.

What are Microplastics?

  • Microplastics are plastics that are less than 5 mm in size but are a major source of marine pollution.
  • Untreated sewage from many cities along the river’s course, industrial waste, and religious offerings wrapped in non-degradable plastics pile pollutants into the river as it flows through several densely populated cities.
  • The plastic products and waste materials released or dumped in the river break down and are eventually broken down into microparticles.
  • The rivers finally transport significantly large quantities downstream into the ocean, which is the ultimate sink of all plastics being used by humans.

Microplastics in Ganga

  • They are non-degradable plastics that often entered the Ganga through industrial waste or packaging of religious offerings, its research found.
  • The density of population in the three cities also added to the problem because a large chunk of pollutants got directly discharged into the river by people living on the banks.
  • Among the three cities, the Toxics Link’s study found that sites at Varanasi showed the maximum load of microplastics in the water of the Ganga, as compared to the other two cities.
  • This might be due to cumulative downstream pollution as well as industrial and human activities.

On a global high

  • The researchers tried to compare the microplastics concentration in Ganga water with similar studies on other rivers across the globe.
  • It included the Rhine in Europe, the Patapsco, Magothy, Rhode in North America, and the Elqui, Maipo, Biobio, and Maule in South America.
  • They found the Ganga microplastics pollution was much higher.
  • This was in spite of a higher per capita consumption of plastic in the European countries, North and South America, as compared to India.

How does it impact people?

  • The Ganga is a source of water for not just drinking and bathing purposes but also for irrigation to a large extent.
  • Microplastics in river water, if ingested in humans or other organisms, can cause toxicity through various means.
  • Not only are these microplastics toxic themselves, they also have a tendency to absorb various toxins present in water, including harmful chemicals.
  • Although some of the effects of microplastics on public health are understood, a lot still needs to be done.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q. Why is there a great concern about the ‘microbeads’ that are released into the environment? (CSP 2019)

(a) They are considered harmful to marine ecosystems.

(b) They are considered to cause skin cancer in children.

(c) They are small enough to be absorbed by crop plants in irrigated fields.

(d) They are often found to be used as food adulterants.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Rooftop rainwater harvesting for India’s water stress


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Rooftop Rain Water Harvesting

India’s rapid urban growth is expected to stress its already crumbling base of public service arrangements — especially its management of water and sanitation services, whose safe and reliable availability proved to be the first line of defence against this covid pandemic.

Q.Discuss how Rooftop rainwater harvesting can ease India’s water woes? (150W)

Rooftop Rain Water Harvesting

  • It is the technique through which rainwater is captured from the roof catchments and stored in reservoirs.
  • Harvested rainwater can be stored in sub-surface groundwater reservoirs by adopting artificial recharge techniques to meet the household needs through storage in tanks.
  • Capturing and storing rainwater for use is particularly important in dryland, hilly, urban and coastal areas.
  • It holds the potential to support the country’s preparedness against the incipient challenges of changing climate.

Water stress in India

  • An appalling confusion grips our policy makers and planners.
  • While the supply-demand gap is expected to widen by 50 per cent by 2030, many are still left without access to safe and sustainable water and sanitation services.
  • At least five Indian cities are already reported to have joined the list of world’s 20 largest water-stressed cities.

If we look at the present portfolio of water resources management for other cities, it will not be wrong to claim that many more will soon become qualified for joining this infamous list.

Exploring the complex problems

  • Water availability in India remains at the mercy of erratic patterns of precipitation.
  • Concretization of urban landscapes, symbolic of modern town planning imaginaries as to what an exercise in urban development has led to floods worsening.
  • Illegal encroachment along stormwater drains and urban rivers also aggravates the situation, not least by opening up spaces of active political contestation and negotiations.

A paradigm shift needed

  • In India, management of water was bundled as part of the prerogative claims of post-independent public institutions with public participation programs designed later on to serve only a placatory function.
  • This has led to the systematic exclusion of the public’s opinions in informing the design and implementation protocols of large public schemes.
  • It took the form of multi-purpose dams, irrigation canals, public water distribution systems, etc.
  • Despite this, India has now become a ‘water-stressed country.

A newer approach

  • Rising national empathy for river rejuvenation, watershed conservation and active public participation has, on the other hand, already started scripting a new paradigm for India’s water management.
  • It prompts decision-makers to look for solutions in the collective efforts of the citizens in managing their issues locally.

Right from the vedic times

  • Our Vedic ancestors, in their appreciation of the timeless bounty of water, always offered timely obeisance to water’s eternal gifts to mankind.
  • Their reverence to water can be found in the hymns and prayers offered to Varuna and Indra — Vedic Gods associated with water to riveting architectural gems and literary delights, each underscoring the centrality of water in our cultural revelries.
  • It is time our policies are re-designed to reflect these values.

Empowering people

  • Rooftop rainwater structures are perfectly poised to engender a transformative wave of public engagement in water management.
  • Thus it can act as a corollary for making water management an exercise in nurturing democratic routines.
  • To ensure that the public enthusiastically purchases this concept, a country-wide behaviour change campaign can be launched along the lines of the Swachh Bharat Mission.
  • This can emphasize people’s ‘ability and ‘motivation’ to romantically welcome these structures in their private premises.
  • This should rather be a ‘do-it-yourself’ model of engagement.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Places in news: Sardar Sarovar Dam


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sardar Sarovar Dam

Mains level : NA

The Sardar Sarovar Dam is providing irrigation water in summer for the first time in history.

Sardar Sarovar Dam

  • The Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam is a terminal dam built on the Narmada river at Kevadia in Gujarat’s Narmada district.
  • Four Indian states, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, receive water and electricity supply from the dam.
  • The foundation stone of the project was laid out by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on 5 April 1961.
  • The project took form in 1979 as part of a development scheme funded by the World Bank through their International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to increase irrigation and produce hydroelectricity
  • Called the ‘lifeline of Gujarat’, it usually has no water for irrigation during summers.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Which one of the following pairs is not correctly matched?


Dam/Lake River

(a) Govind Sagar: Satluj

(b) Kolleru Lake: Krishna

(c) Ukai Reservoir: Tapi

(d) Wular Lake: Jhelum

A successful model of river water sharing

  • River Narmada is a classic case of Integrated River Basin Planning, Development, and Management, with water storage available in all major, medium, and minor dams on the main river and its tributaries.
  • Its water is shared amongst four party states – Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra — in the ratio stipulated by the 1979 award of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal.

How has it saved water for summers?

  • During the monsoon from July to October, the reservoir operation is well synchronized with the rain forecast in the catchment area.
  • The strategic operation of River Bed Power House (RPBH) ensures that minimum water flows downstream into the sea and maximum water is used during the dam overflow period, which is not calculated in the annual water share.
  • These measures help in maximizing the annual allocation of water share.
  • Similarly, in non-monsoon months, the measures for efficient use of the allocated share typically include minimizing the conventional and operational losses.
  • It includes: avoiding water wastage, restricting water-intensive perennial crops, adopting of Underground Pipelines (UGPL); proper maintenance and operation of canals on a rotational basis.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

‘Sea Snot’ outbreak in Turkey


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sea Snot, Marmara Sea

Mains level : Algal bloom

There has been growing environmental concern in Turkey over the accumulation of ‘sea snot’, a slimy layer of grey or green sludge in the country’s seas, which can cause considerable damage to the marine ecosystem.

What is ‘Sea Snot’?

  • ‘Sea snot’ is marine mucilage that is formed when algae are overloaded with nutrients as a result of water pollution combined with the effects of climate change.
  • A ‘sea snot’ outbreak was first recorded in the country in 2007. Back then, it was also spotted in the Aegean Sea near Greece.
  • But the current outbreak in the Sea of Marmara is by far the biggest in the country’s history.
  • The nutrient overload occurs when algae feast on warm weather caused by global warming. Water pollution adds to the problem.
  • Environmental experts have said that the overproduction of phytoplankton caused by climate change and the uncontrolled dumping of household and industrial waste into the seas has led to the present crisis.

Where has it been found?

  • Turkey’s Sea of Marmara, which connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, has witnessed the largest outbreak of ‘sea snot’.
  • The sludge has also been spotted in the adjoining Black and Aegean seas.

How badly can the crisis affect the marine ecosystem?

  • The growth of the mucilage, which floats upon the surface of the sea like brown phlegm, is posing a severe threat to the marine ecosystem of the country.
  • Divers have said that it has caused mass deaths among the fish population, and also killed other aquatic organisms such as corals and sponges.
  • The mucilage is now covering the surface of the sea and has also spread to 80-100 feet below the surface.
  • If unchecked, this can collapse to the bottom and cover the sea floor, causing major damage to the marine ecosystem.
  • Over a period of time, it could end up poisoning all aquatic life, including fishes, crabs, oysters, mussels and sea stars.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] Kerala presents its Annual Action plan under Jal Jeevan Mission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jal Jeevan Mission

Mains level : Paper 2- Annual Action Plan submitted by Kerala for Jal Jeevan Mission

Annual Action Plan presented

  • Annual Action Plan (AAP) on planning and implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) in Kerala was presented.
  • Kerala State officials outlined the roadmap of the financial year 2021-2022 to the national committee via video conferencing.
  • The State plans to achieve the target of ‘Har Ghar Jal’ by 2024.
  • The State also plans to provide potable water in all quality-affected habitations by June 2021 through piped water supply or Community Water Purification Plants (CWPP).
  • The national committee analysed and advised on the plan presented by the State.
  • The committee emphasized the preparation of Village Action Plans and the constitution of Village Water &Sanitation Committee/ Pani Samiti as a sub-committee of Gram Panchayat with a minimum 50% of women members.
  • Also, emphasis is required on Water Quality Monitoring & Surveillance (WQM&S) activities to ensure Field Test Kit testing at Gram Panchayat level, Aanganwadi centres and schools.

About Jal Jeevan Mission

  • Jal Jeevan Mission is the flagship programme of Government of India, which aims to provide household tap water connection to every rural household by 2024.
  • Since announcement of the mission in August 2019, 4.17 Core new tap connections have been provided in the rural areas of the country during this period.
  • As a result, 7.40 Crore (38.56%) rural households have tap water supply vis-à-vis 3.23 Crore (17%) in 2019.
  •  Efforts are made to dovetail all available resources by convergence of different programmes viz. MGNREGS, SBM, 15th Finance Commission Grants to PRIs, CAMPA funds, Local Area Development Funds, etc.

Allocation for the JJM

  •  In 2021-22, Rs. 50,000 Crore budgetary allocation has been made for Jal Jeevan Mission.
  • In addition to this, there is also Rs. 26,940 Crore assured fund available under the 15th Finance Commission tied grants to RLBs/ PRIs for water & sanitation, matching State share and externally aided projects.
  • Thus, in 2021-22, more than Rs. 1 lakh Crore is planned to be invested in the country on ensuring tap water supply to rural homes.
  • This huge investment will give a boost to manufacturing activities, create employment opportunities in rural areas as well boost the rural economy.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

‘Seechewal Model’ of wastewater management


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Seechewal model

Mains level : Wastewater management

A new wastewater treatment plant opened recently in a village in Punjab’s Patiala district uses a unique method devised to treat, recycle and reuse wastewater.

Seechewal Model

  • The plant in the village of Patiala aims to achieve the following objective using the ‘Seechewal Model’ of wastewater management:
  1. Recycling and reusing the treated wastewater for irrigation
  2. Preventing further contamination of groundwater
  • The model is a pipe-and-pump formula used to remove heavy solid particles, oil and other material from water.
  • It was introduced by Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal and was first used in Seechewal, Punjab.
  • The project aims to implement a combination of processes through four-well systems of wastewater treatment for reuse apart from human consumption.
  • The water wells need to be cleaned regularly; otherwise, they produce extremely poor effluents with high suspended solids, which can be detrimental to the constructed wetland and cause clogging of beds.
  • To ensure continuous and effective operation, the accumulated material must be emptied periodically.

Benefits  offered

  • The project will reduce the usage of freshwater by providing an option of treated water to farmers. It will aim at water sustainability with appropriate technologies of water recycle-reuse-recharge.”
  • The project has engaged, empowered and evolved community sustained processes for water management and strengthened community collectives.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] Nag River Pollution Abatement Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nag River, Godavari Basin and its tributaries

Mains level : River rejuvenation

The Nag River Pollution Abatement Project has been approved under the National River Conservation Plan.

Try this PYQ:

Q.On the planet earth, most of the freshwater exists as ice caps and glaciers. Out of the remaining freshwater, the largest proportion:

(a) is found in the atmosphere as moisture and clouds

(b) is found in freshwater lakes and rivers

(c) exists as groundwater

(d) exists as soil moisture

Nag River

  • The Nag River is a river flowing through the city of Nagpur in Maharashtra.
  • It is known for providing the etymology for the name Nagpur. It is a part of the Kanhan-Pench river system.
  • The Kanhan River is an important right-bank tributary of the Wainganga River draining a large area lying south of the Satpura range in central India.
  • Along its 275 km run through Maharashtra & Madhya Pradesh, it receives its largest tributary – Pench River, a major water source for the metropolis of Nagpur.
  • It joins the Wardha River, the united stream, which is known as the Pranahita River, empties into the Godavari River at Kaleshwaram, Telangana.

About the Project

  • The Nag River which flows through Nagpur city, thus giving its name to the city, is now a highly polluted water channel of sewage and industrial waste.
  • The project, approved under the National River Conservation Plan, will be implemented by the National River Conservation Directorate.
  • It will reduce the pollution level in terms of untreated sewage, flowing solid waste, and other impurities flowing into the Nag River and its tributaries.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ICOLD

Mains level : NA

The International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) Symposium was inaugurated by the Minister for Jal Shakti.

What is the news?

  • ICOLD in collaboration with Central Water Commission (CWC) has organised a Symposium on “Sustainable Development of Dams and River Basins”.
  • The symposium is being organised to provide an excellent opportunity to Indian Dam Engineering Professionals and Agencies to share their experiences, ideas and latest developments.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which one of the following pairs is not correctly matched?

Dam: Lake River

(a) Govind Sagar: Satluj

(b) Kolleru Lake: Krishna

(c) Ukai Reservoir: Tapi

(d) Wular Lake: Jhelum


  • The ICOLD is an international non-governmental organization dedicated to the sharing of professional information and knowledge of the design, construction, maintenance, and impact of large dams.
  • It was founded in 1928 and has its central office in Paris, France.
  • It consists of 100 member national committees which have a total membership of about 10,000 individuals.
  • The official languages of the commission are English and French.

Key initiatives: World Register of Dams

For the purpose of inclusion in the World Register of Dams, a large dam is defined as any dam above 15 metres in height OR any dam between 10 and 15 metres in height that meets at least one of the following conditions:

  • the crest length is not less than 500 metres
  • the capacity of the reservoir formed by the dam is not less than one million cubic metres
  • the maximum flood discharge dealt with by the dam is not less than 2 000 cubic metres per second
  • the dam had especially difficult foundation problems
  • the dam is of unusual design

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

The problem of ageing dams in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rate of siltation

Mains level : Paper 3- Ageing dams and challenges associated with it

Ageing dams threaten India’s water security, affect farmers’ income and increases the frequency of flooding. 

What is a dam?

  • A dam is a barrier that stops the flow of water and results in the creation of a reservoir. Dams are mainly built in order to produce electricity by using water. This form of electricity is known as hydroelectricity.
  • Reservoirs created by dams not only suppress floods but also provide water for activities such as irrigation, human consumption, industrial use, aquaculture, and navigability.

Types of Dams

There are many dams in India, and hence there is a need to know about them as there are questions based on the dams of India. The Bank Exams like IBPS or SBI contains questions from this section.

Based on the structure the types of dams are as mentioned below:

  1. Arch Dam: An arch dam is a concrete dam that is curved upstream in the plan. It is designed so that the hydrostatic pressure (force of the water against it) presses against the arch, causing the arch to straighten slightly and strengthening the structure as it pushes into its foundation or abutments. An arch dam is most suitable for narrow canyons or gorges with steep walls of stable rock to support the structure and stresses.
  2. Gravity Dam: Dams constructed from concrete or stone masonry are Gravity dams. They are designed to hold back water by using only the weight of the material and its resistance against the foundation to oppose the horizontal pressure of water pushing against it. These are designed in such a way that each section of the dam is stable and independent of other section.
  3. Arch-Gravity Dam: This dam has the characteristics of both an arch dam and a gravity dam. It is a dam that curves upstream in a narrowing curve that directs most of the water pressure against the canyon rock walls. The inward compression of the dam by the water reduces the lateral (horizontal) force acting on the dam.
  4. Barrages: A barrage is a type of low-head, diversion dam which consists of a number of large gates that can be opened or closed to control the amount of water passing through. This allows the structure to regulate and stabilize river water elevation upstream for use in irrigation and other systems.
  5. Embankment Dams: An embankment dam is a large artificial dam. It is typically created by the placement and compaction of a complex semi-plastic mound of various compositions of soil, sand, clay, or rock. It has a semi-pervious waterproof natural covering for its surface and a dense, impervious core.
  6. Rock-Fills Dams: Rock-fill dams are embankments of compacted free-draining granular earth with an impervious zone. The earth utilized often contains a high percentage of large particles, hence the term “rock-fill”.
  7. Concrete-face rock-fill dams: A concrete-face rock-fill dam (CFRD) is a rock-fill dam with concrete slabs on its upstream face. This design provides the concrete slab as an impervious wall to prevent leakage and also a structure without concern for uplift pressure.
  8. Earth-fill dams: Earth-fill dams, also called earthen dams, rolled-earth dams or simply earth dams, are constructed as a simple embankment of well-compacted earth. A homogeneous rolled-earth dam is entirely constructed of one type of material but may contain a drain layer to collect seep water.

Major Dams in India

The major dams in India have helped the inhabitants in a number of ways like:

  1. Providing adequate water for domestic, industry and irrigation purposes.
  2. Hydroelectric power production and river navigation.
  3. These major dams in India and their reservoirs provide recreation areas for fishing and boating.
  4. They have helped in the reduction of floods.

Some facts about the issue of ageing dams

  • India is ranked third in the world in terms of building large dams.
  • Of the over 5,200 large dams built so far, about 1,100 large dams have already reached 50 years of age and some are older than 120 years.
  • The number of such dams will increase to 4,400 by 2050.
  • This means that 80% of the nation’s large dams face the prospect of becoming obsolete as they will be 50 years to over 150 years old.
  • The situation with hundreds of thousands of medium and minor dams is even more precarious as their shelf life is even lower than that of large dams.

Impact on the storage capacity

  • As dams age, soil replaces the water in the reservoirs technically known as silt or sediment.
  • Therefore, the storage capacity cannot be claimed to be the same as it was in the 1900s and 1950s.
  • To make matters worse, studies show that the design of many of our reservoirs is flawed.
  • Almost every scholarly study on reservoir sedimentation shows that Indian reservoirs are designed with a poor understanding of sedimentation science.
  • The designs underestimate the rate of siltation and overestimate live storage capacity created.
  • Therefore, the storage space in Indian reservoirs is receding at a rate faster than anticipated.


  • When soil replaces the water in reservoirs, supply gets choked.
  • The net sown water area either shrinks in size or depends on rains or groundwater, which is over-exploited.
  • Crop yield gets affected severely and disrupts the farmer’s income.
  • The farmer’s income may get reduced as water is one of the crucial factors for crop yield along with credit, crop insurance and investment.
  • It is important to note that no plan on climate change adaptation will succeed with sediment-packed dams.
  • The flawed siltation rates demonstrated by a number of scholarly studies reinforce the argument that the designed flood cushion within several reservoirs across many river basins may have already depleted substantially due to which floods have become more frequent downstream of dams. 

Consider the question “Ageing dams poses several challenges for India. Identify these challenges and suggest the measures to deal with these challenges.” 


The nation will eventually be unable to find sufficient water in the 21st century to feed the rising population by 2050, grow abundant crops, create sustainable cities, or ensure growth. Therefore, it is imperative for all stakeholders to come together to address this situation urgently.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Mystery illness in Eluru


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various water borne disease

Mains level : Drinking water issues

Over 550 people in Eluru town of Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district have been suffering from convulsions, seizures, dizziness and nausea.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which of the following can be found as pollutants in the drinking water in some parts of India?

  1. Arsenic
  2. Sorbitol
  3. Fluoride
  4. Formaldehyde
  5. Uranium

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2, 4 and 5 only

(c) 1, 3 and 5 only

(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Eluru illness

  • The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has found traces of lead and nickel in blood samples of 25 victims out of the 45 samples sent by the state government.
  • The primary suspicion is on water contamination by heavy metals. Scientists suspect that pesticide or insecticide has seeped into drinking water sources.
  • Experts from Hyderabad who collected water, blood, and food samples say there are indications of lead contamination but can confirm this only after detailed test reports.

Possible cause: Water contamination

  • Eluru receives water through canals from both Godavari and Krishna rivers.
  • The canals pass through agricultural fields where runoff laced with pesticides mixes with water in the canals. Many aspects of the mystery illness have baffled scientists.
  • People who only use packaged drinking water have also fallen sick.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Desalination Plants and their Feasibility


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Desalination plants

Mains level : Drinking water scarcity in Urban India

Maharashtra state govt. has announced the setting up of a desalination plant in Mumbai, becoming the fourth state in the country to experiment with the idea.

Try this PYQ:

Q.What is the role of ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the water purification systems?

  1. It inactivates/kills the harmful microorganisms in water.
  2. It removes the entire undesirable odour from the water.
  3. It quickens the sedimentation of solid particles, removes turbidity and improves the clarity of water.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

What are Desalination Plants?

  • A desalination plant turns salt water into water that is fit to drink.
  • The most commonly used techniques used for the process is reverse osmosis where external pressure is applied to push solvents from an area of high-solute concentration to an area of low-solute concentration through a membrane.
  • The microscopic pores in the membranes allow water molecules through but leave salt and most other impurities behind, releasing clean water from the other side.
  • These plants are mostly set up in areas that have access to seawater.

How widely is this technology used in India?

  • Desalination has largely been limited to affluent countries in the Middle East and has recently started making inroads in parts of the United States and Australia.
  • In India, Tamil Nadu has been the pioneer in using this technology, setting up two desalination plants near Chennai in 2010 and then 2013, while there are two more to come.

Need for such plant

  • According to the projections, the population of Mumbai is anticipated to touch 1.72 crores by 2041 and accordingly, the projected water demand would be 6424 MLD by then.
  • Currently, BMC supplies 3850 MLD as against the requirement of 4200 MLD each day.

Is it ecologically safe?

  • The high cost of setting up and running a desalination plant is one reason why the Maharashtra government has over the last decade been hesitant in building such a plant.
  • Desalination is an expensive way of generating drinking water as it requires a high amount of energy.
  • The other problem is the disposal of the byproduct — highly concentrated brine (saltwater) — of the desalination process.
  • While in most places brine is pumped back into the sea, there have been rising complaints that it ends up severely damaging the local ecology around the plant.

Back2Basics: Osmosis and Reverse Osmosis

  • Osmosis is a phenomenon where pure water flows from a dilute solution through a semi-permeable membrane to a higher concentrated solution.
  • Semi-permeable means that the membrane will allow small molecules and ions to pass through it but acts as a barrier to larger molecules or dissolved substances.
  • As water passes through the membrane to the salt solution, the level of liquid in the saltwater compartment will rise until enough pressure, caused by the difference in levels between the two compartments, is generated to stop the osmosis.
  • This pressure, equivalent to a force that the osmosis seems to exert in trying to equalize concentrations on both sides of the membrane, is called osmotic pressure.
  • If pressure greater than the osmotic pressure is applied to the high concentration the direction of water flow through the membrane can be reversed.
  • This is called reverse osmosis. Note that this reversed flow produces pure water from the salt solution since the membrane is not permeable to salt.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

WWF Water Risk Filter


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WWF Water Risk Filter

Mains level : Water scarcity in urban India

Nearly a third of the 100 cities in the world susceptible to ‘water risk’ — defined as losses from battling droughts to flooding — are in India, according to the WWF Water Risk Filter.

Try this question for mains:

Q.For Indian cities to break away from the vicious loop of flooding and water scarcity, nature-based solutions like restoration of urban watersheds and wetlands could offer an alternative. Examine.

What is Water Risk Filter?

  • This is an online tool, co-developed by the Worldwide Fund for Nature that helps evaluate the severity of risk places faced by graphically illustrating various factors that can contribute to water risk.
  • Launched in 2012, it is a practical online tool that helps companies and investors assess and respond to water-related risks facing their operations and investments across the globe.
  • After a major upgrade in 2018, the Water Risk Filter 5.0 enables companies and investors to Explore, Assess, Value and Respond to water risks.
  • Lately, the Water Risk Filter provides scenarios of water risks for 2030 and 2050, integrating climate and socio-economic changes in different pathways.

Highlights of the recent analysis

  • It reported 30 Indian cities that would face a ‘grave water risk’ by 2050 due to a dramatic increase in their population percentage to 51 per cent by 2050, from 17 per cent in 2020.
  • Jaipur topped the list, followed by Indore and Thane. Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi also featured on the list.
  • The global list includes cities such as Beijing, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Mecca and Rio de Janeiro. China accounts for almost half the cities.

Major recommendations

  • The future of India’s environment lies in its cities. As India rapidly urbanizes, cities will be at the forefront both for India’s growth and for sustainability.
  • For cities to break away from the current vicious loop of flooding and water scarcity, nature-based solutions like restoration of urban watersheds and wetlands could offer solutions.
  • Urban watersheds and wetlands are critical for maintaining the water balance of a city, flood cushioning, micro-climate regulation and protecting its biodiversity, the report notes.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] Sardar Sarovar Dam


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sardar Sarovar Dam

Mains level : Not Much

The PM has inaugurated dynamic lighting for the Sardar Sarovar Dam.

Try this PYQ:

What is common to the places known as Aliyar, Isapur and Kangsabati?

(a) Recently discovered uranium deposits

(b) Tropical rain forests

(c) Underground cave systems

(d) Water reservoirs

Sardar Sarovar Dam

  • It is a concrete gravity dam on the Narmada River in Kevadiya near Navagam, Gujarat.
  • Four Indian states, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, receive water and electricity supplied from the dam.
  • The foundation stone of the project was laid out by then PM Jawaharlal Nehru on 5 April 1961.
  • The project took form in 1979 as part of a development scheme funded by the World Bank to increase irrigation and produce hydroelectricity, using a loan of US$200 million.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation System (KLIS)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kaleshwaram Project, Lift irrigation

Mains level : Kaleshwaram Project

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) wants a relook at Kaleshwaram Project since the Telangana government subsequently changed the design of the project.

Try this question from our AWE initiative:

The Kaleshwaram Project

  • The Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation System is considered to be one of the world’s largest multi-purpose projects.
  • It is designed to provide water for irrigation and drinking purposes to about 45 lakh acres in 20 of the 31 districts in Telangana, apart from Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
  • This project is unique because Telangana will harness water at the confluence of two rivers with the Godavari by constructing a barrage at Medigadda in Jayashankar Bhupalpally district.
  • It would reverse pump the water into the main Godavari River and divert it through lifts and pumps into a huge and complex system of reservoirs, water tunnels, pipelines and canals.

Records to its glory

  • The project has set many records with the world’s longest water tunnels, aqueducts, underground surge pools, and biggest pumps.
  • By the time the water reaches Kondapochamma Sagar, the last reservoir in the system, the water would have been lifted to a height of 618 metres from its source at Medigadda.
  • The total length of the entire Kaleshwaram project is approximately 1,832 km of which 1,531 km is gravity canals and 203 km comprises water tunnels.

How important is KLIS to Telangana?

  • The project will enable farmers in Telangana to reap multiple crops with a year-round supply of water wherein earlier they were dependent on rains resulting in frequent crop failures.
  • This year, Telangana farmers have already delivered bumper rabi crops of paddy and maize due to better irrigation facilities and an extended monsoon.
  • KLIS covers several districts which used to face rainfall deficit and the groundwater is fluoride-contaminated.
  • Apart from irrigation, a main component of the project is the supply of drinking water to several towns and villages and also to twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
  • Mission Bhagiratha, the Rs 43,000-crore project to supply drinking water to every household in villages, draws a large quantity of water from the KLIS and some quantity from projects on River Krishna.
  • There is a burgeoning freshwater fishing industry in the state.

Issues raised by NGT

  • The NGT has observed that the Telangana government subsequently changed the design of the project to increase its capacity.
  • By increasing its capacity to pump 3 TMC water from 2 TMC, large tracts of forest land and other land was taken over and massive infrastructure was built causing adverse impact on the environment.
  • Extraction of more water certainly requires more storage capacity and also affects hydrology and riverine ecology of Godavari River.
  • Such issues have to be examined by the statutory authorities concerned.


National Green tribunal

  • It is a specialised body set up under the National Green Tribunal Act (2010) for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
  • With the establishment of the NGT, India became the third country in the world to set up a specialised environmental tribunal, only after Australia and New Zealand, and the first developing country to do so.
  • NGT is mandated to make disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.
  • The NGT has five places of sittings, New Delhi is the Principal place of sitting and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai are the other four.

Structure of NGT

  • The Tribunal comprises of the Chairperson, the Judicial Members and Expert Members. They shall hold office for term of five years and are not eligible for reappointment.
  • The Chairperson is appointed by the Central Government in consultation with Chief Justice of India (CJI).
  • A Selection Committee shall be formed by central government to appoint the Judicial Members and Expert Members.
  • There are to be least 10 and maximum 20 full time Judicial members and Expert Members in the tribunal.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] Buldhana Pattern of water conservation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Buldana pattern

Mains level : Water coservation models

Maharashtra’s ‘Buldana Pattern’ of water conservation’ has won national recognition and the NITI Aayog is in the process of formulating National Policy on water conversation based on it.

Refer this link to read more about traditional water conservations systems in India:


What is ‘Buldhana Pattern’?

  • It is based on the synchronization of national highway construction and water conservation.
  • It was achieved for the first time in Buldana district of drought-prone Vidarbha region, by using soil from the water bodies, nallas and rivers.
  • This consequently leads to the increase in capacity of water storage across the water-bodies in Buldana district and it came to be known as ‘Buldana Pattern’.
  • Creation of State Water Grid and adopting water Conservations works under this pattern will increase the agriculture production and bring prosperity in farmer’s economic life in Vidarbha.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Places in news: Mullaperiyar Dam


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mullaperiyar Dam

Mains level : Not Much

The Mullaperiyar dam has recently turned 125.

Try this PYQ:

Q. What is common to the places known as Aliyar, Isapur and Kangsabati?

(a) Recently discovered uranium deposits

(b) Tropical rain forests

(c) Underground cave systems

(d) Water reservoirs

Mullaperiyar Dam

  • It is a masonry gravity dam on the Periyar River in the Indian state of Kerala.
  • It is located 881 m above mean sea level, on the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats in Thekkady, Idukki District of Kerala.
  • It was constructed between 1887 and 1895 by John Pennycuick and also reached in an agreement to divert water eastwards to the Madras Presidency area (present-day Tamil Nadu).
  • Pennycuick is widely worshipped as a hero by farmers in the four districts of southern Tamil Nadu, where water from the dam meets the drinking water needs and irrigates thousands of hectares.

Why is the dam special?

  • The dam was constructed surmounting many odds, with malaria and thick jungles taking a toll on workers. It was a huge challenge before him to construct the dam and divert the river course.
  • Pennycuick sowed the seeds of river interlinking to bring barren and rain-starved areas under cultivation.
  • To fund dam construction, gold ornaments were donated by Chettiar families and farmers in Cumbom valley also gave their meagre savings to Pennycuick.
  • Pennycuick even sold his ancestral property in Britain and spent the amount for completing the works of the dam when the expenses exceeded the allotted funds.
  • The British government endowed him with the ‘Companion of Star of India’, a high civilian honour. He died on March 9, 1911, at Frimley in Britain.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.



From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jal Jeevan Mission , Margdarshika

Mains level : Water management

What is Jal Jeevan Mission ?

The Union Minister of Jal Shakti launched a special mission mode campaign to provide potable piped water supply in all schools and anganwadi centres across the nation within 100 days.

About Jal Jeevan Mission

  • This mission was envisaged by the Prime Minister on 29th September, 2020 while releasing the ‘Margdarshika’ for Gram Panchayats and Paani Samitis for implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM).
  • Provisions have been made under Jal Jeevan Mission for ensuring safe water through tap water connection in schools, anganwadi centres, health care centres, etc.
  • National Jal Jeevan Mission has reached out to States/ UTs to ensure that during this campaign, Gram Sabhas are convened at the earliest to pass a resolution for providing safe water in all schools, anganwadi centres and other public institutions in the village in the next 100 days.
  • These facilities will be operated and maintained by the Gram Panchayat and/ or its sub-committee i.e. Village Water & Sanitation Committee or Paani Samiti.
  • Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) aims at the universal coverage of provision of tap water connection to every rural home by 2024. Under the mission, special focus is on women and children.


Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Green-Blue Infrastructure Policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Green-Blue Infrastructure

Mains level : Urban water resources management

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is holding public consultations for the preparation of the Master Plan for Delhi 2041 with special focus on water bodies and the land.

Try this question:      

Q.Urban water resources management is an uphill task for Indian cities. Discuss.

What is Green-Blue infrastructure?

  • ‘Blue’ infrastructure refers to water bodies like rivers, canals, ponds, wetlands, floodplains, and water treatment facilities; while ‘Green’ stands for trees, lawns, hedgerows, parks, fields, and forests.
  • The concept refers to urban planning where water bodies and land are interdependent, and grow with the help of each other while offering environmental and social benefits.

How does DDA plan to go ahead with it?

  • In the first stage, the DDA plans to deal with the multiplicity of agencies, which because of the special nature of the state, has plagued it for several years.
  • DDA wants the first map out the issues of jurisdiction, work being done by different agencies on drains and the areas around them.
  • Thereafter, a comprehensive policy will be drawn up, which would then act as the common direction for all agencies.

Why such a policy?

  • Delhi has around 50 big drains (blue areas) managed by different agencies, and due to their poor condition and encroachment, the land around (green areas) has also been affected.
  • DDA, along with other agencies, will integrate them and remove all sources of pollution by checking the outfall of untreated wastewater as well as the removal of existing pollutants.
  • A mix of mechanized and natural systems may be adopted, and dumping of solid wastes in any of these sites will be strictly prohibited by local bodies, through the imposition of penalties.

Major features

  • The land around these drains, carrying stormwater, will be declared as special buffer projects.
  • The network of connected green spaces would be developed in the form of green mobility circuits of pedestrian and cycling paths.
  • It will be developed along the drains to serve functional as well as leisure trips.

Challenges ahead

  • The biggest challenge is the multiplicity of agencies.
  • Secondly, cleaning of water bodies and drains has been a challenge for agencies in Delhi for years now.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

BIS’ draft standard for drinking water supply


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BIS

Mains level : Water supply standards in India

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has prepared a draft standard for the supply system of piped drinking water.

Try this question for mains:

Q.Climate change, scarcity, population growth, demographic changes and urbanization pose challenges for water supply systems in India. Analyse.

About the Draft

  • Labelled ‘Drinking water supply quality management system — requirements for piped drinking water supply service’, the draft has been prepared by the BIS’ Public Drinking Water Supply Services Sectional Committee.
  • It outlines the process of water supply, from raw water sources to household taps.
  • It has been developed keeping in view the Centre’s Jal Jeevan Mission for providing safe and adequate drinking water to all rural households by 2024 through tap connections.
  • It is expected to make the process of piped water supply more uniform, especially in rural and underdeveloped areas of the country where the system runs on various government orders and circulars.
  • At present, the standard is expected not to be made mandatory.

Highlights of the draft

  • The draft outlines the requirements for a water supplier or a water utility on how they should establish, operate, maintain and improve their piped drinking water supply service.
  • The process begins with the identification of a water source, which can either be groundwater or surface water sources such as rivers, streams or reservoirs.
  • It doesn’t mention how water utilities should treat the water, but states that the process should be planned in such a manner that after treatment it should conform to the Indian Standard (IS) 10500 developed by the BIS.
  • The IS 10500 outlines the acceptable limits of heavy metals such as arsenic, and other parameters like the pH value of water, its turbidity, the total dissolved solids in it, and the colour and odour.

What is the water supply process?

  • The supply system as outlined in the draft should begin with the identification of a raw water source.
  • Water should then be pumped into the treatment plant and treated to achieve acceptable drinking standards.
  • After the water is released from the plant, there should be reservoirs in the distribution system for storage of this water, and disinfection facilities to get rid of contamination at any stage of distribution.
  • Pumping stations or boosters, if necessary, should be provided to maintain adequate pressure throughout the distribution system.

District Metering Area (DMA) concept

  • The document also states that the concept of district metering area (DMA) should be adopted where possible.
  • DMA is a concept for controlling leakages in the water network, which is essentially divided into a number of sectors, called the DMAs, and where flow meters are installed to detect leaks.
  • The water supplier/utility may provide bulk water meters in the water distribution system to ensure water audit, however, the provisions should be made for domestic meters also.

What’s there in the draft in addition to the water supply process?

  • There are guidelines on water audit, which is a calculation of the amount of water put into distribution against the amount that is consumed.
  • The draft states that a water audit should be conducted on a quarterly basis.
  • Effort should be made by the water agency to bring down the water loss up to 15% of the total water supplied in the system.
  • The water utilities are also required to conduct surveys among consumers and obtain feedback on their service as per the draft.
  • Guidelines on internal audit, management review, documenting performance indicators for improvement, and timely action against non-conformity issues also find mention.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

In news: Srisailam Dam


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dam, river and its reservoir

Mains level : NA

The major fire accident at the Srisailam hydroelectric power station has resulted in heavy loss of lives.

Try this PYQ:

What is common to the places known as Aliyar, Isapur and Kangsabati? (CSP 2019)

(a) Recently discovered uranium deposits

(b) Tropical rain forests

(c) Underground cave systems

(d) Water reservoirs

About Srisailam Dam

  • The Srisailam Dam is constructed across the Krishna River in Kurnool district, AP near Srisailam temple town.
  • It is the 2nd largest capacity working hydroelectric station in the country.
  • The dam was constructed in a deep gorge in the Nallamala Hills in between Kurnool and Mahabubnagar districts, 300 m (980 ft) above sea level.
  • It has a reservoir of 616 square kilometres.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Bhadbhut Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bhadbhut Project, Hilsa Fish

Mains level : Not Much

The Gujarat government recently awarded the contract for a the Bhadbhut project in Bharuch, Gujarat. It has faced protests from local fishermen for its likely impact on fishing patterns, notably those of hilsa.

Make a note of major dams in India along with the rivers, terrain, major wildlife sanctuaries and national parks incident to these rivers.

What is the Bhadbhut Project?

  • It is planned to be a 1.7-km causeway-cum-weir barrage with 90 gates, across the river Narmada, 5 km from Bhadbhut village, and 25 km from the mouth of the river, where it flows into the Gulf of Khambhat.
  • The barrage will stop most of the excess water flowing out of the Sardar Sarovar Dam from reaching the sea and thus create a “sweet water lake” of 600 mcm (million cubic metres) on the river.
  • The barrage will also have a six-lane road that will connect the left and right banks of the river and provide shorten the land distance between two large industrial estates in Surat and Bharuch.
  • The project also aims to prevent flooding in years when rainfall is higher than normal.
  • Embankments 22 km long will be made and will extend upstream towards Bharuch, from either side of the river.
  • The project is part of the larger Kalpasar Project, which entails the construction of a 30-km dam across the Gulf of Khambhat between Bharuch and Bhavnagar districts.
  • The reservoir is meant to tap the waters of the Narmada, Mahisagar and Sabarmati.

Why are fishermen upset?

  • The barrage is expected to interfere with the migration and breeding cycle of hilsa.
  • A marine fish, hilsa migrate upstream and arrives in the brackish water of the Narmada estuary near Bharuch for spawning usually during the monsoon months of July and August, and continue doing so till November.
  • Once the barrage is built, it is expected to block its natural entry.

About Hilsa Fish

IUCN status: Least Concerned

  • The Hilsa is a species of fish related to the herring, in the family Clupeidae.
  • It is a very popular and sought-after food fish in the Indian Subcontinent.
  • Though it’s a saltwater fish, it migrates to sweet waters.
  • It is the national fish of Bangladesh and state symbol in the Indian states of West Bengal and Tripura.
  • The fish contributes about 12% of the total fish production and about 1.15% of GDP in Bangladesh.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Twin issues: Shrinking water bodies and floods in urban landscapes


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Urban floods in India

This newscard is an excerpt from the original article published in the D2E.

Try this question for mains:

Q.Shrinking water bodies and floods in urban landscapes are mutually induced by each other. Analyse.

Water in urban landscapes

  • Lakes and wetlands are an important part of the urban ecosystem.
  • They perform significant environmental, social and economic functions — from being a source of drinking water and recharging groundwater to supporting biodiversity and providing livelihoods.
  • Their role becomes even more critical in the present context when cities are facing the challenge of rapid unplanned urbanisation.
  • Their numbers are declining rapidly. For example, Bangalore had 262 lakes in the 1960s; now only 10 of them hold water.

Issues with urban water bodies

  • Natural streams and watercourses, formed over thousands of years due to the forces of flowing water in the respective watersheds, have been altered because of urbanisation.
  • As a result, the flow of water has increased in proportion to the urbanisation of watersheds.
  • Ideally, natural drains should have been widened to accommodate the higher flows of stormwater.
  • But, on the contrary, they have been a victim of various unlawful activities:

(1) Pollution

  • There has been an explosive increase in the urban population without a corresponding expansion of civic facilities such as infrastructure for the disposal of waste.
  • As more people are migrating to cities, urban civic services are becoming less adequate.
  • As a result, most urban water bodies in India are suffering because of pollution. The water bodies have been turned into landfills in several cases.
  • Guwahati’s Deepor Beel, for example, is used by the municipal corporation to dump solid waste since 2006. Even the Pallikarni marshland in Chennai is used for solid waste dumping.

(2) Encroachment

  • This is another major threat to urban water bodies. As more people have been migrating to cities, the availability of land has been getting scarce.
  • Today, even a small piece of land in urban areas has a high economic value.
  • These urban water bodies are not only acknowledged for their ecosystem services but for their real estate value as well.
  • Charkop Lake in Maharashtra, Ousteri Lake in Puducherry, Deepor beel in Guwahati are well-known examples of water bodies that were encroached.

(3) Illegal mining activities

  • Illegal mining for building material such as sand and quartzite on the catchment and bed of the lake have an extremely damaging impact on the water body.
  • For example, the Jaisamand Lake in Jodhpur, once the only source of drinking water for the city, has been suffering from illegal mining in the catchment area.
  • Unmindful sand mining from the catchment of Vembanad Lake on the outskirts of Kochi has decreased the water level in the lake.

(4) Unplanned tourism activities

  • Using water bodies to attract tourists has become a threat to several urban lakes in India.
  • Tso Morari and Pongsho lakes in Ladakh have become polluted because of unplanned and unregulated tourism.
  • Another example is that of Ashtamudi Lake in Kerala’s Kollam city, which has become polluted due to spillage of oil from motorboats.

(5) Absence of administrative framework

  • The biggest challenge is the government apathy towards water bodies.
  • This can be understood from the fact that it does not even have any data on the total number of urban water bodies in the country.
  • Further, CPCB had not identified major aquatic species, birds, plants and animals that faced threat due to pollution of rivers and lakes.

Original article:


Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Ammonia Pollution in Yamuna River


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nitrogen pollution

Mains level : Preventing river pollution

For the second time in a week, the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) had to reduce water production capacity by 25 per cent after high levels of ammonia were detected in the Yamuna River.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2019:

Q. Consider the following statements:

  1. Agricultural soils release nitrogen oxides into the environment.
  2. Cattle release ammonia into the environment.
  3. Poultry industry releases reactive nitrogen compounds into the environment.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 2 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

What is Ammonia and what are its effects?

  • Ammonia is a colourless gas and is used as an industrial chemical in the production of fertilizers, plastics, synthetic fibres, dyes and other products.
  • Ammonia occurs naturally in the environment from the breakdown of organic waste matter, and may also find its way to ground and surface water sources through industrial effluents or through contamination by sewage.
  • If the concentration of ammonia in water is above 1 ppm it is toxic to fishes.
  • In humans, long term ingestion of water having ammonia levels of 1 ppm or above may cause damage to internal organs.

A cause of concern

  • The level of ammonia in raw Yamuna water was 1.8 parts per million (ppm).
  • The acceptable maximum limit of ammonia in drinking water, as per the Bureau of Indian Standards, is 0.5 ppm.

Where does Ammonia come from?

  • Ammonia is produced for commercial fertilizers and other industrial applications.
  • Natural sources of ammonia include the decomposition or breakdown of organic waste matter, gas exchange with the atmosphere, forest fires, animal and human waste, and nitrogen fixation processes.

How is it treated?

  • The DJB at present does not have any specific technology to treat ammonia.
  • The only solution it adapts is to reduce production at its water treatment plants.
  • In addition to this, the board mixes raw water that carries a high concentration of ammonia with a fresh supply.
  • The amount of chlorine added to disinfect raw water is also increased when high levels of ammonia are detected.

What is the long-term solution to the problem?

  • Stringent implementation of guidelines against dumping harmful waste into the river, and making sure untreated sewage does not enter the water are two things pollution control bodies are expected to do.
  • But, a more organic method agreed upon by environmentalists and experts is to maintain a sustainable minimum flow, called the ecological flow.
  • This is the minimum amount of water that should flow throughout the river at all times to sustain underwater and estuarine ecosystems and human livelihoods, and for self-regulation.
  • The lack of a minimum ecological flow also means an accumulation of other pollutants.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Kholongchhu Hydel Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kholongchhu Hydel Project

Mains level : Not Much

India and Bhutan took a major step forward for the construction of the 600 MW Kholongchhu project.

Try this question from CSP 2019:

What is common to the places known as Aliyar, Isapur and Kangsabati?

(a) Recently discovered uranium deposits

(b) Tropical rain forests

(c) Underground cave systems

(d) Water reservoirs

Kholongchhu Hydel Project

  • The Kholongchhu project is regarded as a “milestone” in the India-Bhutan partnership, under which four hydropower projects have been built in the last 30 years totalling a capacity of 2,100 MW.
  • It is one of four additional projects agreed to in 2008, as a part of India’s commitment to helping Bhutan create a total 10,000 MW of installed capacity by 2020.
  • The project is located at the lower course of Kholongchhu just before its confluence with Drangmechu (Gongrichu) in Trashiyangtse District of Bhutan.
  • The GoI will provide, as a grant, the equity share of the Bhutanese DGPC in the JV Company.
  • Once the project is commissioned, the JV partners will run it for 30 years, called the concession period, after which the full ownership will transfer to the Bhutan government.

Whats’ so special with the project?

  • It is the first hydropower joint venture project in Bhutan’s less developed eastern region of Trashiyangtse.
  • It is the first time an India-Bhutan hydropower project will be constructed as a 50:50 joint venture and not as a government-to-government agreement.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Ganga water improves during lockdown


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BoD, CoD

Mains level : Namami Gange

The Ganga water quality has improved remarkably during the lockdown period. This highlights the importance of synergy for absolute symbiosis between nature and man as the need of the hour.


  • The novel coronavirus lockdown (COVID-19) pandemic has put millions in the throes of adversity — and yet, there is a reason to celebrate.
  • Over a month into the nationwide lockdown, air and water pollution levels have shrunk and the wildlife is free.
  • Of 36 monitoring units placed in the Ganga, water quality at 27 points was found suitable for bathing and propagation of wildlife and fisheries in the lockdown period

Status of rivers in India

  • India’s water bodies are in a poor state. The rivers are becoming dumpyard for untreated sewage and industrial waste.
  • In the name of economic growth, most rivers and streams have been turned into sewer canals and are getting difficult to be treated.
  • It is estimated that every day, almost 40 million litres of wastewater enters rivers and other water bodies; only 37 per cent is adequately treated.
  • A Centre Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report showed that critically polluted river stretches in the country have increased from 302 stretches in 2016 to 351 stretches in 2018.
  • The finding was based on Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD).


  • According to CPCB, more than half of wastewater treatment plants in the basin do not comply with the discharge norms.
  • Since 1985, several programmes and schemes have been launched to clean the Ganga. It began with the Ganga Action Plan I, followed by Ganga Action Plan II.

  • In 2015, the biggest-ever initiative, Namami Gange was launched with a budget of over Rs 20,000.
  • Despite numerous programmes and huge funds, the Ganga still runs polluted.

The causes

  • More than 80 per cent of pollution in the Ganga is due to domestic sewage from surrounding towns and villages. The rest is contributed by industrial waste.
  • During the lockdown, domestic sewage would have increased owing to increased demand for water to maintain hand-washing hygiene. Industrial waste, however, stopped entering the Ganga.
  • Other activities such as tourism, fairs, bathing and cloth washing near the ghats were curtailed. Experts said these observations reflected that domestic sewerage was not the only cause of concern.
  • When sewage is mixed with industrial effluents, it gets difficult for the river to assimilate pollution.
  • One more reason was high number of western disturbances which brought rain and improved the flow in the river leading to dilution.

COVID-19’s gift to Ganga

  • After the nationwide lockdown was imposed, within 10 days signs of improvement in water quality started surfacing.
  • At Varanasi’s Nagwa Nala, the Dissolved Oxygen (DO) values were found increased to 6.8 milligram/litre against 3.8 mg/l on March 6, showcasing an extraordinary improvement of 79 per cent in DO values.
  • 30 per cent of the total BOD load was due to industries along the river, which amounted to 130-150 tons per day.
  • Since all major polluting industries are closed, the toxic load is off the river.

Surprisingly better

  • Ganga water at Haridwar and Rishikesh was reported fit for drinking due to 500 per cent decrease in sewage and industrial effluents.
  • A dip in the number of visitors at ghats in Haridwar also helped the river water quality.
  • The Ganga water has become fit for ‘achaman’, which means ritual sipping, after a long time.

Bringing the ambitions to reality

There is an urgent need to:

  • Reinvestigate the main source of pollution in Ganga and reorient all river cleaning policies and programmes based on lockdown findings.
  • Industries need to strictly adhere to discharge norms accompanied with strong enforcement of laws and regulations vis-a-vis strong monitoring and vigilance framework.
  • Setting up of effective interventions to clean rivers, reliable, representative and comprehensive data collected at high frequency in a disaggregated manner.
  • There is an urgent need to expand the network of monitoring stations on the Ganga, the Yamuna and tributaries of Ganga in more places.
  • Over-extraction and over-exploitation of Ganga’s waters have rendered long stretches of the river completely dry for much of the year. There is a need to maintain ecological flow to keep it clean for longer run.
  • Education and awareness needs to be carried out strategically.

Back2Basics: Biochemical Oxygen Demand

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • BOD is similar in function to chemical oxygen demand (COD), in that both measure the amount of organic compounds in water.
  • However, COD is less specific, since it measures everything that can be chemically oxidized, rather than just levels of biodegradable organic matter.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] Law for Rain Water Harvesting


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Law for Rain Water Harvesting

Mains level : Rooftop water conservation strategy



The Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs has issued the Model Building Bye Laws, 2016 for guidance of the States/UTs and has a chapter on ‘Rainwater Harvesting’.

Why such move?

  • These laws aim to regulate the over-exploitation and consequent depletion of ground water.
  • It would enable States/UTs to enact suitable ground water legislation for regulation of its development, which includes provision of rain water harvesting.

About the Bye Laws

  • 33 States/UTs have adopted the rainwater harvesting provisions.
  • The provisions of this chapter are applicable to all the buildings.

Various provisions

  • As per Model Building Bye Laws- 2016, provision of rainwater harvesting is applicable to all residential plots above 100 sq.m.
  • Water being a State subject, initiatives on water management including conservation and water harvesting in the Country is primarily States’ responsibility.
  • So the implementation of the rainwater harvesting policy comes within the purview of the State Government/Urban Local Body / Urban Development Authority.


Groundwater governance in India

  • Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) has been constituted under Section 3(3) of the ‘Environment (Protection) Act, 1986’ for the purpose of regulation and control of groundwater development and management in the Country.
  • CGWA is regulating ground water withdrawal by industries/infrastructure/ mining projects in the country for which guidelines/ criteria have been framed which includes rainwater harvesting as one of the provisions while issuing No Objection Certificate.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] ‘1000 Springs’ Initiative


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ‘1000 Springs’ Initiative

Mains level : Conservation of aquifers



Union Tribal Affairs Ministry has launched “1000 Spring Initiatives” and an online portal on GIS-based Spring Atlas with hydrological and chemical properties of the Springs on the occasion.

‘1000 Springs’ Initiative

  • The ‘1000 Springs Initiative’ aims at improving access to safe and adequate water for the tribal communities living in a difficult and inaccessible part of rural areas in the country.
  • It is an integrated solution around natural springs.
  • It includes the provision of infrastructure for piped water supply for drinking; provision of water for irrigation; community-led total sanitation initiatives; and provision for water for backyard nutrition gardens, generating sustainable livelihood opportunities for the tribal people.
  • It will help in harnessing the potential of perennial springs’ water to address the natural scarcity of water in tribal areas.

Spring Atlas

  • Springs are natural sources of groundwater discharge and have been used extensively in the mountainous regions across the world, including India.
  • However, in the central and eastern Indian belt with more than 75% tribal population, it remains largely unrecognized and under-utilized.
  • An online portal on GIS-based Spring Atlas has been developed to make these data easily accessible from an online platform.
  • Presently, data of more than 170 springs have been uploaded on the Spring Atlas.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Debating water quality


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Jal Jeevan Mission, ensuring quality drinking water.


The competitive politics of Delhi election has brought the issue of drinking water to centre stage.

Controversy over BIS water status report

  • Politicising of the report: The controversy started with the release of the BIS report for 21 major Indian cities, in keeping with the objectives of the ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’.
    • The mission aims to provide safe piped water to all households by 2024.
    • The fact that drinking water in Delhi was ranked the most unsafe, as the samples failed in 19 out of 28 parameters, was challenged by the Government of Delhi and the Delhi Jal Board (DJB).
  • Compilation of information on the existing status: The study is scheduled to cover all districts in the country within a year. Supply of potable water obviously requires first compilation of information on the existing status
  • Water as an urgent concern: The fact that water should be treated as an urgent concern for public health and the ecosystem of the country cannot be denied.
  • Imperceptible threat: The threats to human health due to poor water quality, except when they appear as an epidemic, are largely imperceptible.
    • This generally subjects the population to subtle health problems without its knowledge or consent.

Pollution and water crisis in India

  • Pollution contributing to water crisis: India is on the throes of a severe water crisis, not only because of a gradual reduction in per capita availability of water due to a rising population but also because of rising and unchecked pollution in the country’s rivers and water bodies.
    • It is a fact which is mostly overlooked in the deliberations on water resources management.
  • Only 30% sewage treatment capacity in major cities: As per published estimates of the Central Pollution Control Board, the country has a treatment capacity of only about 30% of sewage generated in the major cities.
    • Not to talk of other urban and rural areas where the sewage finds its way to local water bodies or rivers without treatment.

Impending water stress in the country

  • NITI Aayog report: A 2018 Report of the NITI Aayog has observed that currently, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress.
    • The report also states that about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
  • Demand twice the supply by 2030: The crisis is only going to get worse.
    • 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.
  • High methane in Yamuna water in Delhi: For the water coming from the Yamuna released from Haryana, the DJB has to often stop the supply for a few days if the concentration of methane goes up beyond a certain level.
    • This is because the tri-chloromethane that may be produced during the disinfection process is highly carcinogenic.
    • The effect may surface on human health not immediately but over a period of time.

The capital’s high pollutant load and need for improvement in governance

  • Contributing 50% pollutant: Delhi, which constitutes less than 1% of the total catchment of the Yamuna, contributes more than 50% of total pollutant load in the river.
    • Delhi has 7,000 km of sewer line as on date, against a requirement of 24,000 km.
    • The 17 sewage treatment plants being operated by the DJB are able to take care of not more than 30% of sewage treatment.
  • There is no sewerage system at all for over 45% of the population in unauthorised and even regularised colonies and rural areas.
  • As of now, there are 18 major drains carrying sewage, garbage and industrial effluents into the Yamuna.
  • Solid waste dumping in Yamuna: It is not only the untreated sewage water and industrial effluents, but also the solid wastes and construction material discharged by individuals, companies and municipal bodies that have caused the suffocation of the Yamuna.
    • Also, floodplains have been encroached upon by settlements.
  • Challenge of supplying quality water: Ensuring the supply of quality drinking water is not only expensive, but it also needs improvement in governance.
    • It needs technical knowledge on measurement and regulation of water quality.
    • It is not the fault of the DJB or the Delhi government alone that they have not been able to ensure a 100% supply of quality water to the citizens of Delhi.
    • Given the constraints they face, especially those concerning the water resources management and laws in the country.


The Jal Jeevan Mission, even if it has not been so far structured, conceptualised and funded adequately, has begun the important work of gathering information on the scale and scope of the problem and making it available in an open and transparent manner. The best outcome is that the competitive politics of the Delhi election has ensured a political debate on water quality.




Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan

Mains level : Various schemes for drought management



Jalyukta Shivar, the flagship water conservation project launched by the earlier government has been officially scrapped by the present Maha government.

What is Jalyukta Shivar?

  • Launched in December 2014 after Maharashtra experienced consecutive droughts, the project aimed at rolling out measures that could potentially mitigate water scarcity in the most drought-prone villages in a systematic manner.
  • Nearly 52 per cent of the state’s geographical area is prone to drought, either naturally or due to poor rainfall.
  • This includes Marathwada and adjoining areas of Madhya Maharashtra and large parts of Vidarbha.
  • The project targeted strengthening and streamlining existing water resources like canals, bunds and ponds by arresting maximum run-off rainwater during monsoon.
  • Tasks to widen and deepen natural water streams and connect them to nearby water storage facilities like earthen or concrete check-dams were proposed.
  • In the first phase, planned during 2015 – 2019, Jalyukta Shivar envisaged making 5,000 villages drought-free, every year.
  • During its proposed tenure, the government eyed at making 25,000 drought-prone villages water-sufficient.

Was Jalyukta Shivar beneficial?

  • While the exact number of villages that were declared drought-free remains unknown, the programme attempted to bring water stress down in a majority of the most water-scarce villages in the state.
  • In January last year, then CM had announced that the scheme had transformed 16,000 drought-prone villages of Maharashtra.

What is the future of water conservation in the state?

  • Geologists and hydrologists, who worked on implementing the project, shared similar views and hailed Jalyukta Shivar.
  • This was mainly due to the interventions undertaken in the existing water reserves, planned de-silting activities, among many others.
  • However, experts agreed that the scheme was not appropriately implemented.
  • Now with Jalyukta Shivar no longer in existence, focused efforts of the past five years, in most likelihood, will go down the drain unless a similar scheme is introduced.
  • With rainfall variations getting more pronounced, in addition to depleting groundwater reserves, the state will need concrete interventions to tackle future water requirements.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

National Groundwater Management Improvement Programme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Atal Bhujal Yojana

Mains level : Groundwater recharge and conservation efforts

The Government of India and the World Bank have signed a $450 million loan agreement to support the national programme to arrest the country’s depleting groundwater levels and strengthen groundwater institutions.

About the Programme

  • The World Bank-supported programme will be implemented in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh and cover 78 districts.
  • These states span both the hard rock aquifers of peninsular India and the alluvial aquifers of the Indo-Gangetic plains.
  • They were selected based on several criteria, including degree of groundwater exploitation and degradation, established legal and regulatory instruments, institutional readiness, and experience in implementing initiatives related to groundwater management.
  • This programme will contribute to rural livelihoods and in the context of climatic shifts, build resilience of the rural economy.


The programme will, among others, enhance the recharge of aquifers and introduce water conservation practices; promote activities related to water harvesting, water management, and crop alignment; create an institutional structure for sustainable groundwater management; and equip communities and stakeholders to sustainably manage groundwater.

Particulars of the programme

  • The programme will introduce a bottom-up planning process for community-driven development of water budgets and Water Security Plans (WSPs).
  • Water budgets will assess surface and groundwater conditions (both quantity and quality) and identify current and future needs.
  • The WSP, on the other hand, will focus on improving groundwater quantity and incentivize selected states to implement the actions proposed.
  • Such community-led management measures will make users aware of consumption patterns and pave the way for economic measures that reduce groundwater consumption.
  • Crop management and diversification will be the other focus areas.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Arsenic Contamination


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Arsenic poisoning and its effects on food chain

Mains level : Groundwater contamination

As the geography of arsenic contamination spreads, there is an urgent need for governments to reorient mitigation measures. That’s because the focus till now has only been on drinking water, but new research says arsenic has contaminated our food chain.

Arsenic contamination of water

  • Arsenic contamination in groundwater is one of the most crippling issues in the drinking water scenario of India.
  • According to the latest report of the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), 21 states across the country have pockets with arsenic levels higher than the BIS stipulated permissible limit of 0.01 milligram per litre (mg/l).
  • The states along the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) river basin — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Assam — are the worst affected by this human-amplified geogenic occurrence.
  • In India, arsenic contamination was first officially confirmed in West Bengal in 1983.
  • Close to four decades after its detection, the scenario has worsened.
  • About 9.6 million people in West Bengal, 1.6 million in Assam, 1.2 million in Bihar, 0.5 million in Uttar Pradesh and 0.013 million in Jharkhand are at immediate risk from arsenic contamination in groundwater.

Effects of arsenic poisoning

  • Long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking water can cause cancer in the skin, lungs, bladder and kidney. It can also cause other skin changes such as thickening and pigmentation.
  • The likelihood of effects is related to the level of exposure to arsenic and in areas where drinking water is heavily contaminated, these effects can be seen in many individuals in the population.
  • Increased risks of lung and bladder cancer and skin changes have been reported in people ingesting arsenic in drinking water at concentrations of 50 µg/litre, or even lower.

Affecting food

  • Recent research says arsenic contamination in groundwater has penetrated the food chain.
  • It eventually causes photo-accumulation of arsenic in the food crops, especially in the leaves, can emanate from contaminated water sprayed on them.
  • Yet the focus remained on drinking water, and the affected regions became the primary stake-holder in the mitigation approach.

Way forward

  • Mitigation measures — that are currently focused on drinking water — must have a more comprehensive approach to ensure arsenic-free water for drinking and agricultural products.
  • That means that the government must check for arsenic in water used for agricultural produce.
  • Both the Union and state governments must work toward facilitating research that can investigate the accumulation of arsenic in crops and addressing the agricultural concerns of the affected regions.
  • They must watch out for arsenic percolation in the food chain and the possibilities of biomagnification.
  • The government needs to also conduct a larger study on the arsenic contamination of our food chain and its health impacts to understand its spatial spread through the agricultural supply chain.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Energy stored in wastewater


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNU-INWEH

Mains level : Need for wastewater management

The world generates about 380 trillion litres (tl) wastewater every year. These stores vast amounts of energy, nutrients for fertilizers besides, of course, water, according to recent study by the UN Institute for Water Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).

Energy in wastewater

  • In principle, nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium recovered from wastewater produced annually can offset 13.4 per cent of global demand to produce fertilizers.
  • Assuming full-energy recovery, the study estimated, current wastewater volume could provide enough methane fuel to power 196 million households by 2030 and 239 million households by 2050.
  • Usable water reclaimed from wastewater can irrigate up to 31 million hectares (mha) of land, the study claimed.
  • The volume of wastewater being generated is projected to rise roughly 24 per cent by 2030 to 470 tl and 51 per cent by 2050 to 574 tl.
  • Treating wastewater efficiently can go a long way in achieving the UN-mandated sustainable development goals (SDG).


  • UNU-INWEH acts as the “UN Think Tank on Water” and contributes to the resolution of the global water challenge through a unique programme of applied research and education.
  • It conceives, develops, and manages water initiatives that help developing countries build their capacity for lasting improvements in human and ecosystem health, and overall reduction in poverty.
  • The  University is not a traditional university in the sense of having a faculty, campus, or students.
  • They respond directly to the regional and global water crisis and facilitate efforts to meet UN Development goals by providing a scientific evidence base.
  • UNU-INWEH carries out its work in cooperation with other research institutions, international organizations, individual scholars, and scientists throughout the world.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Ujh Multi-purpose Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the Project, Indus Water Treaty

Mains level : Indus Water Treaty


The Union government has approved a nearly ₹6,000-crore multi-purpose project for the Ujh multi-purpose project.

Ujh Multi-purpose Project

  • The project will store around 781 million cubic meters of water of river Ujh, a tributary of river Ravi.
  • It aims to provide uninterrupted water for irrigation to farmers in J&K’s Kathua district and to produce power.
  • After completion of the project, utilization of waters of eastern rivers allotted to India as per the Indus Water Treaty would be enhanced by utilising the flow that presently goes across the border to Pakistan.


Indus Waters Treaty, 1960

  • The IWT is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank signed in Karachi in 1960.
  • According to this agreement, control over the water flowing in three “eastern” rivers of India — the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej was given to India
  • The control over the water flowing in three “western” rivers of India — the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum was given to Pakistan
  • The treaty allowed India to use western rivers water for limited irrigation use and unrestricted use for power generation, domestic, industrial and non-consumptive uses such as navigation, floating of property, fish culture, etc. while laying down precise regulations for India to build projects
  • India has also been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through run of the river (RoR) projects on the Western Rivers which, subject to specific criteria for design and operation is unrestricted.

Present Status of Development

  • To utilize the waters of the Eastern rivers which have been allocated to India for exclusive use, India has constructed Bhakra Dam on Satluj, Pong and Pandoh Dam on Beas and Thein (Ranjitsagar) on Ravi.
  • These storage works, together with other works like Beas-Sutlej Link, Madhopur-Beas Link, Indira Gandhi Nahar Project etc has helped India utilize nearly entire share (95 %) of waters of Eastern rivers.
  • However, about 2 MAF of water annually from Ravi is reported to be still flowing unutilized to Pakistan below Madhopur.
  • The three projects will help India to utilize its entire share of waters given under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960:

I. Resumption of Construction of Shahpurkandi project

  • It is a dam project under construction on Ravi River.

II. Construction of Ujh multipurpose project

  • It is a dam project under construction on Ujh, a tributary of Ravi River.

III. 2nd Ravi Beas link below Ujh

  • This project is being planned to tap excess water flowing down to Pakistan through river Ravi, even after construction of Thein Dam.
  • It aims constructing a barrage across river Ravi for diverting water through a  tunnel link to Beas basin.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] Atal Bhujal Yojana (Atal Jal)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Atal Jal

Mains level : Significance of the scheme

PM Modi has formally launched Atal Bhujal Yojana (ATAL JAL).

Atal Bhujal Yojana

  • Type: Central Sector Scheme
  • Related Ministry/Department: Ministry of Jal Shakti
  • Period: The scheme is to be implemented over a period of 5 years from 2018-19 to 2022-23, with World Bank assistance.

Aims and objective

  • The scheme aims to improve groundwater management in priority areas in the country through community participation.
  • The priority areas identified under the scheme fall in the states of  Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
  • These States represent about 25% of the total number of over-exploited, critical and semi-critical blocks in terms of groundwater in India.
  • 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.


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

Community Participation

  • 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.
  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] National Ganga Council


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Ganga Council

Mains level : National Ganga Council and its mandate

The first meeting of the National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga (or the National Ganga Council) was recently held in Kanpur.

 National Ganga Council

  • The National Ganga Council (NGC) is an authority created in October 2016 under the River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016, dissolving the National Ganga River Basin Authority.
  • In this backdrop, NGC has been established as an authority and National Mission for Clean Ganga has been also converted into an authority.
  • The Council has been given overall responsibility for the superintendence of pollution prevention and rejuvenation of River Ganga Basin, including Ganga and its tributaries.


  • The Prime Minister is the ex-officio Chairperson for the NGC
  • Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation will be the ex-officio Vice-Chairperson.
  • The other ex-officio members of the council are from various ministries and CMs of the corresponding states among other stakeholders.

Jurisdiction of the NGC

  • The jurisdiction of the NGC shall extend to the States comprising River Ganga Basin, namely, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Haryana, and the NCR of Delhi and such other States, having major tributaries of the River Ganga.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[oped of the day] Not many lessons learnt from water planning failures


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jal Shakti Abhiyan

Mains level : Analysis of JSA


The Central government launched the Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA), a time-bound, mission-mode water conservation campaign to be carried out in two phases, across the 255 districts having critical and over-exploited groundwater levels. 

Jal Shakti Abhiyan

  • This campaign was not intended to be a funding programme and did not create any new intervention on its own. 
  • It only aimed to make water conservation a ‘people’s movement’ through ongoing schemes like the MGNREGA and other government programmes.
  • The JSA is modelled and driven by success stories such as NGO Tarun Bharat Sangh’s experiment in Alwar, Rajasthan and Anna Hazare-led efforts in Ralegan Siddhi, Maharashtra. 
  • These projects primarily involved building tanks and ponds to capture rainwater and building recharge wells to recharge groundwater. 
  • It is unclear whether they were based on reference to watershed management or groundwater prospect maps.

Planning scientifically

  • Hydrological units – Water planning should be based on hydrological units, namely river basins. Political and administrative boundaries of districts rarely coincide with the hydrological boundaries or aquifer boundaries. 
  • JSA’s units – JSA was planned based on the boundary of the districts, and to be carried out under the overall supervision of a bureaucrat. This divided basins/aquifers into multiple units that followed multiple policies. 
  • Data – There was no data on basin-wise rainfall, no analysis of run-off and groundwater maps were rarely used. One never came to know whether water harvested in a pond in a district was at the cost of water in adjoining districts.
  • Water-stressed basins – Most of India’s water-stressed basins are facing closure, with the demand exceeding supply. Groundwater recharge happened at the cost of surface water and vice versa. The absence of autonomous and knowledge-intensive river-basin organisations is a problem.

Current Status & Limitations of data

  • The JSA’s portal displays impressive data, images and statistics. It claims that there are around 10 million ongoing and completed water conservation structures; 7.6 million recharge structures. 
  • It also says that one billion saplings have been planted and that six million people participated in awareness campaigns. 
  • Missing data – The data displayed on JSA portal do not speak anything about the pre-JSA water levels, the monthly water levels and impact of monsoon on the water levels across the 255 districts with critical and over-exploited blocks. 
  • They also don’t convey anything about the quality of the structures, their maintenance and sustainability. 
  • Even if the water levels had been measured, it is unknown whether the measurement was accurate. 
  • The results for a 2016 study conducted by the Central Groundwater Board showed that water levels always increase post-monsoon. It requires long-term monitoring of water level data to determine the actual impact of a measure like JSA. 
  • Lack of parameters – There is no such parameter to measure the outcome of such a mission-mode campaign.

Facile assumptions

  • Common people – it assumes that common people in rural areas are ignorant and prone to wasting water. They are the ones who first bear the brunt of any water crisis. 
  • Distorted allocation – The per capita water allocation to those living in rural areas is 55 liters, whereas the same for urban areas like Delhi and Bengaluru is 135-150 liters.
  • Urban waste – the sewage generated from towns and cities pollutes village water sources such as tanks, ponds, and wells.
  • Poor quality – Most of the farm bunds built with soil can collapse within one monsoon season due to rains and/or trespassing by farm vehicles, animals and humans. 
  • Supervision – there are issues like lack of proper engineering supervision of these structures, involvement of multiple departments with less or no coordination, and limited funding under MGNERGA and other schemes.
  • Water-intensive crops – no efforts were undertaken to dissuade farmers from growing water-intensive crops such as paddy, sugarcane, and bananas. Agriculture consumes 80% of freshwater.


Jal Shakti Abhiyan

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

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Natural Water Towers


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Water Towers System

Mains level : Various initiatives for water conservation

The Indus River and its tributaries, which flow through parts of China, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, are among the most vulnerable ‘water towers’ in the world, National Geographic has revealed.

Water Towers System

  • Mountains provide lowlands with essential freshwater for irrigation and food production, for industrial use, and for the domestic needs of rapidly growing urban populations.
  • Hence they are often referred to as natural “water towers”.
  • They are highly sensitive and prone to climate change yet their importance and vulnerability have not been quantified at the global scale.
  • Besides the Indus, other highly vulnerable water towers in Asia include the Tarim, Amu Darya and Syr Darya in Central Asia and the Ganges-Brahmaputra in South Asia.

Five most relied-upon, natural water tower systems in those regions:

  • Asia: Indus, Tarim, Amu Darya, Syr Darya, Ganges-Brahmaputra
  • Europe: Rhône, Po, Rhine, Black Sea North Coast, Caspian Sea Coast
  • North America: Fraser, Columbia and Northwest United States, Pacific and Arctic Coast, Saskatchewan-Nelson, North America-Colorado
  • South America: South Chile, South Argentina, Negro, La Puna region, North Chile


  • Asia’s Indus basin – fed by the Himalayan, Karakoram, Hindu-Kush, and Ladakh ranges – to be the most important storage unit on the planet.
  • Its waters, produced at high elevation from rain and snow, and draining from lakes and glaciers, support more than 200 million people settled across parts of Afghanistan, China, India and Pakistan.


Drainage System | Part 3

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] Per Capita availability of Water


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)

Mains level : Ensuring safe drinking water for all

The per capita availability of water in India is reducing due to the increase in population.

Water availability per person

  • The average annual per capita water availability in the years 2001 and 2011 was assessed as 1816 cubic meters and 1545 cubic meters
  • It may further reduce to 1486 cubic meters in the year 2021.

About Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)

  • The govt. has launched Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), which aims at providing functional household tap connections to every rural household by 2024 at the service level of 55 litre per capita per day.
  • This mission will focus on integrated demand and supply side management of water at the local level, including creation of local infrastructure for source sustainability like rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household wastewater for reuse in agriculture.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] National Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme (NAQUIM)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NAQUIM

Mains level : Acquifer mapping in India

Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) is implementing ‘National Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme’ (NAQUIM) for aquifer mapping in the country.


  • Water being a State subject, initiatives on water management including conservation and artificial recharge to ground water in the Country is primarily States’ responsibility.
  • The NAQUIM is one such initiative of the Ministry of Jal Shakti for mapping and managing the entire aquifer systems in the country.
  • The vision is 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.

Highlights of the mapping

  • Out of the total mappable area of nearly 25 lakh sq km, so far aquifer maps and management plans have been prepared for an area of nearly 11.24 lakh sq km spread over various parts of the country.
  • As per the ground water resource assessment carried out jointly by CGWB and State ground water departments, 1186 assessment units in the country have been categorized as over-exploited, of which aquifer mapping has been completed in nearly 75% Units.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Sukapaika River


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mahanadi river system

Mains level : Threats to natural water bodies

Embankments have killed Odisha’s Sukapaika river that was the lifeline of over 0.5 million people.


  • Sukapaika is one of the several distributaries of the mighty Mahanadi river in Odisha.
  • It branches away from the Mahanadi at Ayatpur village in Cuttack district and flows for about 40 kilometres (km) before rejoining its parent river at Tarapur in the same district.
  • In the process, it drains a large landmass comprising over 425 villages.
  • However, the river is undergoing sudden barrenness.

Why is the river diminishing?

  • The problem has its roots in 1952, when the state government blocked the starting point of the Sukapaika with an embankment to save the villages around it from floods.
  • Subsequently, in 1957, two major projects — Hirakud Dam in Sambalpur district and Naraj barrage at Cuttack — were built upstream on the Mahanadi, ostensibly to control floods in it.
  • However, the embankment on the Sukapiaka was not removed.
  • This left the distributary totally dependent on rainwater. The neglect has hit the 0.5 million people residing in the villages over the next half a century.
  • The riverbed has suffered erosion and it is full of hyacinth.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Reverse Osmosis (RO)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Osmosis, TDS

Mains level : Drinking water crisis in India

  • The Supreme Court has refused to interfere with a NGT order and asked the Association of RO manufacturers to approach the Centre with its grievances.
  • The NGT had passed an order prohibiting the use of RO purifiers when Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in water are below 500 mg per litre.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

  • TDS is made up of inorganic salts as well as small amounts of organic matter.
  • According to the World Health Organisation, TDS levels below 300 mg per litre are considered excellent, while 900 mg per litre is said to be poor and above 1,200 mg is unacceptable.
  • The top court directed the government to regulate the use of purifiers and also passed directions to sensitise the public about the ill-effects of demineralised water.
  • During the hearing, the counsel representing the Association referred to a recent BIS report on standards of water and said it points to the presence of heavy metals in Delhi’s groundwater.

Explained: Osmosis and Reverse Osmosis

  • Osmosis is a phenomenon where pure water flows from a dilute solution through a semi permeable membrane to a higher concentrated solution.
  • Semi permeable means that the membrane will allow small molecules and ions to pass through it but acts as a barrier to larger molecules or dissolved substances.
  • As water passes through the membrane to the salt solution, the level of liquid in the saltwater compartment will rise until enough pressure, caused by the difference in levels between the two compartments, is generated to stop the osmosis.
  • This pressure, equivalent to a force that the osmosis seems to exert in trying to equalize concentrations on both sides of the membrane, is called osmotic pressure.
  • If pressure greater than the osmotic pressure is applied to the high concentration the direction of water flow through the membrane can be reversed.
  • This is called reverse osmosis Note that this reversed flow produces pure water from the salt solution, since the membrane is not permeable to salt.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Water Quality Report


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Water Quality Report

Mains level : Issues with potable water in India

A report ranking major cities on the basis of quality of tap water was recently released by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

Delhi fares the worst

  • If it wasn’t enough that Delhi air is among the world’s most polluted, a new study has now shown that the city’s tap water is the most unsafe among 21 State capitals.
  • The national capital is at the very bottom of the list.
  • It is among 13 cities, including Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Jaipur and Lucknow, where all tested samples failed to meet the BIS norms for piped drinking water.
  • In fact, Mumbai is the only city where all samples of tap water met all the tested parameters under the Indian Standard 10500:2012 (specification for drinking water) so far.

Why such report?

  • Under its flagship Jal Jeevan Mission, the Centre aims to provide safe piped water to all households by 2024.
  • However, the study, conducted by the BIS for the Union Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry, showed that even in urban areas, which are connected to the piped water network, there is no guarantee that the water is safe for consumption.
  • While it is mandatory for bottled water manufacturers to meet quality standards, the BIS standard is voluntary for the public agencies which supply and distribute piped water.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Quality on tap: On report of Ministry of Consumer Affairs


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Water standard

Mains level : Piped water quality in India


The report of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution red-flagged tap water quality in major Indian cities.

The report

    • BIS – The tests were carried out by the Bureau of Indian Standards for the Ministry.
    • Delhi least – Delhi has abysmal water quality. Chennai and Kolkata rank very low. Mumbai is the only city with acceptable results. 
    • This is not surprising as many official water distribution agencies routinely advise consumers to consume only boiled water.

Water Quality

    • Standard – City water systems are required to comply with the national standard for drinking water, IS 10500:2012.
    • Requirements – the Indian standard has a plethora of quality requirements, including the absence of viruses, parasites and microscopic organisms, and control over levels of toxic substances. 

Reasons for poor quality

    • Packaged water – lack of initiative could be attributed to the expanding use of packaged drinking water in populous cities.
    • Groundwater use — high dependence on groundwater in fast-growing urban clusters where State provision of piped water systems does not exist. 
    • Poor standards in practice – municipal water fails the tests due to the lack of accountability of the official agencies, and the absence of robust data in the public domain on quality testing.

Solving the problem

    • Name & shame – The Centre’s approach relies on naming and shaming through a system of ranking.
    • May not be effective – This is unlikely to yield results as in similar attempts to benchmark other urban services. 
    • Legally binding – Making it legally binding on agencies to achieve standards and empowering consumers with rights is essential.
    • Integrated view – state governments should take an integrated view of housing, water supply, sanitation, and waste management. 
    • Scientific – A scientific approach to water management is vital, considering that 21 cities could run out of groundwater as early as 2020 as per a NITI Aayog report.
    • Water crisis – the Central Ground Water Board estimates that nearly a fifth of the urban local bodies is already facing a water crisis due to excessive extraction, failed monsoons, and unplanned development. 
    • Regular testing – entrust the task to a separate agency in each State, rather than relying on the agency that provides water to perform this function. 
    • Public data – If data on the water are made public on the same lines as air quality, it would increase pressure on governments to act. 


The response of water departments to the challenge has been to chlorinate the supply, as this removes pathogens, ignoring such aspects as appearance, smell, and taste. It is time to move beyond this and make tap water genuinely desirable.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

National Water Policy (NWP)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Water Policy

Mains level : Highlights of the Policy

  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

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


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LOTUS-HR project

Mains level : Wastewater management in India

  • 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

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[oped of the day] Rethinking water management issues


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : NITI strateg reforms on water - analysus

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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Scientists find ‘ancient river’ in UP


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the river

Mains level : Paleochannels and their significance in groundwater recharge

  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) 2.0  


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CWMI 2.0

Mains level : Utility of CWMI

  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] A jan andolan for water


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Water conservation - Jal Jeevan Missiojn


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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Decoding post-Flood Landslides in Kerala


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various terms mentioned in the news

Mains level : Effective post flood management


  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

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


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sardar Sarovar Project

Mains level : Inter-state water disputes

  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Rethinking water governance strategies


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Water crisis and solutions


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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

‘Samagra Shiksha-Jal Suraksha’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Details of the scheme

Mains level : Nothing much

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

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Ocean warming, overfishing increase methylmercury toxin in fish


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Methylmercury - water pollution

Mains level : climate change impact

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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

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


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas

Mains level : Water stress


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

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Explained: How India intends to make its dams safer


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Debate over Dam Safety Bill

  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Water Stress Index


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Water Crisis Index

Mains level : Drinking water crisis in India

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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Jalyukta Shivar Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jalyukta Shivar Scheme

Mains level : Various initiatives for water conservation

  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Single Tribunal for hear water disputes


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tribunals

Mains level : Interstate 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Water Desalination


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Reverse Osmosis

Mains level : Need for 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

“Sanchay Jal, Behtar Kal” Campaign


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sanchay Jal Behtar Kal Campaign

Mains level : Importance of Water Harvesting

  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

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


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Water conservation in urban areas to deal with severe 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Not just pipes and tankers


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Water crisis in India


  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

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


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jal Shakti Abhiyan

Mains level : Ensuring safe drinking water for all

  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

‘Jal Hi Jiwan’ Scheme in Haryana


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jal Hi Jivan Scheme

Mains level : Groundwater management

  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Running dry


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Water Crisis in urban areas

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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dead Zones

Mains level : Impact of excessive water pollution

  • 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

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

‘Nal Se Jal’ Yojana


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nal Se Jal Scheme

Mains level : Ensuring safe drinking water for all

  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Government launches new ‘Jal Shakti’ Ministry


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jal Shakti Ministry

Mains level : Terms of reference for new 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Sops to shun paddy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Focus should shift from water guzzling crops like rice to conserve ground water.


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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Arsenic bio-remediation using two soil bacteria


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Arsenic contamination and bioremediation

Mains level : Prevention of water pollution

  • 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).

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Bacteriophages in Ganga Water


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bacteriophages

Mains level : Importance of Ganga River

  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Discolouration of Periyar


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Periyar River, Eutrophication

Mains level : Riverine water pollution in India

  • 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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

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

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[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:

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[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.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

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.

Importance for the exams

  • Mains – Understand the problems with the existing water management institutions. How a new institutional framework tries to address these, its criticism.
  • Prelims – All the bodies involved, their structure, composition – CWC, CGWB and the proposed NWC.

In News

Mihir Shah Committee recommendations on institutional reforms are being considered by the govt. The Committee proposes setting up of a new National Water Commission(NWC) whose focus will be protection, conservation and preservation of water. It will subsume the present bodies – Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) and Central Water Commission (CWC).
These reforms are necessary for the effective implementation of the two proposed laws whose drafts have been released by the Ministry of Water Resources.

Present Framework

Water Management is carried out by 2 bodies
  1. CGWB is responsible for framing policies and guidelines related to the exploitation of ground water .
  2. CWC deals with water in irrigation projects and reservoirs.
Work of river conservation and planning is divided among two Ministries, the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Environment. Glaciers and snow cover are dealt with by the Ministry of Earth Sciences from the point of view of climate change research.

Issues with the present framework

  1. These bodies were setup in an era when India faced completely different set of challenges. CWC was mostly concerned with the creation of irrigation capacity to ensure food security. Likewise, CGWB was concerned with availability of drinking water at the cost of groundwater exploitation. They are not equipped to meet the challenges of today.
  2. In the current setup, they work independently in an isolated manner with very little coordination leading to over extraction of groundwater and drying up of peninsular rivers.
  3. According to a CWC note, 11 different Departments or Ministries handle the subject of water in different ways.

Aim and working of NWC

  1. NWC will unify these 2 bodies and ensure all water-related activities are in sync with each other. Will views surface water and ground water in an integrated and holistic manner.
  2. River basin as a unit of planning – Given the integral link between aquifers, groundwater and river flows, it is important that planning for water management is done at the level of the river basin itself.
  3. It will stress on a multidisciplinary approach towards water usage and conservation by consulting professionals from across the domain
  4. Will follow a participatory approach where Local communities will have a decisive role in the allocation and use of water in their areas.
  5. Industries to declare water footprint.


1. Chief National Water Commissioner as its head.
2. Full time commissioners representing hydrology, hydrogeology, hydrometeorology, river ecology, ecological economics, agronomy (with focus on soil and water) and participatory resource planning and management.
3. 8 divisions –  Irrigation Reform, River Rejuvenation, Participatory Groundwater Management, Urban and Industrial Water, Water Security (including droughts, floods and climate change) and Water Quality


1. The proposed reforms were already being taken up by CGWB and CWC and now they fear will be lost. The recommendations state that they will be merged within the 8 divisions.
2. No way to tell if it will be an effective tool to resolve inter-state issues.


Old Water Policy 2012
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