States highlight water crisis, seek aid at high-level review meet

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New Delhi, June 11 (IANS) State water resources ministers and officials on Tuesday brought to the forefront the need for urgent action as the Centre held a review meeting with them against the backdrop of drought-like conditions in many parts of the country and the delay in the arrival of the southwest monsoon.

“There is drought in the state and there is scarcity of water. About 6,600 tankers have been pressed into the service to provide water to villages,” said Babanrao Lonikar, Water Supply Minister of Maharashtra.

Uttar Pradesh Rural Development Minister Mahendra Singh expressed concern over drought-like situation in Bundelkhand. “We are making efforts to tackle water crisis. We are developing water harvesting projects,” he said.

Faced with an acute drinking water problem in the state, the Tamil Nadu government has asked for central assistance of Rs 5,000 crore to fund the various drinking water schemes. The problem had been accentuated by delayed rains and the depletion of water sources.

Chhattisgarh Water Resources Ravindra Choubey asked central government to find a mechanism for speedy resolution to interstate water dispute as delays has been affecting irrigation projects

In Maharashtra’s Vidarbha and Marathwada, Bundelkhand that spread across Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and in parts of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Rajasthan, water scarcity had started to become a major issue.

With predictions of June and July being rain deficit, the issue can become more serious and can pose a major challenge before authorities in providing water for household consumption and agriculture.

There were worries that matters were unlikely to improve quickly because of the delayed monsoon, which is also expected to be sluggish and erratic and may turn deficit.

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said ‘water’ was a state subject and the central government would pitch in if states asked for assistance.

“There cannot be immediate plans in case of water. It is a state subject. We have asked states to come to us if they need any help,” he said.

He said the drought issue was not as big as being portrayed in the news media. He however admitted that there were areas in many states where the situation was of concern.

Ministers from many states, who had come to Delhi to attend a conference on drinking water and water conservation, highlighted the water scarcity situation in their states and demanded funds to deal with the issue.

Drinking and Sanitation Water Secretary Parmeswaran Iyer, who said the meeting was the first ministerial level meeting to discuss an integrated appraoch to water, said the ministry was working on a new water supply programme to provide drinking water connections to rural households and that such a team could only be successful if all water conservation efforts were integrated.

Live storage status of 91 reservoirs in the country has dropped to 161.993 billion cubic metre BCM), far lower than the live storage capacity of 257.812 BCM which is estimated to have been created in the country. However, Shekhawat said that in reservoirs under the central government, live storage capacity was 14 per cent higher compared to the corresponding period last year.

–IANS

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