Highlights of Jal Shakti Minister’s interview – we are late, but not too late!

The original transcript of this Interview with the Jal Shakti minister – Gajendra Singh Shekhawat – was published by Indian Express titled – Work should have begun 20 years ago. We’re late, but not too late: Jal Shakti Minister

The interview touches on many aspects which will are critical in understanding the multi-front battle that water crisis in India is/may-soon-become.

Highlights of the interview:

Key Focus Areas of Jal Shakti Ministry:

  • Providing Access to Drinking water
  • Source Sustainability – sources of water must be sustainable by point recharge mechanism or groundwater recharging
  • Treatment and re-use of discharged water

India has very high dependence on underground water

  • Annual precipitation: 4,000 BCM (Billion Cubic Meters) ,Usable annual precipitation: 1,198 BCM . (why this delta?)
  • No of Reservoirs: 5400 with total holding Capacity less than 300 BCM (whats the cost and time needed to add reservoirs? What challenges?)
  • Total replenishable water ( all the sources, incl underground sources): 400 BCM. (break-up of replenshiable water sources)
  • Hence, we can use only 600 BCM of water.
  • 65 per cent dependence on underground water.
  • Impact of population increase:
    • water availability per person per year (1950): 5,100 cubic metres
    • water availability per person per year (12019):1400 cubic metres
    • will go down to a 1,000 cubic metres in coming years
Gajendra Singh Shekawat
Source: Indian Express

Four Steps to tackle water scarcity

  1. Rain water harvesting
  2. Judicious use of water
  3. Re-use of water (across domestic and industrial setups)
  4. Afforestation

Workstreams underway at Jal Shakti ministry

  • Identify traditional water bodies in EACH district. The ministry has already written to the states and expects to close this within next 90 days (Nov’19). Bundelkhand case-study
  • Identified 250 districts that are water-stressed, over-exploited or critical (along lines of Gram Swaraj Abhiyan of 2017). Teams are on the ground till Sep and will prepare a plan including mobilizing citizen support. (how can Project Blue Planet help here)

Updates on Ganga Cleanup Project

  • Challenge: Most towns and villages along the river were pumping sewage into Ganga. Sewage treatment plants were old and non-functional.
  • First two years – studying Ganga river comprehensively
  • Last three years – capacity building (installing more sewage treatment plants). “What I can say with confidence is that, by this November, no homes in Uttarakhand will dump their raw sewage into the Ganga….. By December, Varanasi will have no drains releasing sewage into the Ganga”

Other interesting initiatives/observations

  • Black vs grey water – the water coming out of the homes is not of one but two different kinds. The black water coming from toilets needs significant treatment, whereas the grey water coming from kitchens can be made re-usable at probably 10% of the cost.
  • Hybrid annuity – PPP Model for Sewage Treatment plants. Already implemented in the Ganga basin states as the plants were operating at very low capacity.
  • 70% of Singapore drinks treated sewage water !
  • 90% of the water used in agriculture in India is fresh water, whereas in countries such as China and Brazil, the figure stands at 64 % and 60 % respectively.
  • No immediate plans to price water – state issue.“We can make drinking water a revenue source, but along with that if we also make treated sewage water into a revenue model, then everything will be okay”