IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 22nd March, 2016
TOPIC: General studies 3
Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
World Water Day (March 22nd) – The importance of Water Management
India has sizeable water resources, but the country faces huge challenges in the water sector as the distribution of water varies widely by season and region owing to the growing scarcity; increasing pollution; enhanced competition, conflicts and trans-boundary water sharing issues; that have dominated the national discourse in current times.
Although industry is the largest contributor to India’s GDP, agriculture accounts for nearly 90% of water use. Two-thirds of India’s irrigation needs and 80% of domestic water needs are met using groundwater, contributing to the significant groundwater depletion rate. Although India has one of the world’s largest irrigation systems, it is characterised by high levels of inefficient water use
The country is also facing the potent threat of climate change, which may have complex implications on the pattern of availability of water resources including changes in pattern and intensity of rainfall and glacial melt resulting in altered river flows, changes in ground water recharge, more intense floods, severe droughts in many parts of the country, salt water intrusion in coastal aquifers, and a number of water quality issues.
Improving water security is essential for India’s development—
With total water demand in India expected to rise by over 70% by 2025, a huge demand-supply gap is expected in the coming years and will act as a potentially significant constraint on economic growth
The alarming rate of groundwater depletion is also cause for serious concern
Declining water tables means increased cost of pumping, salty irrigation water as a result of over-abstraction leading to crop and revenue losses for farmers, and long-term consequences for water availability.
Poor water quality and lack of adequate access to sanitation are also major causes of disease and poor health.
Essentials for Sustainable Water Management
Comprehensive assessment of water resources:
The last time a comprehensive assessment of water resources for the entire country was done was in 1999-2000
Planning: Needs to be based on updated data
Need for a complete assessment on water availability (use and future demand)
US National Aeronautics and Space Administration: India’s water tables are dropping at the rate of 0.3 metre a year
Per capita availability of fresh water in India has declined from 3,000 cubic metres to a little over a thousand cubic metres; the global average is 6,000 cubic metres
Of the country’s two sources of fresh water—surface water and groundwater—the latter accounts for some 55%. It also accounts for about 60% of irrigation needs, which take up 80% of India’s total water usage.
Problem: Limiting groundwater extraction
No exact estimates on the number of groundwater extraction units in the country and the number of observation wells is far too less
Urgent need: To increase the number of observation wells across different regions to get an accurate estimate of groundwater levels
Eg: Brahmaputra has the highest total water potential of all rivers in India, but only about 4% of this can be successfully used because the mountainous terrain through which it flows makes further extraction impossible
Deteriorating groundwater quality—
Makes a large section of our population, depending on groundwater as their major source of drinking water, vulnerable
Central Ground Water Board: India faces the problem of arsenic, fluoride, nitrate and heavy metal contamination
Cause of groundwater pollution: Both natural and anthropogenic
Need to look at—
A complete profiling of aquifers,
Conjunctive use of surface and groundwater and
Programmes for rainwater harvesting and aquifer recharge
Improving water-use efficiency—
Crucial for reducing the dependence on freshwater sources
Agriculture accounts for 85 per cent of the total water use and therefore, resource optimisation in this sector is vital
Massive agricultural subsidies have incentivized indiscriminate water usage and inefficient cultivation pattern, the system “encouraging using more inputs such as fertiliser, water and power, to the detriment of soil quality, health and the environment”
By the adoption of low-cost technologies
Better demand management
Effective recycling and reuse
Bureau of Water Use Efficiency:
Ministry of Water Resources: Been working to set up a National Bureau of Water Use Efficiency
National Water Mission had a target of improving water-use efficiency by 20 per cent by March 2017 (little headway)
The Economic Value:
Water has an economic value (economic good)
Suitable pricing mechanisms need to be developed
Pricing of water- politically sensitive issue, need to bring financial stability in our water utilities
Need to set standards for water pricing according to the ability to pay
Equity and Efficiency
The basin and sub-basin need to be the unit of planning and scientific management with an integrated social, economic and environmental perspective.
Safe drinking water and sanitation should be considered as the pre-emptive need, subject to minimum ecosystem requirements (be allocated in a manner to promote its conservation and efficient use)
Conservation of river corridors and water bodies need to be taken up as part of the long-term strategy for eco-management and restoration and to provide additional resilience in the face of climate change
Adaptation to Climate Change
Enhancing water use efficiency through the adoption of climate resilient agronomic, technological, management, and institutional approaches
Incorporating strategies for climate change in the planning and management of water resource structures, such as dams, flood embankments and tidal embankments
Incorporating watershed-based planning and land use so as to increase the scope for in situ moisture conservation and use.
Water law in India continues to remain non-uniform, inconsistent, and somewhat inadequate to deal with today’s complex water situation characterized by scarcity and depletion of this renewable but limited resource, and increased demand.
Good national water management requires a paradigm shift, comprising at least the following:
Clear and comprehensive science-based Water Resource Policy at Central and State levels for integrated water resource management, which focuses on both supply- and demand-side dimensions of water use.
A Water Framework Law at Central level laying out the architecture for planning and regulation and technical institutional support.
Effective legislation at State level (based on the Central Model Law) for regulation of ground water and surface water providing an explicit and increasing role for Municipal and Panchayati Raj Bodies in planning, management, and regulation.
Restructuring, strengthening, and empowerment of the existing institutions (Central, State, and local) involved in different aspects of service delivery so as to improve efficiency in management and sustainability of the resource.
Shift in approach in water resource management from purely engineering works to systems that incorporate traditional practices, local materials and are manageable and maintainable by local communities.
The Gram Panchayat as well as the local community need to be involved at all stages of discussion, planning, implementation, management and maintenance.
Funding for capacity-building and R&D to bring in resource use efficiency and sustainability.
A Water Portal with full disclosure of all the data in usable formats, accessible to Government institutions, policy makers, society, and regulatory institutions.
Connecting the dots:
Discuss the implications of climate change on India’s water resources. What are the challenges that needs to be tackled on priority basis?
Critically examine if ‘water’ can be treated as a commodity. Also, discuss the pricing mechanism that government needs to work out to ensure equity and sustainability at the same time.
Bilateral, regional , global groupings and agreement involving India and affecting its interest
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
The Commonwealth: Adding Global Value for greater global good
With a Commonwealth charter crafted under the guidance of Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma and accepted by the 53 members of the Commonwealth in 2012, the organization has become an incubator for big-ticket ideas such as the Multilateral Debt Swap for Climate Action adopted at the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta.
The Commonwealth of Nations or the Commonwealth (formerly the British Commonwealth) is an intergovernmental organisation of 53 member states that were mostly territories of the former British Empire.
The Commonwealth operates by intergovernmental consensus of the member states, organised through the Commonwealth Secretariat and Non-governmental organisations, organised through the Commonwealth Foundation
The Commonwealth dates back to the mid-20th century with the decolonisation of the British Empire through increased self-governance of its territories. It was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949, which established the member states as “free and equal’
Member states have no legal obligation to one another. Instead, they are united by language, history, culture and their shared values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
Vision: To help create and sustain a Commonwealth that is mutually respectful, resilient, peaceful and prosperous and that cherishes quality, diversity and shared values.
Mission: Supporting member governments, and partner with the broader Commonwealth family and others, to improve the well-being of all Commonwealth citizens and to advance their shared interests globally.
The Commonwealth charter:
The Charter brings together the values and aspirations which unite the Commonwealth – democracy, human rights and the rule of law – in a single, accessible document.
The Charter expresses the commitment of member states to the development of free and democratic societies and the promotion of peace and prosperity to improve the lives of all peoples of the Commonwealth.
The Charter also acknowledges the role of civil society in supporting the goals and values of the Commonwealth.
Core values and principles of the Commonwealth as declared by this Charter:
International peace and security
Tolerance, respect and understanding
Freedom of Expression
Separation of Powers
Rule of Law
Protecting the Environment
Access to Health, Education, Food and Shelter
Importance of Young People in the Commonwealth
Recognition of the Needs of Small States
Recognition of the Needs of Vulnerable States
The Role of Civil Society
The 16-point charter makes it incumbent on member states to hold free, fair and credible elections; ensure the separation of the powers of the executive, legislature and judiciary; ensure the independence of the judiciary; provide space for an opposition and civil society to function freely; and give the media a level playing field to function in.
Tasks undertaken and recent initiatives:
For middle-income states in the Pacific and Caribbean, one typhoon or hurricane puts them back 10 to 15 years. The Commonwealth set up programmes to cover financial risks faced by small states in trading, like the multilateral debt swap and the Climate Finance Access hub.
Digitization has made the slogan “round the clock and round the world” possible for the Commonwealth through a programme called Commonwealth Connects.
Common Health, a dedicated Web platform to advance public health and the leading health hub after the World Health Organization.
Commonwealth today leads in citizen and governance initiatives — whether in the fields of climate change, youth development, health, and electoral oversight.
Human rights groups and pro-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam organizations in Britain accused Commonwealth Secretary of soft-pedaling the human rights abuses of the Rajapaksa regime, which in turn led to some heads of government boycotting the meeting.
Criticism was denounced saying the most important point about the Commonwealth is that it engages with member states to advance the values template and practical steps taken in the form of round tables on reconciliation, and in training observers for the elections.
There is still widespread resistance within several Commonwealth countries to the legalization of gay rights, and to correcting gender and religious inequalities.
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM): Meet at Malta
Commonwealth leaders met in Malta in November 2015 to address global issues such as climate change, building resilience in small states, trade and sustainable development, the empowerment of youth, gender equality and human rights.
Nevertheless the Commonwealth still serves a purpose, as a forum for informal discussion and co-operation between nations of widely disparate cultures and material conditions.
The ideal it represents still flickers, only time will tell whether the Commonwealth is a mere footnote to history, or the beginning of a new chapter.
Connecting the dots:
Can Commonwealth add global value for greater global good and reinforce sustainable development being the common goal for brighter future of the world?
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