[Kurukshetra June 2023 Summary] Water conservation through community planning – Explained, pointwise

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Water conservation is a critical global concern, emphasized by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), which promotes clean water and sanitation for all. An integral part of this goal involves managing water resources sustainably and ensuring that every drop is used efficiently.

In a populous country like India, where the pressure on water resources is immense, the need for conservation is even more urgent. In this context, community planning plays a vital role. By involving local communities in water conservation efforts, the use and management of water can be optimized to meet local needs and circumstances, while also fostering a sense of responsibility for this crucial resource.  

Read more: Equitable Water Resources Management – Explained, pointwise

What are the needs for water conservation in India?

Growing population and limited resources: India houses 18% of the world’s population with only 2.4% of the world’s land. This increasing population and limited resources necessitate effective water conservation.  

Increased freshwater demand: Due to industrialization, urbanization, and population growth, the demand for freshwater has escalated. The country needs to conserve water to meet this rising demand.  

Rapid depletion of groundwater levels: Groundwater fulfils about 80% of rural and 50% of urban India’s water needs. Farmers extensively extract groundwater for irrigation, resulting in declining groundwater levels. Thus, judicious extraction and water conservation are required to balance the situation.  

Reliance on rain-fed irrigation: India receives about 1,200 mm of rainfall each year, yet only 6% is effectively captured and stored. This heavy reliance on rain-fed irrigation results in water stress during dry periods and emphasizes the need for effective water conservation and storage techniques.  

Mitigating effects of climate change: Erratic rainfall patterns, droughts, or drought-like conditions due to climate change increases the need for effective water management and conservation.  

Sustainable agricultural practices: Around 84% of total incremental irrigation comes from groundwater. To ensure the sustainability of agricultural practices, it is crucial to conserve water resources.  

Enhanced community involvement: Water conservation initiatives would be more successful if the community is involved in various stages of implementation. Community-based management of water resources is therefore essential.  

Must read: Groundwater Use and Governance in India – Explained, pointwise

How can India use community participation to address the rapid depletion of groundwater?

Enhancing awareness and education: Through community awareness programs, local residents can learn about the importance of groundwater, the dangers of over-extraction, and ways to conserve it. Education can empower communities to take proactive steps towards conservation.  

Promoting community-led initiatives: Communities can be encouraged to take the lead in local water conservation initiatives, such as rainwater harvesting, maintaining local water bodies, and employing sustainable irrigation practices. These initiatives can significantly reduce the over-reliance on groundwater.  

Establishing water user associations: Communities can form Water User Associations to manage local water resources. These associations can develop local rules for water usage, conduct regular checks on water levels, and ensure the equitable distribution of water.  

Empowering local self-governance: The Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) can play a pivotal role in planning, implementing, and monitoring water conservation measures at the local level. They can take up the responsibility of identifying water conservation projects and strategizing the extraction of water for identified purposes.  

Involving women in water management: Women, often the primary users of water in households, can play a crucial role in water conservation. Encouraging women’s participation in decision-making about water management can lead to more sustainable use of groundwater.  

Building capacity for sustainable water use: Communities can be trained in sustainable water use, the maintenance of water infrastructure, and the monitoring of local water resources. This capacity building can ensure long-term, sustainable management of groundwater.  

Promoting collaboration and convergence: Communities should be encouraged to collaborate with district or block-level authorities for the planning, execution, and monitoring of water conservation projects. This ensures the convergence of efforts and resources for maximum impact.  

Read more: [Kurukshetra April 2023 Summary] Groundwater Water Management through Panchayats – Explained, pointwise

What initiatives have the several Union and state governments taken for water conservation?

Water conservation
Source: Kurukshetra
Water conservation
Source: Kurukshetra

What role do community planning and participation play in water conservation?

Water conservation
Source: Kurukshetra

Ensuring sustainable water management: Community involvement in planning and implementing water conservation initiatives ensures sustainable water management. For instance, community-driven rainwater harvesting projects can contribute to groundwater recharge and reduce dependency on borewells.  

Promoting ownership and responsibility: When communities participate in planning, they take ownership of the conservation projects, leading to better upkeep and longevity of these initiatives. For example, local management of ponds and lakes in villages often leads to better maintenance and use of these water bodies.  

Enabling customised solutions: Community planning allows for solutions that are tailored to local conditions and needs. For instance, the selection of appropriate irrigation techniques can be decided based on local climate and crop patterns.  

Facilitating resource mobilisation: Community participation can facilitate the mobilisation of local resources, both human and material, for water conservation. In the Indian state of Rajasthan, for example, traditional water conservation practices were revitalised by communities, leading to improved water availability.  

Increasing effectiveness of public policy: Community participation can make public policies more effective by integrating local knowledge and practices. A good example of this is the Atal Bhujal Yojana, which aims to manage groundwater with active participation from communities in water-stressed areas.  

Strengthening social cohesion: Community participation in water conservation can also strengthen social ties and foster a sense of shared responsibility. This was evident in the village of Hiware Bazar in Maharashtra, where community-led watershed development projects transformed it into a ‘water surplus’ village.  

Improving monitoring and accountability: When communities are involved in the execution and monitoring of water conservation projects, it leads to greater transparency and accountability. For instance, social audits of water schemes can ensure that projects are executed as planned and funds are utilised appropriately.  

Read more: [Kurukshetra June 2023 Summary] Fostering Water Management for Food Security – Explained, pointwise

What should be done?

Initiating social mobilization: Communities should begin by analyzing their specific water needs and preparing a Water Security Plan, Irrigation Plan, and Village Action Plan.  

Discussing sustainability: Community meetings should deliberate on the sustainability of water schemes for both drinking and irrigation purposes. New revenue sources, such as user fees or maintenance fees, should be explored to ensure the smooth operation and conservation of water systems.  

Preparing a water reserve audit and safety plan: These plans will ensure the recharge, storage, and availability of water, as well as address issues related to water quality.  

Ensuring convergence with line departments: Communities should work closely with district authorities to plan and execute water conservation projects under various government schemes, ensuring increased water availability in rural areas.  

Promoting timely execution and fund utilisation: Coordination with District or Block level authorities is essential for promoting the timely execution of water projects and proper utilization of funds.  

Adopting technologies for monitoring: Communities should embrace digital mediums and technologies for the monitoring of water schemes.  

Arranging social audits: Regular social audits of water schemes should be arranged in consultation with district line department officials.  

Arranging training and capacity building programmes: Programmes should be arranged for grassroots workers on rainfall data capture, water collection, storage, and usage. Monitoring water availability, sources, and quality: Communities should be vigilant about their local water resources and organize awareness camps when necessary. 

Read more: Water Crisis in India – Explained, pointwise

Source: Kurukshetra

Syllabus: GS 1: Human and Economic Geography: Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent).

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