About 100 million people across India are on the front lines of a nationwide water crisis. A total of 21 major cities are poised to run out of groundwater next year, according to a 2018 report by government-run think tank NITI Aayog. Groundwater, which has been steadily depleting for years, makes up 40% of the country’s water supply. But other sources are also running dry.
Fearing the outcomes and in an order to maintain a proper supply to all parts of the country, a new ‘Jal Shakti’ Ministry, in which the erstwhile ministries of Water Resources and Drinking Water and Sanitation will be merged, has been formed. The Minister of Jal Shakti is the head of this ministry, and is one of the cabinet ministers of the Government of India. Since 31 May 2019, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is the Minister of Jal Shakti. The Minister of State (Jal Shakti) is Rattan Lal Kataria.
In the first Modi government, the project to clean Ganga was moved from the Ministry of Environment and Forests to the Ministry of Water Resources. With a greater push and much larger monetary allocation, the Namami Gange project was launched. The minister said as promised in the party manifesto, the priority will be to provide clean drinking water to everyone. Rebutting the charge that nothing was done under the Namami Gange project, Shekhawat said the Ganga river has been cleaned to a large extent and now the priority will be to clean its tributaries and sub-tributaries.
There is a visible thrust on water by Modi government 2.0 and this was promised during his Lok Sabha campaigning. He took a step towards it by launching a new ministry called Jal Shakti, which he recently referred to as a symbol of his commitment towards resolving the country’s water crisis.
The ambit of the ministry will encompass issues ranging from international and inter-states water disputes, the byzantine Namami Gange project, the flagship initiative to clean the Ganges, its tributaries and sub-tributaries and provide clean drinking water. The work is already underway keeping in mind the huge task ahead. Some parts of the country are reporting water shortage so Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has launched a conservation campaign with an emphasis on 1592 stressed blocks in 256 districts.
An important part of the ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan’ is that it will focus on five aspects – water conservation and rainwater harvesting, renovation of traditional and other water bodies, reuse of water and recharging of structures, watershed development, and intensive afforestation, Drinking Water Sanitation Secretary Parmeswaran Iyer said.