By George Rajkumar,
India will be seeing a water demand rise of over 70% by 2025 according to a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This brings to light a huge demand-supply gap that will cause several challenges in the coming days. Budget 2022 is an opportunity for the government to boost the country’s water infrastructure thereby enhancing water security for Indians.
Proper planning and allocation of resources will also help the government in tackling natural calamities such as damage to infrastructure and life from floods, landslides among others. For example, the 2018 Kerala floods led to an estimated loss of INR 31,000 crore as per report by United Nations. On the other hand, introducing nationwide schemes to install gate pumps will offer municipal bodies the ability to control flood and storm water challenges with state-of-the-art mechanisms.
Organizations in the water sector are looking at long term plans in making the country water secure. This is a perfect opportunity to initiate a ten plus year roadmap for integrating existing water solutions with the efficient and intelligent technology.
Creating the right platforms
Special initiatives that will truly focus on the unification of various stakeholders of the water industry will help in setting up the right parameters to strengthen the country’s water security. In the FY 2022 budget, the Ministry of Jal Shakti can create a specialized body that will act as a platform where various stakeholders can interact and put forth their needs and ideas. This will help the government to not only bring diverse stakeholders together, but have more insights into the issues on ground, as well as the advanced technology and solutions available to address them.
Another important factor to consider is the introduction of a national mission for flood prevention. Climate change poses a significant threat to India’s dream of USD 5 Trillion economy and the need of the hour is to put policies in place that are effective in dealing with India’s worsening flood situation. For example, special reforms for adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) based early warning systems along coastal states, real-time landslide early warning, drone-based reconnaissance programs to encounter illegal encroachment among a host of other methods.
Mapping of India’s water footprint is something that should be initiated at the earliest. Unavailability of data hinders implementation of policies and initiatives across municipal bodies and water utilities. By adopting digital enabled solutions like IoT based sensors and AI, the government can undertake data collection, remote management of water networks, predictive maintenance to prevent water loss and gauge the country’s water demand. This will further ensure that water stressed regions in the country are allocated optimum resources to meet water demands while also ensuring that water networks and infrastructure in flood prone areas of this country receive special attention for functioning during natural calamities.
Coupled with this, it is expected that the government will lay a roadmap for making water available to rural households, prevent droughts and improve India’s water quality to make the country water secure. The union government should make substantial allocations for various schemes catering to rejuvenation of water resources, drinking water accessibility, piped water connections, river development and rejuvenation among other priorities. As per World Resources Institute, it would take India 3.2% of the GDP it is estimated to have by 2030 to deliver sustainable water management.
The need for effective implementation
India already has ample resources in place towards creating a robust and effective water infrastructure. It is only through calculated and effective implementation programs that Indians can be promised true water security. This again calls for dedicated teams working towards strengthening the water infrastructure whilst also involving various other stakeholders to join the cause.
While striving to become water secure, the combination of the right policies, collaboration and technologies will also prove to be a game changer against climate change. It will also move India closer towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets 6, 11 and 13 of ‘clean water and sanitation for all’, ‘sustainable cities and communities’ and ‘climate action’ respectively. Budget 2022 can prove to be a significant stepping stone towards making India water secure while also helping save lives and infrastructure from natural disasters.
(The author is Country President, Grundfos India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)