COVID-19 pandemic to hit water-related projects! While speaking on the water availability in the country amid the nationwide lockdown due to novel coronavirus, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has told IE that the virus outbreak will hit water-related projects. Out of the 5,500 plus reservoirs, 138 water reservoirs are being monitored by the central government and those have the capacity of 66% of the total capacity, Singh said. This year, as on April 30, there is 56% more water. According to the minister, compared to the last 10 years’ average, the availability of water is 46% more. Therefore, there is a good amount of water in the reservoirs across the nation to cater to the domestic and drinking needs as well as agricultural demands.
Another thing is that in the Himalayan system, snow on the peaks is exceptionally high, Singh said. In the past 50 years, at this time, peaks never had this amount of snow. So from the snow melting, the water will also come in high quantities, especially in Nangal, Bhakra, Ganga, Yamuna, etc. Thus, this year, India is in a better position and hopefully, there won’t be a situation like what was faced in Chennai this year.
While speaking on the Jal Jeevan Mission to provide functional tap water connection to India’s every household by the year 2024, he said there is no idea of reviewing targets now. During this lockdown period, to deal with the situation, they have requested all the state governments to complete DPR as well as project planning with the available data so that the work could start immediately once the lockdown is over. The restrictions on constructions on water-related activities have been relaxed by the government already. Also, states have been asked to work on low-hanging fruits to see that water is stored as well as reserved, he said.
Singh further said that he is concerned about the states’ expenditure cuts. In Jal Jeevan mission, barring the Northeastern states and the Himalayan states or the Union Territories, all states are working on projects on a 50:50 quotient. According to him, in this condition, for states to spare such budgetary allocation looks very difficult.
While speaking on Atal Bhujal Yojana to strengthen the institutional framework for participatory groundwater management, he said that it is at nascent stages as the COVID-19 outbreak has affected it. The states have been asked to prepare the programmes and the officers have been asked to converge the resources as well as funds available to states under different heads for better results, Singh said.
Singh said that from the first day of lockdown, he has asked his departments to study the change in the quality of Ganga and Yamuna water. This is not only because of the lockdown but also because of the Namami Gange Project. Moreover, the rainfall during the lockdown period has increased the flow of water in the Yamuna river. With less farming and agricultural activities, the quantity of water has increased from an average of 300 cusecs to 3000 cusecs this time, he added.