In the absence of scientific planning and implementation, measures like Jal Shakti Abhiyan may fall short of being successful. Analyze.

The Central Government launched the Jal Shakti Abhiyan in the summer 2019 following the massive water crisis across India. Though, in the absence of any scientific planning and implementation, such measures like Jal Shakti Abhiyan may fall short of being successful.

About Jal Shakti Abhiyan – 

  • It is a time-bound, mission mode water conservation campaign.
  • It will run in two Phases:
  • Phase 1 from 1st July to 15th September 2019 for all States and Union Territories
  • Phase 2 from 1st October to 30th November 2019 for States and UTs receiving the retreating monsoon
  • Officers, groundwater experts and scientists from the Government will work together with state and district officials in India’s most water-stressed districts.
  • There are 255 districts having critical and over-exploited groundwater levels.
  • The focus is on water conservation and water resource management.

Key Shortfalls – 

Campaign did not create a new intervention of its own. It only aimed to make water conservation as a people’s movement via ongoing schemes like MGNREGA and other programs. 

It is modeled on success stories which include that of NGO Tarun Bharat Sangh’s experiment in Alwar, Rajasthan and Anna Hazare-led efforts in Ralegan Siddhi, Maharashtra.

The projects involved building tanks and ponds to capture rainwater and build recharge wells. The program assumes that common people are ignorant and prone to wasting water. It is the rural masses which first bear the brunt of the water crisis. The JSA’s move is to reach out to poor people and asking farmers to save water appear appears hypocritical. District administrations allow the sewage generated from towns and cities to pollute village water sources.

As per the JSA’s portal there are around 10 million ongoing and completed water conservation structures. However, the data does not say anything about the pre-JSA water levels, monthly water levels and impact of monsoon on the water levels. Also nothing is conveyed about the quality of the structures, maintenance and sustainability.

A 2016 study conducted by the Central Groundwater Board showed that water levels always increase post-monsoon thus it will require long-term monitoring of water level data to determine the actual impact of a measure like JSA. At present, such parameter is missing to measure the outcome of such a mission mode campaign. 

Lack of scientific planning – 

  • Water planning requirements are based on hydrological units, namely river basins which rarely coincide with political and administrative boundaries. Contrary to this principle, the JSA was  planned based on the boundary of the districts. It has resulted in division of basins/aquifers into multiple units that followed multiple policies.
  • No data on basin-wise rainfall, no analysis of run-off, and groundwater maps were rarely used.

All in all, a recurring water crisis demands a much more systematic and integrated approach to water management.


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