People should have been taught the importance of water after independence. A widespread movement through the 'Jal Shakti Abhiyan' is the exact need of the hour for us to be able to conserve water for future generation.
Not that there are no efforts. Under the aegis of the Dr Nanasaheb Dharmadhikari Foundation, in Solapur about 4000 homes have done roof top rainwater harvesting. Similarly, NGOs 'Vanrai' and 'Hirwal' have embarked on a programme to spread awareness about water.
A small example from Raigad district in Maharashtra best illustrates the current situation. In 2018, about 362 villages were affected due to scarcity of water and the number of people who suffered was 85,000. It needed 33 tankers. This year the situation was far worse with more than 476 villages and around 88,000 affected people. In most of the villages, in half of the talukas of Raigad, the level of water has gone below the one-metre mark. Imagine a district with an annual average rainfall of 2500 mm, being declared as water deficient between the months of March and May! For long, rather than constructing wells and lakes for better management of water resources for agriculture and peasants, Maharashtra has been building small, medium and big dams. There are 1,821 dams, the largest number in the country at 35.7 % of the total dams in India. Comparatively, the area under cultivation stands at just 17.8 % against the 44.6 % in rest of the country.
But not much work has taken place in the country to maintain or repair dams and water bodies. Replenishment, conservation and timely repairs can surely play a big role in rejuvenating these sources. I hope the 'Jal Shakti Abhiyan' proves an effective medium to catalyse a change in our thinking and actions.
Kishor Dhariya, Jalnayak, is chairman of Hirwal Pratishthan, based out of Navi Mumbai. He is the chief promoter of 'Gandhari River Rejuvenation' – one of the four rivers of Konkan region – that has been selected for cleaning and rejuvenation. – Kishor Dhariya