Leading by example
Discussions revolving around water crisis have reached the dining table of the general population, especially since the Chennai episode which exposed the city's lackadaisical approach in water security and sustainability. Even as the state government pointed fingers towards a low-yielding monsoon, efforts done to ensure the survivability of water reservoirs and the wetlands in general outlines the ordeal that the city had to bear. It is a no-brainer that water is an essential commodity, availability of which is paramount despite adversities. For living beings, water practically holds key to survivability. That makes us wonder how could a Chennai arrive at such a difficult position in the first place. But it did. Chennai is the prime reason that government sprung into action with its 'Jal Shakti Abhiyan' being run under the newly instated Ministry of Jal Shakti. While the country-wide drive aims to battle out the severe water crisis, focussing on water-stressed districts, New Delhi has come up with its own solution for the impending water crisis. As per NITI Aayog's report, Delhi is one of the cities identified with very low groundwater level which is likely to run out by next year, affecting 100 million people in the process. The Central government machinery will do its job but if the states do their bit–achieve self-sufficiency in water management–then the target to overturn water deficit will be brought closer. To this length, the Delhi government's ambitious project to store water in the Yamuna floodplains to counter shortage, especially during summer months, is notable. As per the project details, several ponds will be created between the Palla and Wazirabad regions of the national capital around the Yamuna in a bid to store the over-flowing water from the river during monsoon. Going by the official estimates, these artificially created ponds, acting as water reservoirs, would store around 2,100 million gallons of water every time the river overflows. A Delhi Jal Board expert further cited an expectation of around 15 flood cycles on an average which means there lies a potential to store ample amount of water. The first of its kind pilot project definitely looks good on paper but, as always, implementation will remain the key. As far as implementation is concerned, Delhi government credited the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a statement for his personal monitoring of the project "on an hourly basis" for the possible implementation of the project during the ongoing monsoon season; which has grossly expedited the progress on the project. In a press conference, the Delhi CM himself admitted that this year they are just getting started with the project and the experience amassed would be duly used to better the implementation from next year. The mega-reservoir to be created within the said stretch will solve the water woes of the national capital once and for all as per the ambitions of the Delhi government. Receiving a boost on Wednesday, the Delhi Cabinet approved an interdepartmental committee report which recommends giving farmers in Delhi Rs 77,000 annually per acre for land to be leased for the project. Farmers with smaller lands will also be allowed to pool in their land for the ambitious project and will get the sum according to the number of acres they provide the government with. Having set a timeline of one month to kickstart the project, two approvals from NGT are awaited. The state irrigation and flood control department, in the meantime, will run their groundwork to facilitate the project. Centre's fast-tracked approvals have also reinforced the Delhi government's spirit to implement the project. As per Kejriwal, only recycling and recharging water is the only way to resolve Delhi's water problems that will only grow in the future if left unchecked; as timely corroborated by NITI Aayog.
What the Delhi CM has planned is perhaps a step in the right direction as Delhi, out of all cities, will surely run out of water soon. But his ambitious project rests heavily on monsoon rains and going by current statistics, Delhi has not received ample rainfall yet. Though there is not an alarming prediction of categorically low rainfall but Delhi would largely require its weather to stay on course, this year, every year, for the success of this project. Flooding would not happen otherwise. Should Delhi catch the said target for its mega-reservoir, besides pressing for the general advice to set up rainwater harvesting systems on government infrastructures, Delhi may look set to eliminate the trouble of water sustainability altogether. It would then become the role-model for other states to follow suit as the water crisis is pan-India and real; at least more real than Climate Change. These reservoirs will help in recharging the groundwater table as well which is a huge plus and will be a gamechanger in the long run.