Acute scarcity of water in Rajasthan but lack policies
Providing adequate water has been the perennial problem for planners in Rajasthan but policy decisions on this vital subject
moves at a snail's space. In fact, decisions on liquor policies are taken much faster! The desert state suffers from acute scarcity of water partly because of the escalating population and misuse of this natural
resources. Despite the fact that it is slowly moving towards a calamity, Rajasthan continues to be devoid of a comprehensive water policy.
A policy drafted in August last year has been lying in abeyance for lack of political consideration because of which crucial issues, like water management, continues to remain uncoordinated.
"The water policy is still in the draft form as the previous government was unable to compile it and the present government probably
don't have enough time between the two elections to consider it," says a senior official in the water works department.
According to official estimates, the per capita annual water availability in the state is
around 780 cubic metres (Cum) against the minimum requirement of 1000 (Cum). This is expected to fall below 500 Cum in the next 40 years.
Every summer there are a series of protests and demonstrations resulting in bulk of
promises made by water works official and government representatives. However the scarcity continues. Water had been a reason behind many major conflicts between people and the administration.
Also, quality of water had been a major issue. Not only that water in nearly 30 districts of the state is considered to be saline, at times it gets further
contaminated during supply.
The government has come up with mega projects to improve the situation but in the
absence of a proper policy the efforts lack co-ordination. The success of these projects remains doubtful for lack of public participation. "There is no eagerness to create a better synchronization of various
departments with those dealing with water," says a ground water scientist.
"For example, they will constitute a farmers' board but will have no water expert included. The urban development authority scarcely pays
attention to recommendations from the NGOs or other people working with water issues and even
if a surface canal is being laid they will not ask the ground water department for its opinion," he adds. Rajasthan holds 5.5% of the nation's population and 18.7% of
livestock. However, it has only 1.16% of surface water and 1.27% ground water.
In absence of proper management, increasing demand has caused ground water
exploitation and today nearly 90% of the drinking water needs and 60% of irrigation is held from ground water. This has led to a
rapid decline in ground water tables across the state. The stage of
ground water exploitation, which was mere 35% in 1984, escalated to 125% in 2004. Today in a city like Jaipur the exploitation rate is
expected to be above 250%. Owing to the exploitation, only 32 of the 237 water blocks in the state today being considered in the safe category. Of the remaining,
140 are in the over-exploited range and 50 are critical. However, dependence on ground water has also created dependence upon power supply.
As most of the time even potable water is obtained from tubewells in the rural areas, many villages in Sikar today have to remain without
water during power cuts. On the other hand the Indira Gandhi Canal Project, which was supposed to help irrigation, is now also being utilized for potable
water needs. On the other hand there has been a complete neglect of local water bodies.
"The government spends enormous sums of public money on projects like Bisalpur but they hardly pay any consideration for revival of
traditional water reservoirs like the Amanishah Nala and Ramgarh Banda that still hold the promise to resolve water needs of the city," says water activist P N