Lockdown Leads to Cleaner Water Bodies, Minister Says Time to Introspect, Make India Water-secured

As the water bodies across the country have become cleaner during the nationwide lockdown, Union Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Friday said this is a time to introspect and work towards making India a water-secured nation.

With the country under lockdown for about two months to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus, air and water pollution levels have come down as most industries, except those into production of essential goods, were shut and people stayed home after offices were closed.

This resulted in almost all water bodies in the country becoming cleaner.

"During the lockdown period, everyone noticed that the rivers have become cleaner. There are three reasons for water pollution -- sewage, industrial effluents and human interactions," Shekhawat said during a virtual CII water summit.

Out of these, industry and the human interactions were closed due to the lockdown, resulting in cleaner water bodies, according to the minister, who urged everyone to introspect and "works towards making India a water secure nation".

He further said that during the lockdown period, as per the instructions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, samples of Ganga water were taken to study how much pollution is contributed through industrial effluents, which can be used for future planning.

Sharing his experience of a rafting expedition done last year from Devprayag to Rishikesh, the minister said that the water in that stretch of 90-odd kilometres was clean and even potable.

"We are confident that by the next Kumbh mela, we would have cleaned the river water till Haridwar. But, during our study we realised that it is the sewage which is a major cause of water pollution," he added.

"The government has undertaken creation and maintenance of sewage treatment infrastructure under hybrid annuity based (model) and in the coming future, under the national river conservation directorate, we will undertake work on other five basins. But the ultimate result will come from jan andolan (mass movement), awareness and behavioural change," Shekhawat said.

He further said the government is doing its part, but then the industry will also have to support.

"Also, since water is a state subject, and various states are taking various initiatives, we will have to collectively work towards the goal of a water secured nation. Also, we need to figure out how we can conserve, harvest and judiciously use water.

"Since agriculture, which uses nearly 89 per cent of water, is also a state subject, the governments will have to consider what to grow, how much to grow and for whom to grow," the minister added.

He said that the Haryana government has taken steps in that direction, and other states should also follow such a model