A Paradigm shift in Water Management Atal Bhujal Yojana : Girraj Goyal
Water management in India has largely remained focussed on supply-side of management since independence. Demand-side management has never remained a focal point of our policy until a few years back. Also, the lack of proper water budgeting has compounded the problem, writes Girraj Goyal, Director, Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India.
The Supply-side management such as augmenting water storage capacity by way of constructing large dams, managing rivers and other surface water resources etc has occupied centre stage of Indian water policy framework since beginning, whereas the demand side of management such as micro-irrigation, inefficient use of water in cultivation, excessive focus on the production of water-guzzling crops has been ignored causing water stress in several areas of the country. Absence of water budgeting i.e. use of water without thought of availability has compounded the problem. For the first time, the Government of India has focussed on comprehensive water management issue and earlier gap of water policy has been filled through Atal Bhu Jal Yojna.
The launch of Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) in May 2019 gave new impetus to water conservation and management in India. A time-bound water conservation campaign, the JSA focuses on five targeted interventions — water conservation and rainwater harvesting, renovation of traditional and other water bodies, reuse and recharge structures, watershed development and intensive afforestation. Within the umbrella of Jal Shakti Abhiyan, the Government of India embarked on the ‘Jal Jeevan’ Mission which aims to provide functional household tap connection to every rural household i.e. ‘Har Ghar Nal Se Jal’ by 2024.
The success of ‘Jal Jeevan’ mission is inextricably linked to the efficient management of groundwater in India. The country being the largest extractor of groundwater warranted a comprehensive scheme for participatory groundwater management. According to data, the annual replenishable groundwater resources in India (2017) are 432 Billion Cubic Meter (BCM), out of which 393 BCM is the extractable groundwater. The current annual groundwater extraction is 249 BCM, the largest user being the irrigation sector. In the backdrop of such large-scale extraction of groundwater resulting in fast depletion of the precious resource across the country, the idea of a comprehensive scheme for groundwater management germinated resulting in Atal Bhujal Yojana which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee specifically aims to address these issues. In this column, some light would be thrown on the structure of the scheme and some of its outstanding features.