Water management calls for attention, says Gadkari

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday said that water availability was not the problem in the country and flagged water management as the issue that needed attention.

The BJP leader and Minister of Road Transport Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development Ganga Rejuvenation, was at the Foundation Day of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF). He also inaugurated an ‘international consultation on water’ with focus on augmentation of supply and management of demand.

Mr. Gadkari said that water scarcity was an issue only in 11 States of the country. Mr. Gadkari spoke of the many innovative ways by which water could be recycled, pointing out that water from the sugar, paper and tannery industries could be recycled and used for power generation and agricultural purposes. He pointed out there was a need to diversify cropping patterns by moving away from sugar cane, rice and wheat and focusing on oilseeds as currently India imported around 70% of edible oil. “The government should take into account the global scenario while framing national policies,” he said.

N.H. Shivashankara Reddy, Minister for Agriculture in the Government of Karnataka, thanked Mr. Swaminathan for his long association with the farmers and the government of Karnataka. He said his government had laid emphasis on rainwater harvesting. “Under the Krishi Bhagya scheme, we have constructed two lakh farm ponds in the State,” he said.

Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, Chairman, Nabard, suggested that there be people’s movements for water rather than government initiatives. Mr. Bhanwala also called for the inter-linking of rivers to ensure water availability throughout the year.

MSSRF’s founder chairman M.S. Swaminathan said that water should be valued more as a resource. “Water was a community asset, but it has now become commercial. In this process, the public should not be forsaken,” Prof. Swaminathan said. He pointed to local initiatives such as the ‘kudimaramathu’ scheme in Tamil Nadu and the Pani Panchayat in Maharashtra that helped conserve water, and said that they needed to be revitalised.

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