Month: September 2023

Catch where it falls: Tradition for water revolution

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

We have not understood the science and art of harvesting rain on land. It’s time we learn from the wisdom that we have ignored and allowed to die

You know you are old when you realise that today’s conversation is a repeat of the past. That’s how I feel when I hear the current chatter about the potential of rainwater harvesting to fix the problem of water scarcity in our cities and villages.

For years now, we have known the importance of harvesting rain from rooftops and hill catchments and holding it in underground reservoirs, aquifers, lakes and ponds. Then why have we not made this technology work? Why have we failed to use this knowledge? This is what we must ask.

Let me tell you how I learnt about rainwater harvesting. It was back in the 1990s when Anil Agarwal, then director of the Centre for Science and Environment, was at the wheels of his new Maruti 800 — red in colour.

We were on our way to see grazing land regeneration in Bikaner. Suddenly there was something different on the ground. Anil stopped. He wanted to know what he was seeing.

It was in the shape of a flying saucer or an upside-down cup on a paved ground. We got off the car, walked over to the settlement and asked, “What is this?” As is often the case in India, such stupid questions from city people get very patient replies.

Photo courtesy: AKHILESH YADAV

“It is our water system, our kundi.” It made no sense. They explained. “See, we pave the ground with lime and make it drain to the middle. Then when it rains, even a little, all the water is harvested and channelised into the well, which is covered so that there is no contamination.” This small explanation changed our world. Changed it literally.

Anil calculated that the structure had huge potential. One hectare of land with just 100 millimetre (mm) of rain — that’s what deserts get on an average — is capable of harvesting 1 million litres of water. Not small.

A family of five would not need more than 10-15 litres a day for drinking and cooking. This comes to 4,000-5,000 litres in a year. This means one hectare can harvest enough water to meet the needs of 200-300 families.

Later, a few more experiences shaped my understanding of not just the potential of rainwater harvesting but its connection with all of us. We were in Cherrapunji, the wettest place on Earth or at least that’s what I was taught in school. There in a small government guest house I saw a big sign — water is precious, please use it carefully. Amazing.

A place with 14,000 mm of rain, enough to fill a high ceiling stadium, faces shortage of water! Anil and I had just returned from Jaisalmer — a city that had built a flourishing civilisation and a stunning fort of yellow sandstone despite receiving only 50-100 mm of rain. The answer we found was in the way the city had planned its rainwater harvesting, from rooftops to tanks—all to build a water-secure future.

Anil was so fascinated by this learning that he spent the next few years of his life teaching Indians the value of the raindrop. We have put this learning together in our 1997 book, Dying Wisdom: rise, fall and potential of India’s traditional water harvesting systems, which explains the sheer intricacy, innovation and ingenuity of the knowledge.

Every region of the country had its own unique method of harvesting rain, storing it and then using it. Every system had been adapted, in fact, evolved, to meet the special ecological needs, yet each system was an engineering marvel, designed to make the best of the region’s rain endowment.

Why then did the wisdom die?

First, the State took control from the local community or the households as the provider or supplier of water. This meant that harvesting rain was no longer a priority. Second, local groundwater, which was recharged using rainwater, was replaced by surface water, brought often from long distances in canals.

This is why rainwater harvesting has remained an idea whose time has still not come. The State cannot harvest rain; people have to be involved. It has to be done in every house; every colony; every village; and for every catchment.

The incentive to do this only comes when we are dependent on groundwater for our needs. If cities and even villages get piped water, from distant sources, who will harvest rain and why?

The other problem is we have not understood the science and art of harvesting rain on land. So, the catchments — land where the rain falls — have been encroached upon or distributed in the name of land-reform.

The drains that channelised rain to underground storage have been built upon or destroyed. Then how will we harvest the raindrop? We can’t and we won’t. This is why the cycle of drought and flood will continue and get exacerbated. So let’s really learn from the wisdom that we have ignored and allowed to die.

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Author:  Rashmi Verma

Publish On: Wednesday 10 July 2019



Catch the rain, fix water crisis: How Odisha leads by example

Photo courtesy:  Down to earth

Odisha has deveoped 12,000 rainwater harvesting structures to facilitate water conservation and ground water recharge in 2,035 wards

Water is a source of life for all of us and helps our natural environment thrive. In this era of climate change, the unavailability of water is going to hit the developing world the most. Maintaining a balance between natural and human-made components is the only way to survive.

Odisha has been going through water scarcity, drought, floods, groundwater depletion and much more. In Odisha, the groundwater extraction has increased to 42 per cent, from 30 per cent in four years — between 2013 and 2017.

There is a massive increase in annual groundwater extraction. But there is a reduction in annual groundwater recharge and a considerable depletion in the annual extractable groundwater resources.

According to the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), Odisha’s groundwater volume was assessed at 16.69 billion cubic metres in 2009. This has dropped to 15.57 billion cubic metres in 2017, leading to a loss of 1.12 billion cubic metres (6.71 per cent) of groundwater.

The CGWB has clearly indicated that the groundwater of 24 out of 30 districts in Odisha is depleting. The groundwater aquifers in many regions of Odisha have already gone dry.

In 2019, out of 30 districts in Odisha, 29 had received deficient rainfall, while only Koraput district recorded one per cent surplus precipitation. In nine districts, rain deficit has been measured to be over 40 per cent.

Balasore was the worst-hit, with 54 per cent deficit rainfall. As many as 26 districts had a deficit above 19 per cent. This situation is worsening.

Some 1,093 million litres of drinking water are supplied to urban areas in the state against the daily demand of 1,088 million litres. This is leading to immense pressure on the state’s water resources.

The groundwater level in the greater Bhubaneswar area (Bhubaneswar city and outskirts / peripheries) has shrunk by about 10 metres and more since 2006 and water consumption has doubled in the last 10 years. This has been due to large-scale extraction of groundwater to cater to the daily demand of Bhubaneswar.

The development blueprint for the state is heavily dependent on groundwater both for water supply to its citizens and irrigation to the drought-prone areas of the Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput (KBK) region.

Rainwater harvesting

Photo courtesy: Anand Rko

To combat these issues, the state of Odisha with the Centre for Science and Environment as its knowledge partner, has successfully implemented an intensive campaign of rainwater harvesting.

It has come up with 12,000 Rainwater Harvesting Structures (RWHS) to facilitate water conservation and groundwater recharge in 2,035 wards of 114 urban local bodies. All this has happened in less than three months ie before the onset of the southwest monsoon.

Rainwater harvesting is collecting the run-off from a structure or other impervious surfaces, in order to store it for later use. This process is used to conserve rainwater that runs off from rooftops, parks, roads and open grounds by collecting, storing, conveying and purifying it.

The state had selected sites to have RWHS to address the statewide campaign Catch the Rain: Where it Falls and When it Falls. This has been completed under the Mukhyamantri Karma Tatpara Abhiyan (MUKTA), an urban wage employment scheme for migrant workers.

Odisha’s annual rainfall varies from 1,200-1,800 millimetres but its spatial distribution is uneven and erratic. Eighty per cent of this rainfall occurs from June to September.

The state receives 76 per cent of rainfall between mid-June and mid-September and receives the remaining 24 per cent throughout the year. It has been estimated that out of 230.76 billion cubic metres of rainfall in a year, 80 per cent flows to the sea as surface runoff as adequate storage has not been developed.

During the monsoon, there are very wet days and also long dry spells. In some years, both floods and droughts occur. Not just that, the sub-surface storages are getting emptied, leading to thinner flows in rivers and streams, causing further capacity decrease in groundwater recharge.

Considering the uneven rainfall pattern, the only way to use the surplus rains received is by storing it. So, the state government has come up with such an initiative to build the RWHS in the 114 urban local bodies to minimise the surface runoff and maximise ground water recharge.

The state government wanted to develop a mechanism that would be cost-effective, need simple technology to operate and would require least maintenance.

Fortunately, the experts were successful in their approach. The RWHS type is Pit and Burrow, which costs Rs 35,000 per unit, involves no complex technologies and requires less maintenance. Also, it can be completed in a period of just 7-10 days.

The Government of Odisha aims to conserve both the rooftop runoff of government and private-aided institutions and storm water runoff from parks, playgrounds, open space, vacant lands and roads.

The spacing and number of recharge pits will be based on the porosity and permeability of the soil below 1.8 metres, annual average rainfall, intensity and duration of rainfall in that particular region.

For average conditions, one recharge pit of 1.2 metres diameter and 1.8 metres depth, with a leading channel of 15 metres is adequate for 250 square metres of catchment area.

The recharge mechanism is also simple. Partial recharge of rainwater from the catchment happens through the loading channel. Surplus rainwater received from the loading channel and storm water from the area surrounding the pit is recharged through filled media.

The sand layer acts as conventional surface water filter media. To support it, broken granite chips are provided underneath the sand layer. The sand layer filters out and retains the suspended solids, thereby providing a base for the grey / black blanket formed over the sand due to filtering of clay, silt and colloidal particles.

The filter media in the leading channel and recharge pits act like porous membranes that allow the partially filtered rainwater to reach the soil media interface.

The underneath soil layer acts as natural filter which facilitates micro filtration of rainwater before it reaches the groundwater table. Over a period, the top layer turns grey or black which reduces the recharge efficiency.

So, the top layered sand can be replaced periodically with new sand layers. The removed layer is rich in organic nutrient which can be utilised for filling the plantation sites in the park and open space area.

The Government of Odisha recommended mandatory construction of 5 RWHS per ward in a notified area council (NAC), 10 RWHS per ward in a municipality and 20 RWHS per ward in a municipal corporation of the 114 urban local bodies.

Daspalla, one of the NACs in Odisha, has completed 80 RWHS with 138 pits in 16 wards of the urban local body. According to Sasmita Pradhan, programme coordinator of MUKTA in Daspalla, 40 self-help groups (Mission Shakti Groups) and 2,898 people have been employed for this initiative as one pit requires three people to build.

To strengthen the transparency and accountability, Odisha’s housing and urban development department has made it mandatory for the sites to be geo-tagged and directed the district collectors to monitor the progress accordingly.

Rainwater harvesting is a go to solution for the emerging water crisis. Like Odisha, it is high time for us to take necessary steps to recharge the groundwater thereby enabling the planet to provide maximum resources for our coming generations.

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth

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Catch the rain, fix water crisis: How Odisha leads by example (

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Author:    Dimple Behal, Rajib Lochan Ram

Publish On:  Friday 20 August 2021



Roofs, rain and life: How to incentivize and implement rainwater harvesting

Photo courtesy:  Muench/Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) Secretariat

Co-author: Carmen Anthonj , Assistant Professor GeoHealth, Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) of the University of Twente

While rainwater harvesting can result in numerous benefits for consumers and the water sector overall (read our previous blog here), it’s not always clear how to effectively promote and increase the prevalence of this practice.

RWH systems can be built relatively easily with local skills and resources, using simple and easy-to-maintain technologies that are inexpensive once installed. RWH systems can be modular in nature by allowing expansion, reconfiguration or relocation, and can easily be retrofitted to an existing structure or built during new construction.  However, despite the many benefits, households often find it difficult to implement rainwater harvesting.  The initial installation cost of RWH systems on residential housing is relatively high and a common barrier to adoptioni. Moreover, while there are legal, social and environmental barriers as well, recent experiences have documented means of overcoming those barriers and reinforcing water management practicesii.

There are many ways to encourage rainwater harvesting and improve its implementation, within which governments can play a strong role. The use of government subsidies as incentives can encourage the installation of RWH systems and increase the number of users, particularly among poorer households. The regulatory frameworks are essential for the effective design of these incentives, like in Brazil. In Germany, the promotion (by grants and subsidies) of RWH at the local government level resulted in equipping almost one third of new buildings built with rainwater collection systems. The Government of Indiaiii, for example, provides financial assistance for the installation of RWH systems. The Surat Municipal Corporation has made RWH mandatory for new buildings with a plot size of >4,000 m² and provides up to a 50% (up to Rs. 2,000) subsidy to citizens to encourage rainwater recharging. In Gwalior and Jabalpur, a 6% rebate in property tax in the year of completion of RWH construction is provided to the building owner as an incentive (CSE, 2019).

Promoting rainwater use through housing regulations that stipulate that all newly built buildings and structures must include rainwater roof catchments is common in Taiwan, Texas and Brazil. Although laws and other governmental policies are the key driver for the implementation of RWH, overall, robust policies to systematically promote the installation of RHW are often lacking or scattered. In Brazil for example, RWH is barely covered in legislation at the federal level, but more common at the local level. In absence of a national policy regulating RWH, some state laws and mainly municipal regulations have taken the task of covering this legislative gap, as local authorities may be more aware of specific problems for the region and thus implement specific legislation for the municipality. Large numbers of different laws and regulations at different scales complicate the process of implementation. Besides, the scattered legislation does not cover all aspects of RWH: the main goal of regulations is usually encouraging the installation of RWH systems, but incentives for the implementation are rare, and no legislation exists that addresses treatment to improve the quality of rainwater (da Costa Pacheco et al., 2017). Besides, coordination between state and non-state stakeholders in RWH, and residents lacking awareness or knowledge of policies, are common challenges (Bui Thi Thuy et al., 2019; Matto & Jainer, 2019).

A Prospective Vision for RWH 

Photo courtesy:Akruti Enviro Solutions Pvt.Ltd.

The strategic management of rainwater can reduce disaster risk for communities faced with water scarcity, droughts or flood risks. Access to clean water is essential during the pandemic for handwashing, hygiene and preventing the spread of COVID-19. The scalability of RWH must ensure that water is provided and available when needed free of contamination, and as a resilience option in remote rural areas that are hit hard by climate change and rainfall variability. All the efforts to bring these solutions to increase water availability must carefully consider cost-effectiveness and co-benefits for small-scale irrigation and other productive uses of water. Integrated research that involves geospatial analysis and remote sensing can provide the evidence to demonstrate a stronger case to expand RWH globally, and improve their operational, financial and environmental sustainability.

Neerain is proud to republish this article for spreading awareness about situation of water, for our stakeholders. Credit whatsoever goes to the Author.

Neerain is proud to republish this article for spreading awareness about situation of water, for our stakeholders. Credit whatsoever goes to the Author.

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Publish On: NOVEMBER 12, 2020

India is staring at water poverty

Climate-change induced deficient rainfall, poor storage of rainwater and water-intensive agriculture are responsible

Photo courtesy: Dhakatimes

According to data released by the India Meteorological Department, the South-West monsoon during June- August 2023 has been below normal in 42 per cent of the districts (see Table). In August, rainfall in the country was 32 per cent below normal and in the southern States it was 62 per cent. In the last 122 years — that is, since 1901 — India received the lowest rainfall in August this year. With only about a month left for the end of the South-West monsoon, the reduced rainfall will not only affect agriculture severely but it could also lead to massive water shortages in different regions of the country. What should be done to prevent water shortage?

Although India has the largest water resources (irrigated area) in the world, water demand has been increasing rapidly due to rapid changes in agriculture and industrial activities in recent times. The net amount of water that can be used in our country in a year is estimated at 1,121 billion cubic meters (bcm). However, the data published by the Ministry of Water Resources shows that the total water demand will be 1,093 bcm in 2025 and 1,447 bcm in 2050. This means that there will be a major water shortage in India within 10 years.

However, this does not mean that there is no water shortage at present. As per the Falkenmark Water Index (which is mostly used for measuring water scarcity throughout the world), wherever the amount of water available per capita is below 1,700 cubic meters in a year, there is water scarcity. Going by this index, almost 76 per cent of people are already living with water scarcity in India.

In Tamil Nadu, which is one of the water-scarce States in terms of per capita availability, water demand was more than its supply even before 1990-91. For example, the total water requirement of Tamil Nadu was 31,458 million cubic meters (mcm) in 2004, but the supply was only 28,643 mcm. This means that Tamil Nadu has been experiencing water shortage for the last 30 years.

Deficit monsoon rainfall alone cannot be the cause of water scarcity. Various estimates show that after 1990-91, the water demand has been continuously increasing due to increased economic activities including the intensification of agriculture. However, no major plans have been made to develop new water sources and strengthen the storage capacity of existing water sources to match the ever-increasing demand for water.

Rivers, small water bodies (tanks and others) and domestic wells met the daily water requirements for many years. Due to poor maintenance of tanks and other small water bodies, water could not be stored adequately even in years of good rainfall. Data show that drought has occurred in India several times due to deficit rainfall. But recently, due to climate changes, rainy days are shrinking.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned in its reports that the climate is changing rapidly which will result in reduced rainfall, both in number of days and quantum. Rainfall deficiency can lead to water scarcity, which will severely affect people’s lives, livestock, wildlife and others. Water scarcity can cause major environmental and economic problems. In the report, ‘Climate Change, Water and Economy’, the World Bank (2016) underlines that countries with water shortages may face a major setback in economic growth by 2050.

Photo courtesy: The Caravan

The remedies

Central Water Commission data show that the water storage level of 150 major reservoirs as of August 31 was 23 per cent less than last year’s storage level of 146.828 bcm. El Nino, which occurs due to global warming and often changes the rainfall pattern, is becoming the new normal in recent years. There is, therefore, the need to make tough decisions to avoid water scarcity. Everyone forgets the pain caused by water scarcity once the rainy season starts. This kind of mindset needs to change first.

As the total quantum of rainfall and the number of rainy days are shrinking due to climate change, more serious efforts should be made to store rainwater wherever possible. States like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana cannot solve the water scarcity problem without rejuvenating tanks, as all these States have a large number of tanks. The Minor Irrigation Census shows that there are a total of 6.42 lakh tanks, lakes and ponds in India.

However, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources has stated in its 16th report on ‘Repair, Renovation and Restoration of Water Bodies’ that most of the small water bodies are encroached upon by government and private bodies. The First Census of Water Bodies published by the Ministry of Water Resources in 2023 has found that 38,486 water bodies have been encroached upon in India. Tough measures are needed to remove the encroachments.

About 85 per cent of the utilisable water is currently used by the agricultural sector. This can be reduced by changing the cropping pattern. Appropriate minimum support policies need to be introduced to reduce the area under water-intensive crops such as paddy, sugarcane and banana. As per the MS Swaminathan committee report on ‘More Crop and Income Per Drop of Water’ (2006), drip and sprinkler irrigation can save around 50 per cent of water in crop cultivation and increase the yield of crops by 40-60 per cent. A total of about 70 million hectares are identified as potential areas for such micro-irrigation method. While making efforts to increase the area under micro-irrigation, farmers should be advised to use such water-saving methods for cultivating water-intensive crops in areas of severe water scarcity.

Water is no longer a public good; it is increasingly becoming an expensive commodity. With the changing pattern of rainfall, severe water shortages are likely to occur frequently in the future. A severe water shortage in 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa, forced the authorities there to ration the supply of water (25 litre/person/day), causing much hardship to the public. This may happen in India, too. Therefore, water should be stored wherever possible during the deficit rainfall period to prevent water poverty in the future.

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Author: Narayanamoorthy

Publish On: 07 , September , 2023





Country-Abroad .: The world is moving towards severe water scarcity

According to a recent study by the World Resources Institute (WRI), twenty-five countries with a quarter of the world’s population are facing acute water shortages. WRI statistics indicate that these countries routinely use up to 80 percent of their water reserves each year. Demand for water continues to rise with growing population and development around the world, and demand has doubled since 1960. Demand for water has stagnated in developed countries such as Europe and America, but is increasing in Africa. By 2050, worldwide water demand is projected to increase between 20 and 25 percent. The five countries facing the most water scarcity are Bahrain, Cyprus, Kuwait, Lebanon and Oman.

• Twenty-five countries with a quarter of the world’s population are facing acute water scarcity

• Countries contributing 31 percent or $70 trillion to global GDP will face severe water scarcity by 2050• Water scarcity can be prevented through planning. Singapore and Las Vegas have grown amid water scarcity

• Acute water scarcity threatens lives, employment, food and energy security. Demand for water is increasing faster than available resources

• Lack of water management could cost India, China and Central Asia 7 to 12 percent of GDP by 2050

• An additional one billion people are likely to live with extreme water stress by 2050

• India has lost 8.2 terawatt-hours of energy due to lack of planning


Photo credit:  Venngage Inc

According to research, globally, nearly four billion people, or half the world’s population, face acute water scarcity at least one month a year. There is no doubt that by 2050 this figure will touch around 60 percent. Such acute water shortages threaten people’s lives, employment, food and energy security. All over the world, the demand for water is increasing faster than the available resources. The increase in water demand is largely the result of rampant population growth, irrigated agriculture, animal husbandry, energy production and industrial development. On the other hand, there is not enough investment in water infrastructure. Lack of efficient water use policies and global warming are having a major impact on the available water supply.

According to the report, countries contributing 31 percent of global GDP, or $70 trillion, will face severe water shortages by 2050. Worryingly, four countries – India, Mexico, Egypt and Turkey – will account for more than half of this GDP in 2050.

Among the 25 countries facing the most water scarcity today are Bahrain, Cyprus, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Botswana, Iran, Jordan, Chile, San Marino, including India. , including Belgium, Greece, Tunisia, Namibia, South Africa, Iraq and Syria. An additional one billion people are likely to live with extreme water stress by 2050. By 2050 the entire population in the Middle-East and North Africa will be living with acute water scarcity. This not only affects people and industries but also poses a major problem for political stability. Take the case of Iran, where poor water management and inefficient use of water for agriculture have worsened the situation to the extent that people took to the streets to protest.

While Africa is the fastest growing economic region in the world today, according to the Global Commission on Adaptation, inefficient water use and poor water management can reduce the region’s GDP by up to 6 percent. India, China and Central Asia could lose 7 to 12 percent of GDP by 2050 due to lack of water management.

As for India, between 2017 and 2021 we lost 8.2 terawatt-hours of energy due to water shortages needed to cool thermal power plants. This electricity could have powered 15 lakh Indian households for five years.

Increasing water scarcity is a threat to the economic development of any country. It also affects food production. Global food security is already under threat. Research shows that 60 percent of the world’s irrigated agriculture is currently struggling with water scarcity, including sugarcane, wheat, rice and corn. By 2050, the world will need 56 percent more food than in 2010 to feed an estimated 10 billion people, which we have to do amid growing water scarcity and climate-driven disasters such as droughts and floods.

Water is essential for agriculture and animal husbandry, generating electricity, maintaining public health, ensuring social security, and mitigating global climate change. Proper water management becomes very important when water scarcity is becoming more and more acute due to factors like rampant population growth, economic development and climate change.

As we discuss the world’s water supply and demand situation, we must also understand that water scarcity does not necessarily lead to a water crisis. Water scarcity can be prevented if some necessary measures are taken in a planned manner. Singapore and Las Vegas have been able to thrive even in the most water-scarce conditions. Local authorities there have implemented good water conservation practices through desalination and other technologies such as wastewater recycling and reuse.

Different methods can be adopted according to the needs of each region. Along with conservation of natural resources, many steps can be taken in agriculture such as efficient use of water through methods like drip irrigation, growing crops using less water, increasing use of solar and wind energy. Apart from the government, industries, society and individuals also need to contribute to this. However, doing all this requires strong political will.

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Author:  Dr. Jay Narayan Vyas

Publish On: Aug 27,2023

India’s water crisis: The seen and unseen

As many as 256 of 700 districts reported critical or over-exploited groundwater levels as of 2017.

Photo courtesy:  RCH/Fotolia

Fetching water in India has been perceived as a woman’s job for centuries, especially in rural areas. As groundwater resources come under increasing pressure due to over-reliance and unsustainable consumption, wells, ponds and tanks dry up. This has escalated the water crisis and placed an even greater burden on accessing water on women.

Several girls are denied education purely because they are entrusted with it.

India constitutes 16 per cent of the world’s population, but the country has only four per cent of the world’s freshwater resources. With the changing weather patterns and recurring droughts, India is water-stressed.

As many as 256 of 700 districts have reported ‘critical’ or ‘over-exploited’ groundwater levels, according to the latest data from the Central Ground Water Board (2017). This means that fetching water in these districts has become harder as the water table has fallen.

A rural woman in Rajasthan walks over 2.5 kilometres to reach a water source, according to a report by the National Commission for Women. This is probably an underestimation, but the bottom line is that our women and girls spend a significant proportion of their time fetching water.

India has been consistently working towards improving access to water. The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) guidelines released in 2019 provide provision of tap water connections to households, which holds promise for the women in the country.

If implemented to the last mile, women and girls will not have to go through the arduous job of fetching water. JJM stresses the need to involve women in leading the scheme’s activities, especially at the village level.

Photo courtesy: Pragati Staff

Women are required to constitute 50 per cent of the village water and sanitation committees in villages. The ‘Swajal’ programme under JJM comprises a women’s development initiative, designed to upskill them, improve their income-earning capabilities, and connect them to the market with help from support organisations.

However, habitations with less than 25 per cent of its population with access to safe drinking water were granted lower priority in coverage. This indicates that water-stressed regions continue to suffer, and so do women and girls.

Though water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) policies are gender-sensitive in their design and planning, they fail to measure the gendered impact of the policy. Most evidence available is anecdotal, and there is no quantitative data or monitoring to substantiate how the policy stands to bridge the gender gap.

Policies must employ gender analysis tools to develop a framework for such measurement and integrate it with the management information system or mobile apps to track progress on gendered outcomes. To create an ecosystem for gender transformation, it is crucial for WASH policies to go beyond gender sensitivity and address gender inequality.

Even with all of the challenges, several communities are currently implementing more equitable and inclusive community-led total sanitation (CLTS) and WASH programmes through the Gram Panchayat Water Sanitation Committees, designed to provide adequate, accessible and sustainable solutions for those in need.

Involving women in designing, planning and implementing WASH programmes will socially include them and ensure gender equality, which will help them in decision-making: To deal with school dropouts, and improve literacy and health outcomes.

Our world is packed with knowledge, innovation and capacity, and our journey to achieve goal six of the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals could just become easier if we remain engaged, influential, and productive to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

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Author:  Mahesh Nathan

Publish On: Friday 19 March 2021