india-water-weekMinistry of Water Resources, Government of India celebrated “India Water Week- 2012” on the theme “Water, Energy and Food Security for Solutions” from 10th to 14th April 2012 at New Delhi. An exhibition was also arranged from 10th to 12th April 2012 at Pragati Maidan to provide the opportunity to the participant water resources development organizations and corporates to project the state of art technologies by demonstrating their capability, in providing services or equipment.

The event provided a forum for exchange of views and forming opinions about developmental needs of the water resources sector, issues that need to be tackled in diverse socio-economic scenarios along with technological services available for solutions envisaged. Hon’ble Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh in his inaugural speech highlighted the issues concerning water resource management and how the same is linked with the developmental programmes of the country.

Noting that “India has a scarcity of water,” Dr. Singh said that “rapid economic growth and urbanization are widening the demand supply gap”.

Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy chairman of India’s Planning Commission, said that unless action is taken, water consumption in India by 2030 is estimated to be “100% higher” than the water available.

The inaugural session was attended by more than 1100 delegates.

During the event 15 technical sessions were held namely Integrated Water Resources Management, Water and Infrastructure Development, Water for Energy Security, Water for Food Security, Climate Change, Water Governance, Water Security for Livelihood and Environment, Economics and Financing of Water Projects, Groundwater Management, Urban and Rural Water Management, Flood and Draught Management, Capacity Building for Water Resources Management, Water Quality and Health and Research in Water Sector. The technical sessions were attended by more than 700 delegates from India and abroad. The participants deliberated on the change facing the water, energy and agro-food sectors to meet the food requirement of burgeoning population under increasing pressure on land and water resources in Asia and consequences of apprehended climate change.

Once viewed as an infinite and bountiful resource, water today defines human, social, and economic development. Though most of our civilization flourished around water sources, the greatest problems and challenges are emerging in the cities of the developing countries. The risk involved in unplanned development model threatens the very quality and existence of human kind for which development models have been set. The major risk is the over consumption of natural resources without any means or technologies for replenishing them causing scarcity of these resources e.g. land, water and clean air.

The technical session on ‘Water Quality and Health’ was chaired by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder, Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement, New Delhi.

In his keynote address, Dr. Pathak pointed out that water availability in India is decreasing very fast and it may lead to water scarcity condition within this decade. This is mainly due to over exploitation of the water sources, increase in population and poor handling of fresh water sources. All these have significant health impact, causing increase in diarrhoeal diseases.

Low water availability mainly during hot summer months, which leads to use of unsafe water causes 15 major water related diseases. The water available through tankers/vendors are also of questionable quality.

Dr. Pathak further mentioned that we may improve fresh water availability either by reducing consumption or by increasing availability of water. Sulabh International Social Services Organization has been practicing both the technologies to improve the fresh water availability. In general people are having either sewerage systems or septic tanks both of which flush 10 litres of water in each go, whereas in the Sulabh toilet system it needs only 2 litres of water per use and thereby saving 8 litres per trip. In Sulabh toilets there are two pits, one is used at a time and the other is kept as standby. When the first pit fills up, the excreta is switched over to the other one. Sulabh has so far installed around 1.2 million pour-flush toilets in the country with 7 persons using toilets twice daily. Thus, 134.4 million litres of fresh water gets saved by this technology. If all the six billion toilet users in the world had been using Sulabh two pit toilet 96 billion of fresh water would have been saved daily by implementing this technology.

Dr. Pathak added that Rainwater harvesting, another programme implemented by Sulabh, captures rain water where it falls and then stored for either using it for domestic purposes or recharging ground water. Theoretically rain captured from 1 to 2% of India’s land can provide Indian population of over 1 billion as much as 100 litres of water per person per day. Sulabh International has developed a number of RWH projects in the country.

Poor maintenance of water supply systems with inadequate monitoring of water quality and services is causing major water related diseases. Another important issue is contamination of ground water sources causing serious risk problem for the Indian population. Fluoride and arsenic are the two sources of very serious health risks in the country.

Pollution of water sources, both surface and ground is mainly caused by agrochemicals, industrial waste and excessive pollution by untreated waste from domestic and industrial sources. Hardly 31% of the sewerage generated in the class I and Class II cities in the country is getting treated, that, too, partially in majority of cases. The untreated and partially treated municipal wastewater finds its way into water sources such as rivers, lakes and groundwater. According to Central Pollution Control Board study in 2009 46% of the total river lengths is polluted in the country. Poor sanitation also causes huge economic loss to the country. According to the World Bank study the loss may be equivalent to US$ 53.8 billion.

To improve the wastewater treatment process and make it safe Sulabh has been working on various technologies. The Sulabh Effluent Technology (SET) is for complete recycling of human excreta through biogas generation and onsite treatment of effluents through a simple and convenient technology for its safe use without health or environmental risk. The effluent discharged from public toilet, after treatment, has Biochemical Oxygen Demand less than ten milligrams per litre.  This water is safe for discharge into rivers or water bodies, without polluting them. Hence, this also prevents pollution from the sewage. It can also be used for cleaning of floors of public toilets. Both these technologies are suitable for market places, housing colonies, high-rise buildings, public places, schools, colleges, hospitals etc.

india-water-week-3There were eight more speakers in the technical sessions highlighting issues concerning water pollution and its impact on health. The speakers mainly discussed industrial and municipal waste and how these are polluting the fresh water sources. Most of the rivers are highly polluted and not even fit for bathing. Pollution due to unwanted use of pesticides in agriculture was also discussed in the technical session. There was a presentation of bioremediation on hydrocarbon and heavy metals in water highlighting how these technologies could be used for waste management.