Water is the most crucial natural resource and is an important factor in the socio-economic development the world over. Its availability greatly influences the prosperity and development potential of a country, in addition to improved health status of the people of the area. The availability of this vital resource is by no means assured for large sections of the world’s population. The situation is alarming, and the present level of awareness is not commensurate with the gravity of the consequential situation. The requirement of water for irrigation and domestic and industrial purposes is bound to increase due to population growth and increased demand for food.

Climatic variations and variability over the past three or four decades is matter of concern. The impact of climate variability and climate change on the water sector may be adverse and extensive. It is obligatory to frame policies which recognize water as an integral part of the ecosystem, a precious natural resource with a social and economic value and to implement these polices for the prosperity and well-being of mankind.

The Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India, had established a key annual policy and technology showcase event ‘India Water Week’. On behalf of the Ministry, the National Water Development Agency and the Central Water Commission, ‘India Water Week 2013’ was organized from April 8 to 12, 2013 with the theme ‘Efficient Water Management: Challenges and Opportunities’. The event had a conference cum policy dialogue forum coupled with a business to business exhibition organised professionally. The event was targeted at international and national audience comprising policy planners and technologists involved with water resources management in all key sectors of economy like Agriculture and Irrigation, Energy and Industry and Drinking Water Supply. The organisers invited a host of developed and developing countries for their highest level participation and also with the industry leaders for showcasing their services and technologies to the water resources community.

The theme for ‘Efficient Management of Water: Challenges and Opportunities’ was divided into three streams as follows:

1. Efficient Management of Water in Agriculture and Irrigation

2. Efficient Management of Water in Energy generation and Industries

3. Efficient Management of Water in Water supply for Rural and Urban Areas.

Panel Discussions

The topics were covered through a set of seminars, panel discussions and brain storming sessions. Conclusions were drawn based on expressed views of the presentations. The Ministry of Water Resources compiled and provided the findings to other interested organizations like state governments etc. for use during their planning and development exercises.

A parallel event on “Regional Day by Global Water Partnership- South Asia on Improved Efficiency for Increased Resilience to Climate Change: An integrated Water Resources Management Perspective”, was organized. The impacts of climate change will be felt mainly through water. Whereas climate change is expected to impact countries in different ways, bringing more intense storms, increases or decreases in the annual rainfall, and floods and droughts, it is certain to introduce significant uncertainty. UNDP estimates that in South Asia alone, 2.5 billion people will be affected with water stress and scarcity by the year 2050. However, increasing efficiency at the farm or factory level can only be effective when planned from an integrated perspective taking into account local needs and priorities, different capacities, roles of women and men, governance systems etc.

Four sessions as mentioned below were held in the parallel event.

Session 1:

Overview: Linking Water Use Efficiency to Climate Change Adaptation through Integrated Water Resources Management

Session 2:

Beyond Water: The Water, Food, and Energy Nexus

Session 3:

Inclusive Efficiency: Ensuring all sections of society women, the poorest landless, etc are partners in the process.

Session 4:

Investing in the Future: the South Asia Water Climate and Development Programme

During the Water Week in the Panel Discussion 6, the subject of ‘Eco-Friendly Sanitation System with Emphasis on Rural Areas’ the following particular issues were raised

      • Financing of public-good elements of sanitation including waste water treatment.
      • Creating atmosphere to incentives for local community/ government for effectively managing the waste water.
      • Financing for water quality surveillance and environmental monitoring.
      • Establishment of the framework and procedures for health impact assessment (HIA), with sanitation as a key safeguard.
      • Innovative ways of balancing and delivering local sanitation and environmental management.
      • Establishment of mechanisms to fund and implement waste water treatment of rural sanitation.
      • Case studies.

India-Water-Week-2The panel was chaired by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, Sociologist and Social Reformer and Founder, Sulabh Sanitation Movement. The following panellists were also present on the dais:

      1. Mr. Saraswati Prasad, Joint Secretary (S&A), Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
      2. Prof. K.J. Nath, President, Institution of Public Health Engineers, India, and Member, National Ganga River Basin Authority, Government of India.
      3. Mr. Tapan Kumar Padhi, Director, National Institute for Development.

Dr. Pathak’s Suggestions

Dr. Pathak after his presentation on rural sanitation problems and issues and Sulabh technologies along with methodologies, suggested:

      • Since the funding of rural household sanitation project is done by two separate Ministries of the Government of India, this may create problems in the day-to-day implementation of the programme. At the grassroots level, certainly it causes delay, lack of convergence, duplication of staffing and accounting, confusion and complications.
      • For motivation, education, communication, training, designing, estimation, handholding, implementation, maintenance and follow-up, dedicated NGOs/motivators called ‘Missionaries of Sanitation’ should be trained on a large scale. Masons should also be trained on a large scale for building toilets.
      • Like ILCS Scheme under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, the NGOs/ motivators may be allowed to charge 15% as supervision charge if they perform all the functions mentioned above. This decision will help save public exchequer from extra financial burden over the salaries and expenditure on regular government staff.
      • The motivators should persuade and motivate the villagers to wear shoes and slippers for defecation in the open till they have toilets in their homes. This will act as a preventive measure and save them from various diseases.
      • Advocacy by motivators should be both intensive and of adequate duration so that they are able to convince the beneficiaries to install the two-pit pour-flush compost toilets. This will also help them to answer all queries and questions asked by the villagers.
      • People in general, even if they don’t have adequate knowledge of the septic tank, prefer to have septic tank and therefore the motivators should have an indepth knowledge to convince the beneficiaries about the advantages of the two-pit pour-flush compost toilet and disadvantages of the septic tank.
      • These motivators would also have adequate literature and kit bags so that they can educate the beneficiaries how to get the proper toilet built, maintained as also to rectify in case some problems or defects develop.
      • Literature should be published in local languages so that the villagers can easily understand and be benefited from the books, pamphlets etc.
      • The beneficiaries should be given choice of many designs of toilets so that they could be able to adopt the toilets as per their choice and income. This will help in the adoption of this technology by everybody, rich and poor. Government’s incentive being limited, the balance can be met by beneficiaries.
      • Apart from subsidy, loan should be given by the banks on differential rate of interest under priority sector lending to enable them to build toilets of their own choice.

Rural Sanitation

Mr. Saraswati Prasad, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation discussed the sanitation coverage in rural India as well as the problems faced by various agencies in implementing the programme. He shared his concern regarding the rural sanitation coverage as 32.7%, as per the Census 2011, has so far been covered by sanitation facilities. He also emphasized the importance of the media campaign for enhancing the rural sanitation coverage. He raised the issue of low funding for solid and liquid waste management in the rural areas, as this is an equally important intervention.

Prof. K.J. Nath, President, Institution of Public Health Engineers, India, and Member, National Ganga River Basin Authority, Government of India, said that the planners and policy makers should understand the economic return from sanitation programme. He linked MDGs goal to sanitation as many of the MDG goals could be achieved only by having proper sanitation practices. To enhance the rural sanitation coverage, the participation of rural community should be increased. To accelerate the coverage women should be encouraged to actively participate in the programme. He also talked about the subsidies provided by the Government of India for sanitation coverage.

Mr. Tapan Kumar Padhi, Director, National Institute for Development, emphasized on the decreasing trend of water quality because of urbanization and pollution. He advocated for the Ecosan latrines. He said Ecosan toilet is the most environment-friendly and low-cost sanitation system developed in the world over last decades. The following recommendations were suggested after the discussions:

      1. Regarding the behavioural change among the stakeholders and beneficiaries by motivation through sustainable and appropriate technology as well as need of legal framework on sanitation was emphasized upon.
      2. The capacity building of motivators as well as masons at grassroots level regarding the available technology on sanitation should enable to convince stakeholders and beneficiaries.
      3. While selection and design of toilets consideration of geohydrological status of the local area needs to be taken care of.

The participants were of the view that the technology of two-pit pour-flush toilet is perfect and a time-tested. To achieve the dream goal like 50% open defecation free by 2017 and ODF status by 2022, the Ministry of Drinking Water Supply will require training the masons as well as motivators in a missionary mode.