Editorial: Strive from 2020 for a gemütlich environment ahead

Ministry of Agriculture to set up laboratories to test quality of compost produced by local authorities or their authorized agencies

Sanjaya K. Mishra

Editorial Published on 25th December 2019

Year 2019 is quickly running out. The world is ecstatic to welcome the New Year 2020. Looking back, it was an encouraging year. India became one of the first countries in the world to develop and launch a comprehensive Cooling Action Plan, India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP). National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) was launched to tackle the problem of air pollution. NCAP targets 20 to 30% reductioIMG_20191226_013858n of PM10 and PM2.5 concentration by 2024, compared to 2017. 

Water Talk by National Water Mission, Green Good Deeds Campaign, the fight against single-use plastic, increase in tiger population addition in forest cover, and the release of White Paper on National Aviation Policy, to address major environmental challenges of the Indian aviation industry – are incredible. The National Green Tribunal’s Order dated 30th April 2019 pertaining to sewage disposal standards was a remarkable one. Jal Jeevan Mission was launched to ensure piped water supply to every household “Har Ghar Jal”. The formation of the new ministry, the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS) was a significant move. The Jal Shakti Abhiyan, the time-bound mission for water conservation to enhance water security, especially in the water-stressed districts, created a huge impact across the nation. It has delivered over 5 Lakh local water conservation infrastructure in 256 districts. An estimated 370 Lakh people participated in the mission making it a people’s movement. About 123 million saplings were planted as afforestation intervention through this mission. 

However, as the river water management, and clean up deals with the treatment of water pollution and wastewater management, a part of the Pollution Control Board could further be considered to be included in the MoJS. The format could be followed in the state as well, where the groundwater regulatory body and water pollution control body could be merged. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change may focus on emission control, air quality, soil quality-related subjects, alongside the environmental and forest clearances. Solid wastes, hazardous wastes, plastic wastes, e-wastes, battery wastes, bio-medical wastes, and construction and demolition (C&D) wastes are going to be major challenges in the forthcoming years. It has been observed by the National Green Tribunal and even the Supreme Court that the efficiency of municipal bodies have remained appalling in the solid waste, plastic waste, and C&D waste fronts. The structure of SPCBs can handle the subject. 

Coming back to 2019, Activism was also phenomenal. From Delhi air pollution to Mumbai Aarey, to PLPA in Haryana and Talabira in Odisha. Also, there were numerous exemplary works in the field of waste management. Especially, some RWAs working towards zero waste and fight against Single-Use Plastic. The year 2020 will be another crucial year for the environment. The deadline to leapfrog from Bharat Stage-IV (BS-IV) to Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI) emission norms by 1stApril 2020. This has created tremendous changes in the automotive market. India has embraced for faster adoption of electric vehicles and their manufacturing, with a goal to 30% electric vehicles by 2030. Many new job openings would come out for wastewater professionals to meet the 31st March 2020 deadline given by the NGT.

As time is running out, to attain a better environment, to restore forest, and nature so that people and wildlife can thrive. As it may take time to turn the ship around, we need to start now. Everybody – individuals, citizens, institutions, academicians, governments, judiciary, businesses, activists, NGOs, and media – together, we can step up in 2020 and take urgent action to protect and restore nature, before it’s too late.

 

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First National Water Mission Awards 2019

20190925 NWM Awards
Photo Credit: National Water Mission

Sanjaya K. Mishra @sanjayakmishra

National Water Mission (NWM), Department of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti was set up in 2011 based on the National Action Plan on the Climate Change, which was prepared in 2008. In his address, Hon’ble Mission Director, Shri G. Asok Kumar said that “We are all associated with water in one way or other. Most of us here are water warriors.” While elaborating the process of selecting the winner, he mentioned that the award process was initiated started six months back and went through a rigorous screening and assessment. This is the first time ‘National Water Mission Awards’ were presented to recognize excellence in water conservation, efficient water use and sustainable water management practices. He also expressed hope that this award will set a benchmark in the water sector.

Shri U. P. Singh, Hon’ble Secretary, Department of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti started his speech with a beautiful quote “रहिमन पानी राखिये, बिन पानी सब सून। पानी गये न ऊबरे, मोती, मानुष, चून॥.” He expressed that it is a matter of delight to be here to acknowledge for the first time the people who have worked in the direction of five goals set by NWM. In his address, he reminded the Prime Minister’s focus on water conservation and water management through a people’s movement. Shri Singh also said that there are many people in India who ignorant about the groundwater scenario. He also mentioned about National Water Awards distributed in March 2019 and National Water Talk. While congratulating the award winners, he also expressed that he believes this award will motivate more and more people to do excellent work in the field of water conservation and management and also participate in future award programmes.

Shri Rattan Lal Kataria, Hon’ble Minister of State for Jal Shakti said in his address that water is at the core of sustainable development and for the survival of human itself. There is a close link between water and economic growth of the country. He emphasized that cooperation is a must for a sustainable tomorrow and Jal Shakti Ministry is an example in itself of such cooperation. He said that Integrated Water Management is a tool for poverty reduction and sustainable economic development. Shri Kataria also congratulated NWM for its continuously working towards making India more climate resilient.

Before prize distribution, the esteemed gathering took water pledge with Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Hon’ble Union Minister for Jal Shakti.

After the distribution of awards, Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Hon’ble Union Minister for Jal Shakti addressed the gathering. He said that the time demands more than water saving and harvesting and practice water conservation. He elaborated about the water bodies and shared an example that the society has perceived the rivers as water sources, which are actually not sources but ways. He expressed his worry that today our nation has become the most water contaminated, which is a question of life and death for the industries. The Minister lamented on the fact that only 4% of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) obligation is spent on the water, while it is around 11% for the water-intensive industries and called for a rethink on the issue. He further advocated for the judicious and multiple uses of water are key to tackle the water challenge in India and urged the policy planners work in this direction, especially, in in the field of Agriculture and Industries. Hon’ble Union Minister also said that Jal-Andolan should become a true Jan-Andolan (People’s Movement) as exhorted by the Prime Minister to tide over the water scarcity in India.

NWM has 5 goals and 39 strategies prescribed in the Mission Document. One of the strategies of NWM under Goal IV is to incentivize the organization/ companies through awards for water conservation and efficient use of water. Hence, the NWM has initiated the ‘National Water Mission Awards’ to recognize excellence in water conservation, efficient water use and sustainable water management practices. The awards are given in ten categories defined under five goals of NWM. The prize money for the awards was First Prize – Rs. 2 lakh; Second Prize – Rs. 1.5 lakh and Third Prize – Rs. 1 lakh along with certificate and trophy.

 

Editorial: Jal Shakti Abhiyaan: A hit?

Sanjaya K. Mishra

Editor & Publisher, ENVIRO ANNOTATIONS

This article was published in the Editorial of ENVIRO ANNOTATIONS on 25th September 2019

 

A young girl asked an old man, “Hello Uncle, can you give me a bucket of water?” The old man replied, sure, my child. Then he counted on fingers and said it will cost you Rs. 2500/=. The girl got shocked. What? That’s too much of pity, she said. The old man replied, how come? Till there was plenty of water, you never bothered. This was a seamless play performed by a young, vibrant dramatic group in Delhi. Are we really approaching that situation? India receives the maximum rainfall in the world. Average annual rainwater received in India is 35 crore hectare liter against a demand of 12 to 15 crore hectare liter water. Thus, India is a water surplus country.

The Union Minister for Jal Shakti, Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat had questioned once, about the impact of Jal Shakti Abhiyaan. It is visible. In Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, newspaper, TV, Radio and roadside tea, beetle stalls, everywhere – talk of water is ubiquitous. An IT professional from Bengaluru shared a message that he has abdicated use of jeans apparels because such products are water intensive during manufacturing. It is, however, important to know the water footprint of a product during its complete life cycle that includes stages of manufacturing as well as during the entire period of use. Groups of children in RWAs have become water guardians. Instead of enjoying vacations, in some societies children became a green army and water warriors to identify houses with frequently overflowing tanks and taught them lessons to stop misuse of water. Government officials, Individuals, NGOs, institutions – Jal Shakti Movement has created a compelling impact.

Some advertisements of the Ministry are seemingly drifted towards the fun side. Posting the photograph of Dabang with a punchline “Paani se darr nahi lagta Sahab” evades the seriousness of the grave issue. Similarly, advertising the subject with Hindi Cinema star like Aamir Khan, who has earlier done commercial promotions of the rigorous water intensive soft drink industry also seems far from befitting. Instead, the Ministry may change the dynamics of advertisements with data and numbers. For example, previous year rainfall received versus volume of rainwater harnessed and the same data for the current year after the massive movement started – could give a clear message to the nation. The groundwater and surface water quality could also be an indicator in this regard. As the Prime Minister himself has raised the issue more than once, different ministries may unite to prepare data. The MoEF&CC may ask for specific reports on qualitative and quantitative data on water from the projects accorded with environmental clearance. Similarly, the CGWA/CGWB, MoJS may also demand similar reports from the projects accorded with approval for groundwater abstraction. A holistic deliberation could bring in a far better impact on society.

Hon’ble President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind shared a tweet on September 24, 2019 “Managing and mapping groundwater resources is also an important aspect of water governance. The widespread use of boring machines has led to unregulated and excessive exploitation of groundwater. We have to value our groundwater and be responsible.” Shri Umakant Umrao, IAS, mentioned in a presentation that during the last 30 years, Rs. 8 to 10 Lakh Crore spent on bore well drilling. If this amount could have been spent in rainwater harvesting, the scenario could have been different. There is a need to identify illegal exploration of groundwater. Technology and devices should be made available to trace legal or illegal borewells. Whether work in this direction has started? If yes, it needs to be promoted and highlighted. Let us repose on the adage – Action speaks louder.

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