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  • Published
    4th Nov, 2018
  • National Mission for clean Ganga (NMCG) recently organized policy dialogue- “Urban Café: River for habitat” in coordination with UN Habitat
  • The main aim of this event was to highlight the importance of water and related issues in modern world on World Cities Day.



  • National Mission for clean Ganga (NMCG) recently organized policy dialogue- “Urban Café: River for habitat” in coordination with UN Habitat
  • The main aim of this event was to highlight the importance of water and related issues in modern world on World Cities Day.


  • Importance of Rivers: River water acts as remedy for both as on the one hand it adds water to water table while on the other hand it dilute the toxicity in existing water bodies connected to it by adding fresh water. Recent designation of Whanganui river by New Zealand and of the Ganga by Uttarakhand High court as living entity clearly signifies importance of rivers. Our ancestors also designated rivers such as the Nile, the Volga, the Ganga, as “Mother”

    UN Habitat:

    • UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all.


    • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was registered as a society on 12th August 2011 under the Societies Registration Act 1860.It acted as implementation arm of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) which was constituted under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA), 1986.
    • The Act envisages five tier structures at national, state and district level to take measures for prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution in river Ganga and to ensure continuous adequate flow of water so as to rejuvenate the river Ganga.
  • Challenges: India is facing dual challenge regarding water resources
      1. Replenishing ground water resources coupled with deteriorating water quality.
      2. Growing population and ever increasing demand of fresh and potable water.



                  Major threats to Indian rivers

    • Construction of large dams and physical alterations of river flow by straightening and deepening of river courses: This disrupts the natural flooding cycles, reduces flows, drains wetlands, cuts rivers off from their floodplains, and inundates riparian habitats, resulting in the destruction of species, the intensification of floods and a threat to livelihoods in the long term.
    • Deforestation and loss of natural habitats including wetlands: These are source of abundant goods and services for society - for urban, industrial or agricultural use. This reduces natural flood control and destroys the habitats used by fish, water birds and many other species for breeding, feeding and migrating.
    • Excessive water abstraction for agricultural irrigation, domestic consumption and urban/industrial use: This may involve pumping too much water from underground supplies, or long distance transfers of water from one basin to a neighboring river basin. In both cases, the result has often been the same story of dried-up river beds and wetlands irreparable damage to wildlife, and failure to deliver overall economic benefits. Sadly, the ecological and economic values of freshwater systems damaged by such ‘technical fixes’ are seldom taken properly into account.
    • Pollution: It caused by runoff from agricultural chemicals, poorly-managed and sometimes out-of-date industrial processes, and lack of adequate treatment for sewage and other urban waste. The results may include water that is unfit to drink, massive fish kills, and complete loss of underwater plants. Yet many effects of pollution are more insidious, only becoming clear after toxic substances have been building up in the food chain for many years.

    Mitigation strategies to save Indian rivers

    • Doing away with excess construction of dams which causes siltation of rivers by checking their flow.
    • Afforestation of river banks will help in checking stream bank erosion as well as purification of river water.
    • Treatment of industrial waste and domestic waste water before dumping into water bodies will help to rejuvenate rivers.

    Steps taken by government

    • Programmes such as “Namami Gange” will help to rejuvenate Indian rivers.
    • Formation of Ganga task force and designation of villages as “Ganga Gram” will help to mitigate problems of pollution in rivers through top down and bottom up approach respectively.
    • Recruitment “Ganga Praharis” who are trained volunteers will make people aware about importance of river and will ensure community level participation.
    • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Water Development Report states that India is the largest extractors of groundwater in the world.
    • Fifty-four percent of India’s groundwater wells have declined over the past seven years, and 21 major cities are expected to run out of groundwater by 2020. Thus, India faces a dual challenge: to regulate the growing demand for groundwater while replenishing its sources.

    Causes of overexploitation and pollution of ground water resources

    • Faulty irrigation practices such as flood irrigation, which is an irrigation practice followed generally in crops such as rice and sugarcane. This practice uses plenty of water hence causes soil salinity and reduction in ground water table.
    • Overdependence on water intensive crops such as rice and sugarcane. Rice is a staple diet in India which consumes a lot of water during its growth.
    • Water supply in urban and rural areas is not metered due to which there are no restrictions on users.
    • In some of the major cities water is metered but due to subsidy provided by government on these bills, effectiveness of regulation to control water wastage decreases.
    • Leaching causes descent of harmful chemicals to ground water causing pollution.
    • It causes diseases such as blue baby syndrome (nitrate poisoning) and minamata disease (mercury poisoning).

     Way Forward

    • Promotion of drip irrigation and micro irrigation will help in maintaining the water table in one hand while arresting the weed growth on the other.
    • Making water metering mandatory in urban and rural areas will cause monetary losses on overuse of water to people thus checking its overuse by them.
    • Doing away with subsidies on water bills.
    • Reducing subsidy on electricity, which is a main component in extraction of ground water will check overuse of water.
    • Promotion of millets will not only overcome water shortages but also provide better nutrition as compared to wheat and rice. Millets are also termed as dryland crops as they consume 1/3rd water as compared to other staple crops.

    Steps taken by Government

    • Promotion of community based water management plans such as recently launched “Swajal Scheme” will help to counter the menace of water shortage by bottom top approach.
    • Ground water management plans such as ATAL BHUJAL YOJNA to recharge water scarce aquifer. This scheme is implemented with the help of World Bank in selected states.
    • Organic farming such as “Pramparagat Krishi Vikash Yojna” initiative will help to mitigate problem of ground water pollution through leaching.

    Overall, recent recommendations by Mihir Shah Committee on restructuring central water commission and central ground water board will help to mitigate problems of surface and ground water respectively. Report has envisaged clubbing both existing boards into one as National Water Commission, for effective management of water resources in the country.

    Learning Aid

    Practice Question:

    1. Discuss the main causes of depletion of water resources in India. What can be different mitigation strategies adopted to counter this problem? Justify your answer by highlighting steps taken by government.

    Verifying, please be patient.

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