World Water Day Special: Moving towards better water governance in India

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The solution to the water crisis is not just in increasing investment and improving technology, a major component of solving the water crisis in India is enabling better water governance. According to the World Bank, the annual cost of problems related to poor drinking water in India is about Rs 26,000 crore. A recent report by the NITI Aayog revealed that 75% of Indian households do not have drinking water on premise. Moreover, nearly 2,00,000 deaths in India are attributed to unsafe water. Clearly, there is a need for greater coordination among the sector actors to deliver lasting socio-economic change and achieve the goal of inclusive growth.

Towards smart water solutions

This involves efforts at the grassroot and public-private partnerships to provide customized water solutions at a reasonable cost, especially to those at the bottom of the pyramid. Here, social entrepreneurship and enterprise-linked approaches can come into the picture by bridging the gap between haves and have-nots. Further, partnerships with the government, district administrations, panchayat bodies, NGOs, self-help groups as well as commercial institutions can help scale up the devised solutions. This would be a game-changer in achieving a reality where every citizen in India has access to at least four litres of clean water per day to meet their basic needs.

Advocacy is another cog in this machinery. Raising awareness about the water-related problems at the local level, having grievance redressal mechanisms in place, and an active civil society that takes action to solve the challenges at the grassroots, are integral in ensuring sustainability and development. For instance, the success of an innovative water management approach adopted in a remote village in India will greatly depend on the extent of community participation. The villagers may form ‘water committees’ and function as pillars of self-governance, eliminating the need for long queues and waiting hours for water tanks in the local area.

This also includes generating awareness about the imminent water crisis coupling it with educational initiatives that encourage mindfulness and willingness towards water conservation. Important markers like the World Water Day, observed on 22nd March every year, should be utilized to spread the message.

Coming together for change

Rather than leaving the needs of the people to the government alone, we all need to come together to create a war against inaccessibility, inefficiency in distribution and contamination of water. We need to create a cadre of change agents that will find solutions, change systems and persuade entire societies to move in a direction that will create lasting change.

(Written by Arushi Sharma)

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