India’s ‘Waterman’ on Another Crusade
Rajendra Singh – the Magsaysay award winning ‘waterman’ of India — is on a crusade yet again. On Friday, he announced a Jal Jan Jodo Abhiyan to mobilize the masses against the “flawed water policies”, targeting ‘water mismanagement in Maharashtra’, and the proposed multi-crore water desalination plants in Kunnur (Kerala), Maharashtra, Andhra and Odisha. Singh will start the campaign from Kunnur, Kerala on April 22nd on the eve of ‘World Earth Day’. Singh said the impending damage to ecology from the water desalinization plants would be huge.
“In these desalinization plants more than 35 per cent are concentrated due to which pollution will rise and the sea fishes will not survive,” he claimed.
According to him the desalinization plant in Singapore had a different technology and was meant to treat waste water. Besides, there was a vast difference between the sea content in Singapore and India.
“My proposal is that community driven decentralized water management system should be implemented which is much cheaper. I had submitted a recommendation before the ministry of water resources and ministry of environment and forest about 20 days ago in this regard. So far there is no response from the government. The matter is quite serious and that’s why I have decided to start a countrywide journey from Kannur to spread an awareness about the ecological threat that these desalination plants pose to the environment,” he said.
He added that his purpose was also to highlight the plight of the people of drought affected Maharashtra. Claiming that Maharashtra was a classic case of flawed water policy as it still faced drought despite huge investment in dams in the state, he declared that after Kerela, his next destination will be Maharashtra “where in collaboration with local groups, the whole issue of water mismanagement and resultant drought in a state that has seen the maximum big water projects in the country will be highlighted”.
Singh said the objectives of the campaign were to help communities, particularly the poorest to regain rights, responsibilities and control over access to water resources; Equity in water distribution.
He said the focus of the campaign will be on the renewal of indigenous traditional water systems, as a resilient response to climate change, using a participatory approach.
To give final shape to Singh’s latest mass mobilization campaign, various civil society organization representatives working in water related issues assembled for a two-day conclave at the Gandhi Peace Foundation in New Delhi. On this occasion Indian agriculture research and council director, H.S. Gupta emphasized the need for cultivation of less water intensive crop.
Former chairman of Central Pollution Control Board Pratosh Tyagi said that along with water conservation, quality of water should also be kept in mind because modern development models were polluting water reserve at large level.