Water- A Sectoral Approach
Water is a prime natural resource, a basic human need and precious natural asset. It is a life supporting life sustaining, and life-purifying element, and is sacred. The extent to which water is abundant or scarce, clean or polluted, beneficial or destructive has a major influence on the rapidly changing world, ever increasing population and fast rate of scientific and technological advancement.
Although more than 70 per cent of the blue planet, our home, is covered with water, access to safe and clean water has become a major challenge to sustainable development. Facing ever increasing demand and suffering wide spread degradation, the world’s water resources are under serious stress. This often debases the quality of life for many and, in extreme cases, threatens the vital life supporting infrastructures of our planet. Even though our land was referred as “the gallery of waters and mountains”, this harmonious co-existence with nature has been shaken by rapid development starting in the early 1970s and characterised by export-led industrialisation and urbanisation. In particular, intensive economic growth triggered a break in the balance between the demand and supply of water resources, thus, in a larger sense weakening the balance between nature and human desire. Indiscriminate acts of development were rampant, and supply oriented water management dominated our water policy objectives. The outcome was staggering: safe and clean water recourses become scarce and visibly inferior.
Recent developments in water sector are associated largely with the improved management and institutional changes. Water is now treated as an economic good, and the approach towards water development, production and supply are shifting towards a demand responsive mode. As the poor are, the worst affected because of water scarcity, improved access to drinking water and sanitation has emerged as a significant component of any poverty reduction strategy.
Safe drinking water and sanitation are the basic priority for a healthy community. The lack of safe drinking water and sanitation is one of the major causes of disease and death worldwide. Every year over five million people die from water-related diseases: some 3 million from diarrhoea and around 2 million from malaria. Within a few decades, about a third of the world’s people are expected to suffer from chronic water shortage. The incidence of disease and death around the world could be cut by three quarters if there were adequate supplies of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. There have been improvements over past decades.
At the present rate of investment, safe drinking water will not be provided to all the peoples of Asia before 2025. The rate of progress urgently needs to be accelerated. At the Millennium Submit in September 2000, the world’s nations resolved to reduce by half the number of people without access to safe and affordable drinking water by 2015. Since fresh water is essential for water supply and sanitation, an examination of the fresh water situation in India is required. The fresh water availability is uneven across India, and a huge disparity exists from basin to basin, region-to-region, state-to-state and in many cases even with in states.
Increasing demand for fresh water has been identified as the quantity of water required to be supplied for specific use and includes consumptive as well as necessary non-consumptive water requirements for the user sector.
Water resource degradation is a severe problem, which is facing by the water sector. There is enough evidence to indicate that the available fresh water resource base is degrading rapidly. Because of the high population density, it is impossible to retain the pristine water quality in the rivers since anthropogenic pollution makes the situation grave during the lean flow season when the dilution water available is less. Regarding to the coverage of urban and rural areas, it is noted that the coverage is not uniform across the country and varies widely from state to state. In India, only seven states have achieved full coverage of rural habitations and the others to varying degrees. On the urban front, in class 1 cities and class 11 towns of the country, there is huge disparity in quantity of water supplied. Of the 393 class cities, only around 77 cities have cent per cent water supply coverage. The per capita water supply also ranges from as low as 9 litres per capita per day (lpcd) in Tuticorin to as high as 584 lpcd in Thiruvannamali.. Besides an inequitable distribution of water in a given city, the supply is erratic with water quality degrading continuously over time.
The common scenario in this respect is reflected in the water sectors of Kerala also. Provision of drinking water and sanitation services has always been a key priority for the State. The state has achieved significant results in terms of improved coverage as a result of the investments made through the nodal agencies like, the Kerala Water Authority and the Rural Development Department. Kerala Water Authority (KWA) was formed by converting the Public Health Engineering Department of the Government of Kerala (GoK) as per the Kerala Water & Wastewater Ordinance, 1984. KWA has contributed significantly in improving piped drinking water coverage in the State. However, on account of various internal and external reasons, the institution and investments have become unsustainable. The systems are typically supply driven, at times over designed, with high UAF of 35-40%, and poor cost recovery. According to official sources, the UAF comprises technical loss and theft; the later would be of the range of 20%, benefiting mostly the rich and commercial interests. The investment made by households to ensure access to assured and improved service levels is also significant. However, full coverage as well as the envisaged service levels still remain an elusive target while assets created are languishing for want of proper management and maintenance.
The crisis is further deepened with the public investment made in the sector increasingly turning out to be technologically and financially unsustainable. The state government is therefore facing an arduous task of mobilizing substantial investment required for implementing new schemes on one hand, while parallel finding resources for both rehabilitation and augmentation of existing schemes in order to achieve the dual target of full coverage and also to attain acceptable standards of service level.
In sanitation, despite the statistical achievements of 85 percent, which obviously is one of the highest in the country, the sector is characterized by second generation problems like significant number of leach pit latrines polluting water sources, issues of solid and liquid waste disposal, unhygienic practices etc., necessitating a fundamental re-examination of the strategy followed.
Institutionally, agencies like KWA, Rural Development Department and the Total Sanitation Mission, which contributed significantly to achieve the improved coverage, need to be adequately re-oriented / re-engineered to meet the emerging challenges, especially in context of the 73rd and 74th amendment of the constitution, making water and sanitation the mandatory responsibilities of the PRIs. The idea of national water policy originated in 1980s which was adopted in 1987 as an official declaration. Sited some salient features like water is a scarce and precious national resource ; hydrological unit as the basis of planning ; project planning for multiple benefits; integrated and multi-disciplinary approach; regulation of ground water extraction; conjunctive use; priority for drinking water; integration of water use and land use policies; equity and social justice; water rates to cover maintenance and operational charges and part of fixed costs, participatory approaches in irrigation management and involvement of voluntary agencies should be highlighted and give much importance for a sustainable future in water sector.
Revising the existing conditions of drinking water and sanitation sectors of different regions are of great importance, rather it is the need of the hour as it throws light towards the living condition of the inhabitants, there by accessing the efficiency of Governmental and non-Governmental agencies employed for improving the standard of living of the people.