An abundance of rivers, streams, backwaters and a good amount of rainfall contribute to the lush greenery in Kerala, many parts of which yet face acute water scarcity when it comes to the summers. And this has led to the state adopting a Water Budget -- the first of its kind in the country.
The details of the first phase of the Water Budget in the state covering 94 grama panchayats in 15 block panchayats were unveiled on Monday by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
At the event, Vijayan said that the state was witnessing a reduction in water availability and therefore a water budget would be helpful in properly utilising the resource and preventing wastage.
Water experts welcomed the initiative and said it would help the state ascertain the demand and supply of the precious liquid resource and apportion it accordingly, as the problem was not one of availability, but of management.
"It is not an issue of scarcity, it is a managerial problem," said Dr Sunny George, a limnologist of international repute and the Director of the SCMS Water Institute.
"In order to manage a resource, you first need to quantify it. That is the basic principle of managing any resource," he added.
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"If we try to manage a resource without quantifying it, it would be like fighting our own shadow. It would be difficult. If we get data of demand and supply, we will get a correct picture. We will be able to plan appropriately. So budgeting would be very helpful. The Water Budget is definitely a good initiative," he told PTI.
He said that besides the natural sources like the numerous rivers, lakes, ponds, streams and the heavy rainfall the state gets during the monsoon season starting May, there are around 46 lakh open wells in Kerala.
However, with the arrival of piped water connections, people have forgotten about the wells which were dug up at private expense and are a source of water. "So these wells need to be included in the Water Budget data as a source of water supply," he said.
T N Seema, Coordinator of 'Navakeralam Karma Padhathi', also shared the same view that there was surplus water in the state, and yet it faces a shortage of the resource during summers.
She told PTI that this was revealed during the water budget exercise carried out in the 94 grama panchayats of the 15 block panchayats. "The volunteers, resource persons, and technical committee members have considered all the water sources in each panchayat, including rainfall, wetlands, canals, and other water bodies, and also calculated the demand from humans and animals, agriculture, and industries.
"So, specific recommendations have been provided to each panchayat as part of the Water Budget," she said.
Vijayan, in his speech after inaugurating the release of the Public Water Budget and the third phase of the project 'Ini Njan Ozhukatte' (Let me flow now) for rehabilitation of irrigation networks in the Western Ghats, said that despite having 44 rivers, many backwaters, lakes, ponds, streams and good rains, many parts of the southern state had been facing water scarcity during the summers.
"Therefore, usage of water has to be regulated in accordance with its availability in an area. That is where the water budget comes in. It would lead to awareness among the public against unnecessary wastage of water and through that we can achieve water conservation.
"It is the first-of-its-kind project in the country and will be an example for other states to emulate," the CM said.
His words assume significance as Kerala has been witnessing extreme temperatures in the past few weeks coupled with water scarcity in many parts of the state.
Vijayan also said that though the state had been receiving good rainfall every year, water availability was going down. Despite that, the availability of water in Kerala is three times the national average, he claimed.
Of the many reasons for reduction in water availability, one was "our actions and usage", he added.
Vijayan said that work was going on to create more ponds, protect our streams and rejuvenate other water bodies, and the same was being diligently carried out by local self government institutions (LSGIs) which have been now given the responsibility of implementing the water budget.
The water budget would be prepared by a committee of officials from the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management and the State Water Resources Department as well as various experts, the CM said.
Regarding the rehabilitation of irrigation networks in the Western Ghats, Vijayan said that around 7,290 kilometres of irrigation networks had been rejuvenated under the first and second phase of the project.
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