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World Water Day: Time to introspect, act and act now

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World Water Day: Time to introspect, act and act now
 
DR. TASNEEM MUBAR struggled a lot this winter even for a bucket of water when water froze everywhere around and all pipes were chocked.  It must have been the case with most of the inhabitants of Valley, I am sure. Winter has just passed now, but taught us many lessons and one of course is the value of water, the precious gift from the Almighty God.  22nd of March every year is celebrated as World Water Day. The purpose of celebrating days like this is to raise awareness and introspect as to what we have done or what we are in the process doing, is enough to indicate our seriousness about this resource.
 
On the occasion of world water day UN is also going to launch UN World Water Development Report on valuing water, which will be interesting to go through. One thing is quite clear that after air, water is the most preciousnatural resourceon earth. Both air and water need special attention, as if we fail to do it, these resources which otherwise give us life, will take it from us. The situation is not good when we see the current water scenario in the country. Statement made by NITI Aayog endorses seriousness of the issue.It says that at least 40% of Indian population will have no access to the drinking water by 2030. It further warns that 21 cities including the nation capital are expected to run out of ground water. Thus around 100 million people across the country are on frontline of this crisis. Like other parts, our region is also facing very serious water resource decline.
 
Once known for water treasures, Kashmir valley is losing water resources at a very fast pace, be it our wetlands or alpine glaciers the impact is drastic. Experts warn that most central and eastern Himalayan glaciers could virtually disappear by 2035. Misuse of surface water and Overexploitation of ground water on the other side is turning the situation more serious. India is the biggest user of ground water in world, which is mainly consumed for drinking and agriculture purposes. 85% of the rural India drinking water is derived from underground and in agriculture , ground water contributes more than half of the irrigated area (42 million ha). The Jal Shakti Ministry has set an ambitious target of providing water supply to every house hold by 2024 which is a good initiative, yet really tough, given to the present scenario. An individual needs around 25 litter of water daily,  for meeting basic hygiene and food needs and rest out of 150 liter / capita /day requirement (Standard Municipal water norms) goes to mopping and cleaning. It is estimated that around 40% of the piped water in urban area goes waste due to lack of maintenance of existing infrastructure.
 
All this gives us an insight to our future water scenario and also cautions us to be serious about it. If not now, then never. Some Experts believe that the situation can be reversed if we start working on it seriouslyright now. The Central Water Commission has estimated that annual requirement of water in the country is around 3000 billion cubic meter and country receives 4000 cubic meter rain annually. This indicates a positive balance of 1000 cubic meter. But again week monsoon and mismanagement can turn the situation adverse. So plenty of measures need to be aligned to attaining sustainability. It therefore becomes essential that we must change the water use practices and the current behavior with this precious resource across the domestic, industrial and agriculture sectors. For that, both regulation and mobilization is required.Judicious use of ground water, recharging of aquifer, rain harvesting, improvement in water infrastructure and policy related to water distribution, treating water pollution, reviving water bodies and wetlands, increasing water use efficiency in all the sectors are some areas to focus on.
 
Now coming to agriculture. Being staple food here in the Kashmir valley we have rice as major consumer of water compared to other crops.  On an average it needs 1432 liter water to produce one kilogram of rice in irrigated lowland production system. As per the estimates of International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) irrigated rice receives 34-43% of total word irrigation water. Thus adoption of water saving techniques in paddy alone can bring changes. Reducing water conveyance losses by cleaning channels or maintaining pipes, leveling of land, puddling, alternate drying and wetting and system of rice intensification (SRI) are some of the techniques to increase the water use efficiency. SRI technique is believed to around 44% water requirement of paddy. Farmers and other interested stake holders can have detailed information regarding these aspects of farmingfrom Division of Agronomy SKASUST- Kashmir; Krishi Vigyan Kendras (Agriculture Science Centers) of SKUAST-Kashmir established one in each district or for that matter from Mountain Research Center for Field Crops (MRCFC)-Khudwani.
 
For other crops, technologies like mico-irrigation (drip/sprinkler) and mulching are quite beneficial and are being explored in some states of the country with good results. Selection of crops and their varieties as per the availability of water resources and scheduling irrigation as per crop need is also very important to sustain food, fodder, fiber and fuel requirements in rural areas. Research for generating data base on water use efficiency of different crops, varieties and practices will be very important for future planning of crop husbandry in the country and likewise in Jammu & Kashmir.
 
(Dr. Tasneem Mubarak is Sr. Scientist & Head, KVK-Kulgam, SKUAST-Kashmir. He can be reached at: [email protected]
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