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Substantially increasing water-use efficiency and banning over extraction of water are important for rejuvenation of rivers like Ganga or Yamuna along with setting up sewage and industrial effluents' treatment plants, a top Union Water Resources Ministry official said at an ASSOCHAM event.

“Increasing water-use efficiency would not only make more water available to us but would also contribute in large way in rejuvenating our rivers,” said Mr U.P. Singh, secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation.

Mr Singh impressed upon the need to promote small surface storage and emphasise more on groundwater storage as constructing bigger dams like Bhakra-Nangal has become a difficult task owing to issues related to resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R), land acquisition, wildlife clearance, forest, biodiversity conservation and others.

He also said that in India water management was a bigger problem and there was no dearth of water in the country. “As per certain reports water availability in India continues to be what it used to be 50 years ago.”

He said that India has water availability at 1,123 BCM (billion cubic metre) whereas demand is somewhere around 700 BCM. “Looking at the availability of water beneath the ground, lot of investments would be required to make it available to the user and though India is not at a stage of running out of water very quickly but we need to undertake proper measures for water conservation and harvesting.”

He added that much has been talked about off supply side management i.e. how to augment the resources whereas we need to talk more about demand side management in a participatory mode.

Talking about the role of industry in terms of water conservation, sewage treatment and other related aspects, the secretary said “Onus is on the industry, public and private sector must work together to understand how government, industry and private players can participate as partners so that India can become a water secure nation and does not go Cape Town way.”

Earlier in his address at the ASSOCHAM National Conference, Mr K.C. Naik, chairman, Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) said that 2017 guidelines for issuance of NOCs (no objection certificates) as part of Government's Model Bill were being given a final shape.

The Government of India had circulated a Model Bill in 2005 asking all state governments to enact the same as water being a state subject they should control and manage it. In this Model Bill, agricultural sector being the backbone of Indian economy and livelihood of local farmers, it has been exempted whereas NOCs are required for industries, infrastructure and mining sectors.

He informed that the CGWB formulates guidelines for issuance of NOCs from time-to-time and the guidelines that had been issued in 2015 are in vogue now. But there were certain issues with the changing groundwater availability scenarios and the guidelines were again being revised in 2017 and were in the final stage.

“A committee has been constituted to finalise the guidelines that had been prepared, were uploaded on the websites and the comments from different state governments and central government agencies, NGOs and different stakeholders have already been received and these are being compiled,” said Mr Naik.

He also informed that CGWB had started compilation of national equatorial mapping of 76 blocks on priority basis by putting concerted efforts which are part of the 115 aspirational districts across the country identified by the NITI Aayog under Transformation of Aspirational District Program with an aim to quickly and significantly transform these districts in core focus areas of health and nutrition, agriculture and water resources, education, financial inclusion, skill development, basic infrastructure and others.

“There are 1,173 assessment units are there out of which 56 are over-exploited and 20 are critical,” further said the CGWB chief.

Sharing the industry's perspective, Dr Mahesh Gupta, CMD, Kent RO Systems Pvt. Ltd. suggested the government to support private sector in setting up water purifying machines in public places to minimise the problems arising out of drinking water scarcity and use of bottled water.

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