First-ever water budget adopted in India - GulfToday

First-ever water budget adopted in India

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

india water 2

A report states that the initiative will help improve the demand and supply system.

For the first time in India, a state is adopting a water budget. Unveiled by the Kerala Chief Minister recently, the first phase in the Indian state of Kerala will cover 94 gram panchayats in 15 block panchayats.

As a solution to water scarcity during summer months to ensure equitable water distribution, the water budget, prepared with people’s participation, is the first of its kind initiative at the local body-level in the country. A water budget is a tool used to manage water resources by estimating the total amount of water available in a region and the amount of water used by different sectors. It helps in making informed decisions about water use, identifying areas of water scarcity, developing strategies for equitable water distribution and creating awareness about proper water use and avoiding wastage.

A Down to Earth (DTE) report highlights that according to water experts, the initiative will help improve the demand and supply system. The budget is also timely, as the temperatures in the state have been increasing significantly in the last few weeks. The high temperatures have resulted in water scarcity in some regions, even though the state has more than 44 rivers and dozens of lakes, ponds and canals.

The DTE report says that, however despite the increasing scarcity, the state still has three times more water available than the national average. The government will also ensure the participation of local self-governing institutions through the budget so that rainwater can be distributed equitably for agriculture and irrigation.

As reported by Mongabay-India, Kerala became the first state to adopt a water budget on April 17, 2023, not just as a solution to water scarcity, but also for effective management of water resources, elimination of water shortage during summer months and to ensure equitable water distribution. Several government departments, agencies, and research institutes, 94 gram panchayats in 15 block panchayats, together created the base document for water conservation, which is currently limited to rural areas. While calculating availability, both surface water and ground water were considered. Instead of taking data on annual or seasonal rainfall, water availability per ten days was calculated. The consumption of water for domestic use, irrigation, business, tourism and industrial needs were factored in, while calculating the total water demand and the differences in consumption patterns for each panchayat were also accounted for. Experts believe that water budgets can be an effective instrument to ensure sustainable development.

The Mongabay-India report also points out that the concepts of water budget and water conservation were floated by a few in 2018 and in 2019. Kerala began recording the availability of water, its consumption, surplus and deficit in 94 gram panchayats of the state. The trial water budget was conducted at the Muttil Panchayat in Wayanad district. The errors and shortcomings from this trial were corrected and loose ends tied up before starting the exercise across the state.

As the Mongabay-India report points out, unlike the northern states of India that get water from melting of snow, rainfall is the only source of water for Kerala. The annual average rainfall in the state is around 3000¬-3200 mm from the two monsoon seasons and summer rains, but it exhibits significant variations depending on the geography. The northern districts of Kerala receive very little rain after the south-west monsoon and hence require more long-term conservation methods than the southern districts which get both the returning monsoon and the summer rains.

According to the DTE report, the Kerala government has revived 15,119 kilometres of waterways in the last few years. Local bodies are rejuvenating more ponds and streams and the responsibility of implementing the water budget has also been entrusted to them, according to the government. India receives around 4000 billion cubic metres of water from the average annual rainfall, which is also the country’s main source of fresh water. But the rate of rain varies in various parts of the country. There are about 20 river basins in India. Most of the river basins are drying up due to domestic, industrial and agricultural use. Water demand also varies in various parts of the country.

The findings of the water budgets are now being presented before the public in seminars held at block panchayat levels, the Mongabay-India report states. While new projects in various sectors are being planned for each panchayat, water budgets are expected to be an effective instrument for ensuring sustainable development.

Related articles