General Studies Paper 3
Context: The Ministry of Jal Shakti has recently released the report of India’s first water bodies census.
More about the census
- India’s first water bodies census contains a comprehensive database of ponds, tanks, lakes, and reservoirs in the country.
- The census was conducted in 2018-19, and enumerated more than 2.4 million water bodies across all states and Union Territories.
- The Centre earlier maintained a database of water bodies that were getting central assistance under the scheme of Repair, Renovation and Restoration (RRR) of water bodies.
- Recommendation for the census:
- In 2016, a Standing Committee of Parliament pointed to the need to carry out a separate census of water bodies.
- The government then commissioned the first census of water bodies in 2018-19 along with the sixth Minor Irrigation (MI) census.
- Objective of carrying out census:
- The objective wasto collect information “on all important aspects of the subject including their size, condition, status of encroachments, use, storage capacity, status of filling up of storage etc.”.
About “Water Bodies”
- What consists of “Water Bodies”?
- First Census Report considers “all natural or man-made units bounded on all sides with some or no masonry work used for storing water for irrigation or other purposes (e.g. industrial, pisciculture, domestic/ drinking, recreation, religious, ground water recharge etc.)” as water bodies.
- According to the census, the water bodies “are usually of various types known by different names like tank, reservoirs, ponds”.
- A structure where water from ice-melt, streams, springs, rain or drainage of water from residential or other areas is accumulated or water is stored by diversion from a stream, nala or river will also be treated as a water body.
- Excluded Water Bodies
- Seven specific types of water bodies were excluded from the count. They were:
- Oceans and lagoons;
- Rivers, streams, springs, waterfalls, canals, etc. which are free flowing, without any bounded storage of water;
- Swimming pools;
- Covered water tanks created for a specific purpose by a family or household for their own consumption;
- A water tank constructed by a factory owner for consumption of water as raw material or consumable;
- Temporary water bodies created by digging for mining, brick kilns, and construction activities, which may get filled during the rainy season; and
- Pucca open water tanks created only for cattle to drink water.
Water bodies Census Data highlights
- Districts with highest number of water bodies:
- As per the report, West Bengal’s South 24 Pargana has been ranked as the district having the highest (3.55 lakh) number of water bodies across the country.
- The district is followed by Andhra Pradesh’s Ananthapur (50,537) and West Bengal’s Howrah (37,301).
- Encroachment of water bodies:
- The census found that 6% of enumerated water bodies— 38,496 out of 24,24,540 — had been encroached upon.
- More than 95% of these were in rural areas — which is logical because more than 97% of the water bodies covered by the census were in the rural areas.
- In almost 63% of encroached water bodies, less than a quarter of the area was under encroachment;
- In about 12% water bodies, more than three-quarters of the area was under encroachment.
- Uttar Pradesh accounted for almost 40% (15,301) of water bodies under encroachment, followed by Tamil Nadu (8,366) and Andhra Pradesh (3,920).
- No encroachment was reported from West Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Chandigarh.
Threats faced by water bodies in India
- Increasing temperatures:
- India is witnessing a repeat of 2021 conditions, when temperatures touched 40 degrees Celsius as early as February in some parts of the country.
- Climate Change’s Impact:
- Climate change impacts are about heat — increased and scorching temperatures — and about variable and extreme rain.
- Both have a direct correlation with the water cycle.
- Possibility of El Nino conditions:
- Globe saw the event of triple dip La Niña in the last few years — the Pacific water currents that are known to bring cooler temperatures globally.
- But global warming has offset this cooling effect of La Niña.
- Situation is bound to be worse in El Nino conditions.
- Varying Rain Pattern:
- The number of rainy days in India will further go down, but extreme rainy days will increase.
- This will have a huge impact on India’s plans for water management.
Significance of Water Security for India & way ahead
- To Address Rising Demand:
- With total water demand in India expected to rise by over 70% by 2025, a huge demand-supply gap is expected in the coming years.
- Ensuring Health:
- Poor water quality and lack of adequate access to sanitation are also major causes of disease and poor health.
- Proper access to potable water will minimise health issues and medical expenses.
- Supporting Economy:
- Adequate water security will act as a potentially significant booster on economic growth as it will reduce the costs for water infrastructure.