By – Sanjay Kumar ,18 Oct :Rapid harnessing of water resources was the prime objective in the initial phase of water resources development during the plan period after independence. Accordingly, the State Governments were encouraged to expeditiously formulate and develop water resources projects for specific purposes like irrigation, flood control, hydropower generation, drinking water supply, industrial and various miscellaneous uses. As a result, a large number of projects comprising dams, barrages, hydropower structures, canal network etc. have come up all over the country in successive Five Year Plans.
A milestone in water resources development in India is the creation of a huge storage capability. Because of these created storage works it has now become possible to provide assured irrigation in the command area, to ensure supply for hydropower and thermal power plants located at different places and to meet requirement for various other uses. Flood moderation could be effected in flood prone basins, where storage has been provided. Besides, supply of drinking water in remote places throughout the year has become possible in different parts of the country.
At the time of commencement of the First Five Year Plan in 1951, population of India was about 361 million and annual food grain production was 51 million tonnes, which was not adequate. Import of food grains was then inevitable to cover up for the shortage. Attaining self sufficiently in food was therefore given paramount importance in the plan period and in order to achieve the objective, various major, medium and minor irrigation and multi-purpose projects were formulated and implemented through successive Five Year Plans to create additional irrigation potential throughout the country. This drive compounded with green revolution in the agricultural sector, has enabled India to become marginally surplus country from a deficit one in food grains. Thus the net irrigated area is 39 percent of net sown area and 30 percent of total cultivable area. As stated earlier, the ultimate potential due to major and medium projects has been assessed as 58 m.ha. of which 64 per cent is estimated to be developed.
India has a vast potential for hydro-power generation, particularly in the northern and north-eastern region. As per an estimate of Central Electricity Authority, the potential in the country is assessed as 84,000 MW at 60 per cent load factor, which is equivalent to about 450 billion units of annual energy generation.
At the time of independence, out of total installed capacity of 1362 MW, hydro-power generation capacity stood at 508 MW. The capacity has since been raised to about 13,000 MW. In addition 6,000 MW is available from projects under construction. A potential of about 3,000 MW is contemplated from projects already cleared. The total potential harnessed/under harnessing would thus be about 22,000 MW which is nearly one-fourth of the estimated total energy generation potential.
Domestic Water Supply
The National Water Policy has assigned the highest priority for drinking water supply needs followed by irrigation, hydro-power, navigation and industrial and other uses. In the successive five year plans and the intervening annual plans, efforts have been made to rapidly develop water supply and sanitation systems. In the context of the “International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade”, the Government of India launched the decade programmes in April, 1981 with a view to achieving population coverage of 100 percent water supply facilities in urban and rural areas, 80 per cent sanitation facilities in urban areas and 25 per cent sanitation facilities in rural areas respectively by the end of the decade i.e. March, 1991.
However, due to financial and other constraints the targets originally set for the decade were scaled down to 90 per cent in the case of urban water supply and 85 per cent in the case of rural water supply, 50 per cent in the case of urban sanitation and 5 per cent in the case of rural sanitation respectively. As per policy adopted provision for drinking water is to be made in all water resources projects. The drinking water requirements of most of the mega cities/cities in India are met from reservoirs of irrigation/multi-purpose schemes existing in near by areas and even by long distance transfer. Delhi getting drinking water from Tehri Dam and Chennai city from Krishna Water through Telugu Ganga Project are typical examples.
Total navigable length of inland water-ways in the country is 15,783 km of which maximum stretch lies in the state of Uttar Pradesh followed by West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Kerala and Bihar successively. Amongst the river system, the Ganga has the largest navigable length followed by the Godavari, the Brahmaputra and the rivers of West Bengal.
Waterways have the unique advantage of accessibility to interior places. Besides, they provide cheaper means of transport with far less pollution and communicational obstacles. The waterways traffic movement has gone up progressively from 0.11 million tonnes in 1980-81 to 0.33 million tonnes in 1994-95.
The development of inland water transport is of crucial importance from the point of energy conservation as well. The ten waterways identified for consideration for being declared as national waterways are namely-the Ganga-Bhagirath-Hoogli, the Brahmaputra, the Mandavi Zuari river and the Cumbarjua Canal in Goa, the Mahanadi , the Godavari, the Narmada, the Sunderbans Area, the Krishna, the Tapi and the West Coast Canal.
The Ganga – Bhagirath-Hoogli and Brahmaputra have already been declared as National Waterways. Farakka Navigation Lock has been opened for transport, thus allowing transport for upstream reaches of Ganga with Calcutta. With network of national waterways the carriage and cargo in this sector in the 10 river systems is expected to increase by 35 million tonnes per year. The consumptive use of water for navigation is not substantial as the wastage is only at the point of terminal storage projects.
A basic necessity of industrial development is adequate availability of water. The Second Irrigation Commission in their report of 1972 recommended a provision of 50 b.cu.m. for industrial purpose for the country as a whole. However, a recent assessment indicates that requirement for industrial use during 2000 AD will be about 30 b.cu.m. while it will rise to 120 b.cu.m by 2025 AD.
As a consequence of water resources development works, apart from the major objectives there has been development in various other sectors as well. Among them, development in inland fish production occupies a prominent place. During 1950-51, total inland fish production stood at 0.22 million tonnes which by 1994-95 has gone upto 2.08 million tonnes India has now the distinction of being the seventh largest producer of fish in the world and second largest producer of inland fish after China. Amongst the States, West Bengal is the highest producer followed by Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. These three States put together produce about 50 per cent of total inland fish production in the country, while West Bengal alone accounts for about one third of the production.
Water Development And Health
While water is essential for sustenance of human life, it can as well create problems concerning human health being a carrier of vectors for diseases such as typhoid, cholera, diarrhoea, malaria, filariasis, shistosomiasis etc. if mismanaged. Water development projects have, however, contributed positively to the human health in the country.
Among the human health benefits, the important one is improved diets resulting from an increased production of staple foods, new opportunity of growing fruits and vegetables and increased purchasing power for foods not produced by those on farm. Other nutrition improvement is due to development of pisciculture and better facilities for feeding and watering the domestic livestock which can also improve diet and income considerably. The development of water development projects not only enabled the country to overcome floods and drought but also have provided enough food and fibre for the ever increasing population.
Water development projects have facilitated in providing safe water for human consumption, considering the scarcity of water now faced in most parts of the country.
Almost all the projects implemented in the country provide water for domestic purpose although primarily some of the projects were not meant for this purpose. With 80-90 per cent precipitation accruing during monsoon only, it has become imperative to store water for domestic use. Water supply also has helped to keep populated areas clean and hygienic through better drainage and improved sanitation. Water supply has thus contributed in improvement of health.