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Column: Water Harvesting Should Be A Public Movement

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By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Odisha government’s move to construct in-stream storage structures (ISS) in major river basins, if successful, will ensure that the state’s future water requirement is met without much difficulty. There is no denying the importance of such a project as the bulk of water from the major rivers of the state is allowed to be wasted by flowing down into the sea. On a rough estimate, nearly 52 per cent of Mahanadi’s water finds its way to the sea.

Water is a precious resource it must be harnessed in a scientific manner for human use. Water management remains a major challenge for Odisha government which is now laying special emphasis on checking leakages and wastage through overflowing taps and unattended stand posts. Hence the government has reasons to worry about huge volumes of river water flowing into the sea. There is a growing realization that the state lacks enough dams and barrages to impound the water of major rivers. On the other hand, we continue to be at the receiving end of natural calamities like floods.

Hence while urban water supply needs to be monitored carefully with care taken to plug leakages and stop thefts it is equally important to make the best possible use of the water of our numerous rivers. At the moment bigger rivers like Mahanadi and Brahmani are catering to multiple needs. Apart from supplying drinking water to vast populations, they are also feeding industries. In the process, vast stretches of these rivers are also getting heavily polluted. The same industries which draw water from them also discharge toxic effluents into them.

Pollution not only makes water unfit for human consumption it also threatens the health of people who fall victim to a range of diseases. It also takes a toll on the flora and fauna sustained by these rivers. For example, the rising level of pollution in Mahanadi and Brahmani could adversely impact the mangrove forests in the areas where these rivers meet the sea.

On the other hand, we have the phenomenon of rivers like Mahanadi discharging the bulk of their water into the sea as we have failed to harness this water effectively for our use. We are yet to come up with new dams and barrages in the downstream of Hirakud reservoir which is the largest storage facility on Mahanadi till date.

While it is important to make the optimum use of the huge resource available to us in the shape of our rivers even smaller water bodies should be harvested properly. Experts are in favour of water harvesting being turned into a public movement in the state. A good beginning had been made in this direction in parts of western and southern Odisha over a decade ago with a number of voluntary bodies taking up water harvesting as a mission. Harvesting structures of all shapes and sizes had come up in villages with people sponsoring and protecting them. The movement also boosted agriculture in the area.

For some reason, the movement lost steam. The government, too, failed to appreciate its importance and lend it required support. We need to revive this movement in the larger interest of the state.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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