At least 10 states are facing a drought-like situation and reeling under acute water crisis, with levels in 91 reservoirs across the country plummeting to less than a quarter of their total capacity. Central Water Commission (CWC), an apex organisation under the aegis of the ministry of water resources, is working on the River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation programme and has been tasked to coordinate with the states regarding water-related issues. It has an important role to play in providing succour to a quarter of India’s population affected by drought. In an interview, G.S. Jha, chairman of CWC, talks about how the situation could have been visualised earlier to save water, hydropower generation getting affected and the water levels in reservoirs not being “very alarming”. Edited excerpts:
How will the low water levels in reservoirs across the country affect the agriculture sector? As per India Meteorological Department forecast, the summer this year will be hotter than previous years and temperatures are going to rise further.
The requirement for water is increasing and as the temperature soars, its demand will increase manifold. This situation could have been visualized earlier so that water could have been saved in the reservoirs.
However, it will not affect the agriculture sector as summer crops are not sown in all the parts of the country and water may not be required for sowing.
But had this not been the case, it would have been very difficult especially in the case of crops such as sugarcane, banana, among others, and it would not have been possible to irrigate crops as per requirement.
Given the low levels of water in reservoirs, do you feel the situation is alarming?
In some areas in Maharashtra such as Latur, Marthwada, the situation is very bad. We have issued advisories to the states and they will be taking it seriously. However, the water levels are not very alarming because this is the time when the reservoirs get emptied gradually. The monsoon is not very far off and as normal rainfall has been predicted this year, the reservoirs will be filled during the season.
What is the reason for such low water levels?
The monsoon is very erratic and even during the season it is very difficult to predict how much rainfall will be received. Rainfall is the main source of water. And since we had 14% deficient rainfall last year, the reservoirs did not fill up to the level they should have.
Some of the reservoirs also have hyrdopower generation associated with them. Will this also take a hit if the water level is low in reservoirs?
Maximum efforts are made to ensure that the reservoirs are constructed for multi-purpose; that is there should be hyrdopower generation, irrigation and so on as this also controls flood in the region.
Hydropower can be generated only when a certain water level is available. And at this level when the water level has gone down drastically, hydropower is also affected.
Is it possible that we run out of water in reservoirs?
No, that will not happen.
The Brahmaputra basin has abundant hydropower potential. What is the status of building dams there?
In that basin, dams cause inundation in the upper stream and runs into hundreds of square kilometres. The flooding also affects houses and people are displaced. High-level talks are going on to take the states on board and aspects such as the height of the dam are being discussed.
At least 10 states have declared a drought-like situation. What is your advice to them?
Use water judiciously. Water is life. Also, lots of water flows out of the reservoirs in the monsoon season. And so with better water management techniques such as water harvesting, optimal utilisation of water is possible even with less monsoon.
As the chairman of CWC, what is your vision for your organisation?
It is an apex organisation in the water sector since 1945. People have loved and regarded it, and whenever they are in difficulty they seek our expert technical suggestions which are neutral and in the national interest. I will ensure that this continues during my tenure.