‘India’s new understanding of water and forests’
Like the rest of the world, India identifies water as the most critical component of the life support system. To ensure the availability of pure, safe drinking water to all our citizens, the Indian government has put into motion adaptation strategies for the water sector focusing on enhancing efficient use of water whilst tackling climate change.
It has been spelt out in India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submission to the UNFCCC that one of India’s key goals is to enhance water use efficiency by 20%. Conservation of water, minimizing wastage and ensuring more equitable distribution, both across and within states, and the introduction of integrated water resources development, is necessary for the adaptation of today’s resources for tomorrow’s needs. With this objective in mind, India has proactively developed a range of policies that aim to tackle the problem. India has introduced a National Water Mission (NWM) to enhance water use efficiency, and is giving additional impetus to watershed development in the country through watershed development under the Neeranchal initiative. The rapid expansion of groundwater use in India in the last three decades has resulted in a steep decline in the groundwater table. To address this, the Government of India, under the aegis of the Ministry of Water Resources, has put into place a watershed development programme wherein rainwater harvesting is promoted under various schemes of the central and state governments.
Another key initiative of the Government is the National Mission for Clean Ganga, which seeks to rejuvenate the Ganges River through pollution inventorisation, assessment and surveillance, and laying of sewage networks, treatment plants etc.
As per research by the WWF and World Bank, well managed natural forests always provide higher quality water, with less sediment and fewer pollutants, than other catchments. Forests also have an impact on the security of water supply and mitigating flooding. Like with water resources, India has also put into place policy measures for planned afforestation. Initiatives like the Green India Mission aim to further increase the forest tree cover to the extent of 5 million hectares. These efforts have been further augmented by policies like National Agroforestry Policy and REDD Plus Policy.
At the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 Climate Summit in Paris, we have the opportunity to take a call on behalf of the future generation of citizens, and decide the nature of the world they will live in. Resources like clean drinking water and forest cover need an active push today. India is dedicated towards ensuring that the talks here culminate in ‘just climate action’, which takes into account all voices, opinions and concerns. Our development plan will continue to lay a balanced emphasis on economic development and the environment. We hope to share this with the rest of the world.
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