[IE Ed2] Water for thought In recent years, there has been a growing awareness in policy circles of the over exploitation of the country's water resources The Atlas of India's Aquifer Systems, released by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) in 2012, highlighted the falling levels of groundwater in the country Four years later, the Mihir Shah Committee argued that there is little "understanding of river systems or their interconnections with the health of catchment areas or groundwater" Now, a Niti Aayog report, Composite Water Management Index, released last week, flags factoids which show how grim the situation is: o Seventy per cent of the water resources in the country is polluted, o 75 per cent households do not have drinking water and o more than 600 million people in the country face high to extreme water distress.
The report should occasion debate on a major policy omission in independent India. Since 1947, more than 4,000 major and medium-sized dams have been constructed in the country, about 250 billion cubic metres of groundwater is extracted annually, but very little attention has been paid to the health of aquifer systems. *Since 1971, the CGWB has mounted an aggressive search for groundwater without always recognising the limits posed by the country's geology: Hard rock aquifers constitute nearly 65 per cent of India's overall aquifer surface area, These aquifers have poor permeability that constrains their recharge by rainfall. In other words, the water in these aquifers is likely to dry out with continuous exploitation. Falling water tables render these underground storage systems vulnerable to pollutants. Last week, a Duke University study revealed uranium contamination in aquifers in 16 Indian states.
The Mihir Shah Committee had pointed out that "focus [of water policy in independent India] had been on augmenting supplies with little attention being paid to the demand- side management of water". IThis policy direction played a major role in meeting the imperatives of food security, but as the Shah Committee pointed out, there has been little emphasis on institutional innovations in the water sector That is why returns to public investments in the country's water infrastructure have been poor. OThe Shah Committee had talked of a paradigm shift in the country's water governance: From a predominantly engineer-centred approach of the CWGB to one involving hydrologists, geologists, agronomists, and ecologists. Two years after the committee submitted its report, there has been little action on its recommendations. The report needs to be pulled out of the shelves, especially after the grim figures thrown up by Niti Aayog's survey.
Page11: Arab group wants India on board in Yemen The Arab coalition which is fighting to secure the strategic Yemeni port of Hodeidah will be reaching out to India for its support, a leading Arab diplomat said here on Monday. Hodeidah will be reaching out to India for its support a leade The operation at Hodeidah would secure the energy lanes of India with the Gulf, and that the Arab coalition had sourced large quantity of relief material from India to help the Yemeni population. O"The operation at Hodeidah is ongoing and its main target is to fight terrorism that is a common enemy of both India and the UAE. Therefore, support from allies like India will be appreciated, especially in view of our exceptional strategic relationship with India," said Mr. Albanna explaining that the operation will force the rebels in Yemen to sit down for a negotiated settlement of the conflict that has caused a major humanitarian disaster in Yemen. Final phase The military campaign on the port of Hodeidah is reportedly in the final phase as the Houthi militia members are retreating The UN Security Council last week voted against an immediate end to hostilities in the port, even as India has maintained a studied silence on the conflict.
The envoy's request for support from India, for the Arab coalition's Yemen campaign has added a broader context to the upcoming visit by the Foreign Minister and leading royal of the UAE, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, who is expected to hold bilateral meetings in Delhi next week. The Ambassador pointed out that the UAE was not yet offering a military role to India in the ongoing operation "India can help by extending diplomatic support to the Hodeidah operation on the international platforms. The campaign is in accordance with the resolutions of the UN and invitation from the legitimate government of Yemen. Yemen's port of Hodeidah was under the control of the Houthi rebels who are believed to be drawing support from Iran. OThe Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, claims that the Iranian military has used the port to supply the Houthis with weapons and ammunition OMr. Albanna declared that the Houthis have been supporting pirates in the western Indian Ocean region. The campaign will ultimately help Indian maritime goals as the Houthis used the port for facilitating the piracy network in the western Indian Ocean region that is vital for India's energy security, the envoy said in support of India's interest.
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