Thursday, April 18, 2024

Importance of water governance


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The international water conclave being held in Meghalaya has brought many issues to the fore. Meghalaya Chief Minister, Conrad Sangma hit the right notes at the conclave when he pointed to the multiple authorities involved in the conservation and management of water and all working at cross purposes instead of in tandem. Convergence has always been the Achilles heel of governments. Hence investments in water conservation are not commensurate with the outcomes. When it comes to the Agriculture and Irrigation Department, the latter is more concerned with building infrastructure than in the real purpose of bringing water to assist in enhancing agricultural production. There is money involved in construction, hence it becomes the priority but whether water actually reaches the farmers’ fields after the irrigation infrastructure is completed is questionable.
Clean water and sanitation is listed amongst the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All the goals involve providing better quality of life and are connected to water use. The Government of Meghalaya flagged off many important points such as transcending from water sufficiency to water efficiency. It was also stated that there is a shortage of trained manpower in the water sector. Water management in the hills is different from how water is managed in the plains. Very often bureaucrats heading water-related departments have not seen the condition of the water bodies in the states they work in. Reliance on paper reports of the State Pollution Control Board – which actually is a critical department as far as managing the cleanliness of water bodies is concerned, is what makes things go awry. Time has come for the bureaucracy to spend more time in the field than at their desks. That’s the only way they can inform themselves of the ground realities as far as the status of water bodies in Meghalaya are concerned. Right now, they are in a sorry state!
Government officials have the propensity to rattle off figures of how many springs have been mapped and how many trees planted across the state. The problem is not even a fraction of the trees planted, survive to see another year. It is also easy to speak of community engagement in conservation processes but evidently not enough community engagement is happening. If the government wants to see results it has to work like an NGO with its people present in the field and constantly hand-holding the communities. Else all calculations remain on paper even while money is spent without tangible outcomes. Water governance is therefore integral and it includes the political, social, economic and administrative systems that influence the use and management of water. Water governance is about who gets what kind of water, when and how and who has the right to water and its related services and their benefits. A robust water governance system also means value for money since the amount poured into the Basin Management Authority over the years is substantial. The question is whether the outcomes have matched the investments.


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