The Centre is working on a legislation to restrict the unregulated use of freshwater across the country, according to Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti. Speaking at The Indian Express Idea Exchange event, Bharti said that in future, people would need to rely more on treated water, and use freshwater only for limited purposes.
“Fresh water, whether it is surface water, ground water or reserved rain water, cannot be used for every purpose. We would have to bring clarity on the uses it can be put to and the purposes it cannot be used for. Otherwise, we are staring at a huge water problem in the country. We will need to find a solution to this,” said Bharti.
The Water Resources Ministry is already working on a draft legislation to regulate the use of freshwater, she said. “Under the Constitution, water is a subject to be dealt with by the state governments. But, if needed we can bring in a law… a draft is already being worked upon. We will take the concurrence of the state governments on what all uses should fresh water be utilised for. It cannot be used for everything. We need to conserve water,” said the Minister.
Bharti said the government would persuade farmers, too, to buy treated water for irrigation purposes. “In the case of Ganga, we have decided that even the treated water must not be allowed to flow into the river. So where will this treated water go? Efforts will have to be made to create a market for treated water. Farmers can buy it for irrigation and gardening. We are aware that some treated water might not be suitable for irrigation, like that coming out as effluent from certain industries. So those industries will have to recycle their water. They cannot release it. There is a future for treated water,” she said.
Regulation on use of freshwater, however, was being planned not just in the context of cleaning the Ganga but as a standard to be applied throughout the country, said the Minister. Bharti also spoke about the renewed efforts to discover the mythical Saraswati river. Her ministry has recently constituted an expert committee to assess the information collected from a few studies in Haryana and Rajasthan which apparently have indicated the presence of dried-up river in that area.
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“There are indications that some water streams could have flown under the ground in this area. We cannot give it the name of Saraswati as of now. We can say there was a Saraswati river only if there is irrefutable evidence of the same. Right now, we believe that there was a Saraswati river. But we need proof that there was Saraswati river,” she said.
The Minister conceded that, so far, she had not heard of any extinct river having been rediscovered, but said it could be possible to do so.