As parts of the state face drought conditions and others limp back to normal after the floods last month, the Maharashtra government on Thursday released a new water policy to avert such scenarios. The Maharashtra State Water Policy 2019 focuses on flood management, drought mitigation and domestic as well as industrial water usage, among other areas.
The policy prioritises judicious use of water, drinking water as well as the water used in industries, and water used for power generation, cultural and religious ceremonies, and sports activities.
Preventing floods, tackling drought
The state has been facing a peculiar situation, when it has seen drought in some parts and floods in others in the same year. It has been struggling to tackle the two situations at the same time. The new policy is an effort to address both extreme situations by pushing for judicious use of water and modernised ways to tackle floods and drought.
Noting that seven per cent of the geographical area in the state was prone to floods, the policy stated, “Flood forecasting methods will be modernised to mitigate their impact and a management strategy will be devised by setting up a real-time data acquisition system and forecasting models. Flood inundation maps will be prepared to evolve management strategies and an emergency plan will be devised for mitigation of floods and management of each flood-prone area,” it said.
As questions are raised about encroachment activities on riverbank and how these lead to flooding, the policy stressed that “Habitation and economic activities would be strictly prohibited in flood zones. A phase-wise programme could be implemented by concerned local authorities to remove existing encroachments.”
To alert local residents about the possibility of floods, the policy stated, “An SMS-based flood alert system must be developed in flood-prone areas. Also, emergency action plans and disaster management plans will be periodically reviewed and updated by involving local residents.”
For ensuring judicious use of water, the policy has made it mandatory for all water user entities to publish annual accounts and audit reports that will contain data pertaining to water quota, actual use, losses, leakages, unauthorised withdrawals, recycle and reuse of water, and per unit consumption.
As some districts in the state have experienced a drought two years in a row, the policy has identified strategies for drought mitigation and management. It has emphasised on water resource projects in drought-prone areas, micro-irrigation, and promotion of soilwater conservation measures.
The policy has also imposed new regulations on groundwater management. “… It will be obligatory for water users to adopt groundwater recharge measures to compensate for the water extracted by them,” it said.
The policy focuses on water transportation which, it stated, was the most convenient and economical mode of transportation. To control the amount of water used in agriculture, the policy has encouraged bringing water-intensive crops like sugarcane and banana under micro-irrigation and promoting a cropping pattern that requires less water.
The policy also proposes strict implementation of water management measures in urban areas, which include making rainwater harvesting “compulsory . “In urban areas, electronic meters will be used to measure water supplied to every consumer. It would be the obligation of local bodies to make available, entire quantity of generated sewage, for reuse after treating it to the standards prescribed by the pollution control board,” it said.
To gauge the actual impact of the policy, an autonomous centre for research on water policy will be established to evaluate the impact of policy decisions and give suggestions on policy matters.
The state government also plans to set up a ‘Centre of Excellence’, in collaboration with international agencies, to learn from global best practices and disseminate the same after assessing its state-specific suitability.