Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi could not hold his surprise after getting a view of Israel’s biggest weapon - Israel water technology, and not the Tel Aviv’s prowess in the defence sector which is known to the world, certainly not its biggest weapon if future threats to humanity are taken into consideration. He was with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu at a sea beach in Israel on July 6, 2017. Both the Premiers took a walk to witness one of these vehicles which are touted as being very useful, particularly during natural calamities.
It may be mentioned that the UN estimates that by 2050, around 40% of the world population will face water shortages. Israel’s superpower status in water technology makes the country immune from any such water woes in future.
Israel’s superior water technology and conservation practices should be the envy of the entire world. Without groundwater and average annual precipitation of approximately 1.2bn cubic meters, the country not only meets the approximately 2.2bn cubic meter water consumption target but also export it to other countries.
Modi had a taste of Israel’s superior water technology at the country’s Gal-Mobile Water Filtration Plant at Dor beach. Accompanied by his ‘friend’ and Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, Modi also got a demonstration of a technology pioneered by Israel for desalination of sea water and purification in disaster-hit and remote areas. This is a mobile purification plant, described by Netanyahu as “Future Jeep”, useful in natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, military use in difficult terrain and rural areas to provide drinkable water.
At present, several parts of India face water shortage, especially during summer. Gal-Mobile is an independent, integrated water purification vehicle, designed to produce high-quality drinking water. It can purify up to 20,000 litre per day of sea water and 80,000 litre per day of brackish/muddy or contaminated river water and bring it to WHO standards.
In Meghalaya, be it the Municipality Board or Meghalaya Urban Development Authority (MUDA) or any town planner, no one will ever take a serious thought to beautify the state and streamline the developmental work to meet the demands of ever growing township. All are concerned with the fee received!
Most of the localities are developing at a very fast pace, high rise buildings are mushrooming, be it for commercial or residential purposes, which also includes hostel which are popping up at every corner of the city. But the basic necessities like disposal of waste, proper footpaths and street lights, health care facilities and most of all water supplies are never in the list of development.
Water connections are being supplied only for the house owners while the tenants are never taken into consideration. The single line of water supply is the same for one bed room house to a high rise building.
At the same time, drilling of ground water is being discouraged in many localities while streams are being reduced into drains due to unauthorized encroachment, resulting in sharp fall of rainfall year after year.
Even the rainfall that Meghalaya receives is being wasted. Rainwater harvesting is never promulgated as mandatory. In the high rise building being constructed including those by the elite and business tycoons, neither parking space nor rainwater harvesting are being stressed by the authorities. Other states like Bangalore, Delhi, Pune and part of Tamil Nadu have made it compulsory to have rainwater harvesting as an integral plan of any building.
Meghalaya has never taken advantage of the Department of Water Resources which was created out of the Directorate of Irrigation, which was under the Agriculture Department, vide Government Notification No.CA.24/2009/25 dated August 25, 2009. More so, the Lok Sabha MP from Shillong, Vincent H Pala was elected to the 15th Lok Sabha in 2009. Initially he worked as Union Minister of State in-charge of Water Resources, yet the state could not see any visible change in this particular department.
In the midst of all this neglect, the rivers are shrinking due to encroachment while others were being contaminated due to the unscientific mining of coal and limestone wherein the Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) is discharged into the river and streams killing all the water bodies.
Meghalaya is basically an agrarian State with about 70-80 percent of its population depending on agriculture and its allied activities. There is a huge shortage of food grain production in the state which is attributed to a poor irrigation system. This newly created department of Water Resources is yet to actively perform in a pivotal sector.
The main function of the Water Resources Department is the implementation of Irrigation Projects consisting of Surface Flow and Surface Lift Irrigation schemes in all the Districts of the State. Ground Water Irrigation schemes are also implemented in areas where they are found feasible. Besides these, there are also Centrally Sponsored Schemes which are being implemented by the Department such as the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), RIDF schemes of NABARD, Command Area Development and Water Management (CAD&WM) Programme and Rationalization of Minor Irrigation Statistics (RMIS).
The water supply system in the state always goes awry due to heavy rainfall for days. Some of the problems were due to the busting of water pipes, while others were because the filter system from the water reservoir is totally choked by mud and leaves, forcing both the Municipality Board and Public Health Engineering, the main water supplier to cut the water supply in the state for days. The people responsible refused to restore the supply system till the rain stops leaving the masses dependant on rainwater for every household chore. To add to the woes, ground water drilling too has been banned in the state in fear of the underground water system drying up, hence there are no alternative sources of water supply.
Regarding the drinking water supply, one needs to witness the situation in the state during the monsoons during which muddy water flows from the taps all the while accompanied by all sorts of weeds and what not. The unmanaged water pipes, where leakages are the most visible sights in the city should not come as a surprise considering the menace of the plumbers in every locality who have pushed the consumers to the brink of despair even as they extract huge sums of money for the services which should be their duty.
Although the Municipality Board has issued them licenses, there is no follow up to see if they perform their duties and any individual who complains against them is ultimately victimized in all sorts of ways including the blocking of their water pipe with sticks.
If Meghalaya does not adopt any measures to conserve water, and keeping in mind the UN estimates that by 2050, around 40% of the world population will face water shortages, the state will go dry amidst the abuse of the environment and unmanned water harvesting which is willfully being done.