KOLKATA, 4 OCT.: Almost eight years after the National Water Policy came into being and at the time when the state is reeling under acute water scarcity, the state government has failed to formulate a water policy for the state.
The National Water Policy 2002, had mandated formulation of State Water Policy backed with an operational action plan “in a time bound manner say in two years”. In 2004, the water resources investigation and development minister, Mr Nanda Gopal Bhattacharya, had brought out a draft policy, but it could not be taken any further.
Sources in the state department said that the draft was never taken forward as the National Water Policy itself was very vague for which it was much criticised. There was no explanation on right to the people and since no consensus could be reached on commercial use of the river by the industrial houses, the policy could not see the light of the day.
A report by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board ~ Water resource and its quality in West Bengal ~ states that the state being located at the tail end of the Ganga basin, is a hydrologically subsidized state which receives huge volume of trans-boundary water. But the supply of this water is so skewed that the state has to bear the brunt of floods during the monsoon. In absence of any regulation regarding equitable sharing of trans-boundary water, the withdrawal of water from the rivers by the upper states during lean months has been increasing at an uninterrupted pace leaving a meager share for the state.
Dr Kalyan Rudra, river scientist and member of Ganga monitoring committee, said that no district in the state receives so scanty rain to cause drought but every summer, extensive parts of Purulia, Bankura, Midnapore West and Birbhum suffer from acute shortage of water. The culture of conserving water in ponds has been neglected. The reservoirs of DVC, Massanjore and Kangshabati (Kanshai) have lost their storage capacity due to silt deposition.
The introduction of water-guzzling seeds and high yield crops has compelled the farmers to rely more on ground water.
The annual water availability from rainfall in the state is 85.23 billion cubic meters (bcm) and the consumptive demand in 2001 was 106.18 bcm. The population of the state in 2001 was 80.18 million. The gap was supplemented either from trans-boundary water or by over exploitation of ground water. The Population Foundation of India has projected that the state population would be 119 million in 2051. Since the growth of population is intertwined with increasing demand for water, the state is headed for a major crisis.
“Out of 342 blocks in the state, 81 are Arsenic contaminated and 49 are Fluoride contaminated. Many scientists now believe that this contamination has entered the food change. So, water management is the biggest challenge for the state now,” said Dr Rudra.