River Conservation In West Bengal

The deteriorating health of rivers, water bodies and wetlands has become a critical agenda in West Bengal in the run-up to the assembly elections.

  • Apart from Adiganga, the East Kolkata Wetlands, Saraswati river in Howrah; Bidyedhari, Ichamati and Churni rivers in the southern and northern fringes of Kolkata have been identified critically vulnerable stretches.
  • The transboundary rivers that the region shares Bangladesh, like Teesta and Atrai, are of particular concern.
  • Sunderbans, which is a land of rivers, has also suffered degradation of its waterbodies due to pollution, salinity and encroachment. 
  • Rivers, water bodies and wetlands have been systematically infringed upon in the state.
  • Though National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered state pollution control board (PCB) to work on pollution abatement and restoration of 17 rivers, no action has been taken.

Some of the major demands include:

  1. Rejuvenation of Adi Ganga river stretch
  2. Conservation of East Kolkata Wetlands, Santragachi jheel and Tapan dighi
  3. Cleaning up of critically polluted Ichamati, Churni, Buriganga
  4. Rejuvenation of lost or almost lost rivers
  5. Immediate execution of NGT order for restoring 17 rivers
  6. Taking up issues of transboundary rivers like Atrayi, Teesta with the Union government

Source: Down To Earth

MGNREGA And Water Conservation

MGNREGA is more than just a generator of employment opportunities. It also legally ties labour deployment with creation of productive assets — such as structures to harvest or conserve water, farm ponds and irrigation channels — to contribute to the overall development of the village.

The programme mandates that at least 60 per cent of the works undertaken must be related to land and water conservation. 

Since 2006, more than 30 million water conservation-related assets have been created in the country’s rural areas. This comes to at least 50 water-related structures per village, with the total number of villages in India being 0.6 million, according to Census 2011.

This potential of water structures under MGNREGA offers hope at a time when India stares at severe water scarcity. The 2018 Composite Water Management Index, developed by the government think-tank NITI Aayog, notes that water demand in the country will exceed supply by 2030.

The Fifth Minor Irrigation Census (the latest one, referring to the year 2013-14) says there were only 21.7 million minor irrigation structures in the country. Almost 95 per cent of these use groundwater.

But 60 per cent of them are in disuse due to lack of water availability, indicating fast depletion of groundwater, the census found. The structures under MGNREGA aim to fix this decline by creating potential for water conservation and recharge of the aquifers.

Source: Down To Earth