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Water should be treated as a precious commodity: Kharge

By Our Special Correspondent

BANGALORE, DEC. 2. The Minister for Water Resources and Transport, M. Mallikarjun Kharge, has said the picture of rural India is worsening on account of constant neglect of the environment, abuse of forest cover and successive droughts.

He was speaking at a seminar on "Mainstreaming of preserving water," organised by the Action for Food Production at the National Institute of Advanced Studies here on Thursday.

He said low rainfall was a recurrent phenomenon, and the community and government agencies should make efforts to conserve water. Otherwise, a bleak and dark future awaited the people, he added.

Paddy cultivation

Water, one of the elements in the "Pancha Mahaboothas," should be treated as a precious commodity. Growing water-intensive crops such as paddy and sugarcane could never be a matter of right.

Extraction of groundwater should be collectively regulated. Close involvement of farmers would help communities to decide the intensity and frequency of use of water from different wells in the aquifer, Mr. Kharge said.

India was fifth in the list of countries which received the largest amounts of rainfall. Much of the 4,000 cubic metres of rainfall the country received each year was recorded in 100 hours.

Mr. Kharge said dry lands were not covered by major river systems and had limited groundwater resource. There was a need to make villages "famine proof" so that people and cattle did not suffer or die, he added.

Watershed development and rainwater harvesting programmes required to be vigorously implemented. Farmers should be taught about the methods of water conservation. Community water conservation zones such as lakes and ponds had been neglected and destroyed in the past few decades, the Minister said.

`Purify water'

The Dalai Lama, Tibetan leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who inaugurated the seminar, said a change in the lifestyle and increase in population had led to pollution of water and depletion of groundwater resource. He suggested to governments to set up water purifying plants near rivers to supply drinking water to villages.

The Chief Minister, N. Dharam Singh, whose speech was read out on the occasion, said the irrigated area in the State was 23 lakh hectares. An extent of 84 lakh hectares depended on rain.

Watershed development

Mr. Dharam Singh called for watershed development using satellite imagery. Groundwater resource maps and agricultural resource action plans in digitally delineated micro watersheds, each of which covered 500 hectares, could be prepared. The water had to be used judiciously to obtain optimum yields of crops, he added.

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