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Friday, July 19, 2024

Maharashtra Workshop Tackles Worsening Water Crisis, Seeks Solutions For a Sustainable Future

Mumbai, March 22nd 2024 – In response to Maharashtra’s deepening water crisis, a critical one-day workshop titled ‘Securing water in the time of climate change through natural ecosystems management” brought together leading experts, policymakers, and stakeholders on March 21, 2024. Organised by WOTR (Watershed Organisation Trust), India Climate Collaborative and the Government of Maharashtra, the event coincided with World Water Day’s theme – “Water for Peace” – highlighting the vital connection between water security and social stability.

This year’s severe drought, coupled with unsustainable water usage, has caused a sharp decline in groundwater levels across 16 districts in Maharashtra. Recognising the urgency, the workshop aimed to generate insights, strategies, and collaborative actions for the efficient and equitable management of water resources in the state.

The workshop focused on semi-arid regions of Maharashtra and examined the complex challenges facing three distinct water ecosystems within the state:

  • Rainfed / groundwater-dependent
  • Riverine, at the sub-basinal level
  • Command / canal irrigated

Prominent figures including:

Dr. Marcella D’Souza, Director, W-CReS, WOTR’s Research Unit, Crispino Lobo, Co-founder and Managing Trustee, WOTR, Ms. Shloka Nath, Director, India Climate Collaborative, Shri Shashi Shekhar, IAS (rtd.), former Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, Shri Anoop Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary, Cooperation and Marketing, Shri Pravin Darade, IAS, Principal Secretary, Dept of Environment & CC, Dr. Dipankar Saha, former member, the Central Groundwater Board, Dr. Vijay Pakhmode, Commisioner Incharge, GSDA, Water supply and Sanitation Department, Dr. Sanjay Belsare, Secretary (CAD), Water Resources Department, Abhijeet Ghorpade, Director, Maharashtra’s State Climate Action Cell addressed and participated at the august gathering.

“Today, as citizens of Mother Earth we see that we have exploited her resources. We need to think about the future – what water security will we be leaving for our grandchildren? As participants from various diverse backgrounds – from scientists to policymakers, funders and state representatives, this is our opportunity to come together to find a solution to the problem of water insecurity. By working with ecosystems, rather than against them, we can build resilience and ensure water security for future generations,” said Dr Marcella D’Souza, Director, W-CReS. 

“A clear action agenda is still missing at the global level to address climate change, especially in the water sector,” said Anoop Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary, Cooperation and Marketing. “People’s participation is key to the success of watershed development. Past initiatives, like the watershed development programmes of the 1990s, were collaborative endeavors involving NGOs, community-based organisations, and local stakeholders. People’s participation was key to Maharashtra’s success as a model state.”

However, somewhere along the line, we lost this balance, becoming overly fixated on groundwater-based engineering solutions at the expense of holistic watershed management, added Mr. Kumar. “We must transition from cash crops like sugarcane, which exacerbate water scarcity, towards more sustainable alternatives. Collaboration between policymakers, organisations like WOTR, and farmers is essential to tackle these challenges effectively,” he added. 

Discussions explored the current state of water resources in Maharashtra, emphasising the vital interconnectedness between water scarcity, natural ecosystems, and climate change. Participants actively collaborated to propose concrete actions for achieving long-term water security in the state.

Responding to suggestions of researchers and Mr. Shekhar, Abhijit B. Ghorpade, Director of State Climate Action Cell, Department of Environment and Climate Change, Government of Maharashtra, said that the government is ready to sit down with the researchers and experts and come up with an actionable strategy to deal with the water crisis in the State.

“We would like to have all the suggestions from the workshop and work with the experts who can be our guiding light to make this happen. In the coming days, we intend to plan the district and city action plan for the water crisis alone for Mumbai, Solapur, Nashik and Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar. I agree, we cannot have the luxury of having sugarcane cultivation that requires a lot of water.” 

Pravin Darade, Principal Secretary, Department of Environment said, “We invite NGOs to collaborate with us and leverage the funds available for such projects to achieve tangible results. Maharashtra has a robust infrastructure, including the Groundwater Survey and Development Agency, and we have conducted water budgeting exercises at the village level. However, it’s imperative to revitalise these committees and ensure their active involvement in water supply planning.”

The need to transition from water-intensive crops like sugarcane in drought-prone areas is apparent, added Mr. Darade. “We must explore alternatives that ensure farmers’ livelihoods while promoting sustainable water use. We have launched initiatives like the Chief Minister’s Environment and Sustainable Development Bamboo Mission and the State Action Plan for Climate Change, involving multiple departments and stakeholders. I urge everyone present to join hands in these endeavours, as we strive to reduce carbon emissions and combat rising temperatures,” he said. 

Key areas of discussion included:

  • Understanding the current state of water resources in Maharashtra
  • Identifying critical linkages between water ecosystems
  • Developing collaborative solutions for sustainable water management
  • Proposing policies and practices to ensure equitable water access and distribution

The knowledge and solutions generated during the workshop hold the potential to inform water management strategies on a national scale. 

About WOTR

WOTR is a nationally and globally recognized leader and think tank in rural development, committed to eradicating the root causes of rural poverty. The organisation stands at the forefront of ecosystem rejuvenation and community resilience strengthening in the face of climate change.

Through initiatives aimed at enhancing water availability, improving land and agricultural productivity, diversifying livelihoods, empowering women, and bolstering the health and well-being of vulnerable rural communities, WOTR has significantly transformed rural landscapes. Its unique approach convenes a diverse spectrum of stakeholders, fostering collaborative efforts to build rural community resilience.

Celebrating 30 years of impactful operation, WOTR, together with its partners, has worked in over 6,850 villages across 10 states in India, bringing positive change to 6.58 million individuals. For more insights into WOTR’s work and impact, please visit WOTR’s website. 

Stay updated with WOTR’s latest activities and achievements on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Website: https://www.wotr.org/

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