Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) organized a two day regional workshop on ‘Water resource conservation: Village ponds and lakes’ on 25-26th February 2014 in Delhi at Magnolia Hall, India Habitat Centre (IHC), Lodhi Road, New Delhi.
This regional workshop is one of the two workshops to be organised in 2013-14 by CSE National Key Resource Centre to assist Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India with the aim of mainstreaming source sustainability for rural drinking water supply. For details of the state level workshop on ‘Mainstreaming rainwater harvesting’ held in May 2013 at Lucknow targeting – Uttar Pradesh state. This regional workshop targeted state namely - Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh (Panchayat Raj Institution / PHED officials and other stakeholders).
The regional workshops aim is to make practitioners and other stakeholders from target states envisage provision of drinking water as a part of the overall water resource management and beyond - towards green rural development. The objectives of the workshop are – to provide overview of the existing and emerging state led frameworks, discuss issues and challenges, knowledge sharing of successful case studies focusing on conservation of village ponds and lakes – both government and non-government and create enabling environment to take the current efforts to next level as well as incorporate learning from various interventions required to develop a robust framework towards to ensure conservation of village ponds and lakes.
At the inaugural session of the Regional workshop - Dr. Suresh Kumar Rohilla, Programme Director, CSE gave a brief introduction about CSE. He highlighted the key challenges and lack of legal and institutional mechanisms in conservation of village ponds and lakes including lack of convergence between various national / state schemes. Dr Rohilla mentioned that the existing Wetland Rules notified by Environment Ministry are aimed at protection of water bodies but lack any kind of penalty for non-compliance or community engagement for conservation of village lakes/ponds.
Sandhya Singh, Joint Director, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation emphasised the conservation of water bodies for strengthening source sustainability of rural drinking water supply. Ms Singh mentioned that all drinking water supply schemes are provided 10% (100 % from central support) for ensuring source sustainability.
Chief Guest, Mihir Shah, Member (Water and Rural Development) at Planning Commission, stressed on conservation/management of village ponds and lakes as an important national issue which should be given same or higher importance as national development or economic development of the country. He stated that water resources conservation should be integral to the development strategy for India. He highlighted the various provisions under MGNREGA and efforts required towards strengthening the roles and responsibilities of Panchayats.
Sunita Narain, Director General of CSE highlighted the importance of capturing rain where it falls to augment the sources of water supply which has a challenge of extreme weather events (greater intensity of rainfall in lesser time duration) due to the climate change scenario. Ms Narain highlighted the need for mapping of the lakes and ponds as well as convergence of drinking water supply with Rural Sanitation schemes.
The workshop included over 30 presentations by different stakeholders. Several state led and NGO/external donor led case studies were presented. Two eminent advocates of Village Ponds/Lakes conservation – Shri Anupam Mishra, Gandhi Peace Foundation and Shri Rajendra Singh, Tarun Bharat Sangh also addressed the workshop participants. Mr Mishra, highlighted importance of society, the traditional wisdom and existing traditional structures for watershed management and conservation of water bodies in India. Rajendra Singh mentioned that the existing education system lacks emphasis on conservation or prudent use of resources. He strongly mentioned that the need is to connect village ponds and lakes to make rivers flow rather than interlinking of rivers.
Other sessions included talks by leading academic experts – Brij Gopal (Former Professor JNU) talked about the issues and challenges in pond /lake conservation, Prof AK Gosain, IIT Delhi emphasised the need for integrated water management and Rakesh Kumar, Senior Scientist, NEERI presented state of art - phytorid technology for treatment of sewage reaching ponds/lakes.
Over One thirty nine participants attended the workshop.The workshop attendees included PRIs/PHED officials, NGOs (from Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh), leading academics, external donor agencies and researchers involved in advocacy for sustainable water management.
The workshop concluded with a consensus on the importance of village ponds and lakes in source sustainability of drinking water supply. However the need is for adequate capacity building of practitioners for developing sustainable drinking water supply schemes.
In this workshop CSE flagged of the concerns for conservation of village ponds and lakes and suggested series of actions – importance of water bodies in recharge of groundwater and maintaining flows in rivers, need for the convergence of various state-led rural development schemes with drinking water, drinking water and sanitation as well as other allied programmes of Ministry of Environment and Forests, Agriculture etc., need for legal and institutional framework for protection of water bodies, mapping/notification of ponds/lakes and catchments, importance of community engagement in conserving village ponds and lakes and green rural development.
Dr Suresh Rohilla, Programme Director/ Dr Mahreen Matto, Sr Research Associate
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