With the water crisis worsening in the desert state of Rajasthan, the state government is now focusing on community-based water management solutions instead of predominantly engineering-based ones.
In its recently announced water policy, the state government has shifted its focus towards community-level empowerment and responsibility for water management under the umbrella process of Integrated Water Resources Management.
The government has chosen nine blocks - three each in Jodhpur, Nagaur and Churu districts -- to implement a pilot project.
"Ground water situation is quite alarming in the state with only 30 water blocks out of total 237 left in safe zone. Since water is limited, there is a need to manage water very intelligently which is not possible without active and direct involvement of citizens," N S Satsangi, chief engineer (quality control and external aided projects), state water resource planning department, told PTI in Jaipur.
"Every measure to educate people and ensure their participation in water conservation and water management will be taken across the state," he said.
For this, initially, Water User Groups of 20 local people each will be formed at every Gram Sabha level.
WUG members will be trained for water management by NGOs.
"After their capacity building, the groups will further educate and make aware people and bear responsibility of water management in their respective areas," he said.
Satsangi said that as a pilot project, capacity building programmes will be conducted through a Delhi-based NGO in nine blocks three each in Jodhpur, Nagaur and Churu districts which are likely to start by the end of this month.
Executive members of WUGs will be chosen by democratic means, with fair representation by large and small scale stakeholders, including women.
Community-level assistance will be provided by Panchayti Raj Institutions to the WUGs to initiate, plan and execute water related solutions while other concerning departments will supply water related technical data, guidelines, information etc. to these groups, he said.
The chief engineer said the awareness programmes, capacity building and other related activities would be conducted at a fast pace with reinstatement of funds from the European Union.
European Union Ambassador Daniele Smadja had recently announced reinstatement of a grant of Rs 450 crore (Rs 4.5 billion) for water-related projects in the state.
During the current financial year, Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) would be spent on water campaign and for hiring services of experts.
Under the policy, measures will be undertaken to make communities aware of their legal entitlements, rights and responsibilities in respect of water resources management at community level, and NGOs would be fully involved in water management related activities.
Preservation of traditional water harvesting structures and sources will be encouraged and roof-top rain water harvesting, storm-water harvesting, recycling and reuse of waste water will also be promoted.
According to the last survey conducted by the state government in 2008, only 30 water blocks out of 237 in the state are left in safe category, 164 are under over-exploited category and 34 are in critical state.
Banswara, Ganganagar and Doongerpur are the districts where all the water blocks (8, 7 and 5 blocks respectively) are in safe category.
All the water blocks in Chittorgarh, Bhilwara, Dausa, Jalore and Rajsamand are in the over-exploited category.
In the state capital, 12 water blocks out of 13 are over exploited while one is in a critical category.
Aditi Chandak, programme specialist of a Jodhpur based organisation Jal Bhagirathi Foundation said the effort to make community responsible towards water resources was a good step.
"It is very important to make people responsible for water resources which are very limited in the state. The state is passing through a difficult phase in regard to water that is due to rapidly deteriorating ground water level and quality," Chandak said.