Meghalaya’s water policy, drafted in consultation with experts in water conservation and protection of water bodies, focuses on ensuring optimum conservation, harness and management of water amidst a traditional set-up.
With the world staring at water-related losses in agriculture, health, income and property, Meghalaya has become the first state to have its own policy. All issues related to optimum utilization of water and livelihood and conservation of water bodies have been outlined in the policy including community participation for its implementation. In a candid chat, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma helps us understand it better. Excerpts:
- While the Centre is concentrating on water conservation, what is Meghalaya doing as a state?
CS: The whole country is talking about water conservation and the Centre is also emphasizing on it. I am happy to inform that Meghalaya is the first state in the country to come up with its own water policy.
- Can you elaborate on this water policy?
CS: The idea is to ensure the conservation, harness and management of water in a better manner, its treatment and reuse. Even though Meghalaya is a state where we do get abundant rainfall, we still felt it was important for us as a government to give importance to the resources and ensure water is conserved. Stressing on this, under this policy, the government will soon make it mandatory in certain areas to have rainwater harvesting.
The state Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has approved the draft water policy 2019 recently. While the entire nation cries for water scarcity, Meghalaya’s water policy is here to give new hope to the state.
The policy speaks of having maximum check dams to tap rainwater, rainwater harvesting, controlling inappropriate use of groundwater, check acidity of water and several other aspects.
Soon after the Cabinet approved the draft Meghalaya water policy 2019, deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong told media in Shillong: “Meghalaya is a hilly state where rainwater within one hour reaches Bangladesh. So, the policy encourages construction of check dams till the international border and also till the inter-state border, with a focus on making each of them a multipurpose reservoir.”
It may be mentioned that Meghalaya receives highest rainfall in the world and so long since the rainwater was not tapped, certain quarters of the state faced a water crisis.
The deputy Chief Minister said Meghalaya, being a hilly state, receives a lot of rainfall but the same water cannot be retained and all of it reaches Bangladesh in no time.
Now, in this policy, rainwater will be harvested, preserved and conserved and Meghalaya is expected to soon set an example in this direction.
The policy takes a holistic approach to water and encompasses budgeting, prioritizing and equalization of water supply and protection and conservation of catchment and springshed areas. It will also have updated information about the number of flowing rivers, springs and underground water outlets.
“Issues such as the protection of catchment areas and river pollution have also been outlined in the policy. Community participation is what we are looking for as we want to reach to the villages,” he added.
Recently, the state government has launched the “Jal Shakti” mission to address problems related to water.
Meghalaya Water Policy aims to provide safe and hygienic water for various purposes including drinking, domestic use, sanitation and livelihood development. The policy recognises water as a common pool resource for all residents of the state.
Interestingly, the villages of Meghalaya are always alert and use traditional systems of irrigation and conservation methods and thus manage to safeguard the state from any severe water crisis.
Now, with the new water policy in place, the traditional systems will be made methodical and community participation in preserving water will be given importance.
The water policy intends to achieve sustainable development, management and use of water resources with community participation, the Deputy Chief Minister maintained.
“Community participation will be fully honoured. We will set up a water sanitation village council,” Tynsong said, adding: “The policy’s objective is sustainable development management and the use of Meghalaya’s water resources with community participation to improve health and livelihood and promotion of integrated water resource management.”
The policy was drafted by the state Water Resources department in consultation with experts in water conservation and protection of water bodies.