New Delhi: Taking forward the promise made during the 2019 general elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced a new ministry, Jal Shakti, in the portfolio allocation announced on Friday. The portfolio was allocated to Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Member of Parliament from Jodhpur, who defeated son of Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot.
The ministry is a key project of Modi and during the interim budget of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the Union government had indicated that it would create a new ministry for Jal Shakti when it returned to power after the general elections.
During different phases of his election campaign, Modi had promised to people that access to safe drinking water would be a prime initiative of the NDA government in its second term.
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Speaking to people in Tamil Nadu during an election rally, PM Modi had announced that the dedicated ministry will pay special focus on ensuring clean water for people and irrigation water facilities for farmers.
The Vajpayee-era dream of inter-linking of India's rivers might get a big boost. At present, seven or eight central ministries have varying roles when it comes to water and the widespread belief is that it results in turf wars and policy fragmentation.
Apart from policy, there would clear practical implications and multiplier effects on schemes run through other ministries as well. For example, one of the BJP's manifesto promise is to provide a piped water connection to every household by 2024. The flagship Swachh Bharat mission is also likely to get a renewed push with far greater attention to water access.
According to the NITI Aayog report, nearly 600 million Indians face “high to extreme water stress", while 75% households do not have drinking water on their premises. At the same time, about 2 lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
While the report reflects that 70% of the water in the country is contaminated, it also raises alarm bells wherein 21 cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad, will face a massive shortage and run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people. Matters are only likely to worsen with the country’s water demand likely to double by 2030, indicating that there will be a 6% loss in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050.
Ajai Sreevatsan and Shaswati Das contributed to the story
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