NEW DELHI : As the slow progress of the southwest monsoon worsens the drought situation in the country, President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday urged the country to focus on water conservation and management to tackle the situation.

“Over time, the traditional and effective practices of water conservation in our country have been disappearing. Houses have come up over ponds and lakes, and the vanishing water sources have accentuated the water crisis for the poor," said Kovind, while addressing the joint sitting of the Parliament.

Calling the growing water crisis the biggest challenge of the 21st century, the President said the situation was likely to worsen in the coming years due to the impact of climate change and global warming.

Human-induced warming reached 1°C above pre-industrial levels by 2017, and the latest United Nations (UN) - Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had warned that it may reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052, if temperatures continue to increase at current rate. Recent studies have warned that this could lead to a severe water crisis in heavily populated countries like India.

“Today, the need of the hour is that the way the country has shown seriousness about ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’, the same seriousness be shown in ‘Water Conservation and Management’. We must conserve water for our children and future generations," he said.

At least eight states including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Gujarat and Rajasthan are reeling under drought conditions. Terming the government’s decision to form the Ministry of Jal Shakti, a ‘decisive step’ which will have ‘far-reaching benefits’, Kovind said the government was fully conscious of the drought crisis in the country and stands by every citizen.

“With the support of state governments and Sarpanches at the village level, it is being ensured that farmers are assisted and the scarcity of drinking water is tackled," he said.

Kovind also said the government would launch initiatives to clean up other rivers, apart from Ganga, including Kaveri, Periyar, Narmada, Yamuna, Mahanadi, and Godavari during its current term. The campaign for closure of drains releasing effluents in the river Ganga would also be accelerated, he said.

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