COP27 is going to start on Sunday (November 6) to understand and avoid the future impacts of climate change. More significantly, the conference’s location in Egypt, home to the mighty Nile River, provides an excellent opportunity to draw attention to the enormous challenges the countries which is already facing, particularly regarding water.
With over 120 Country heads, COP27 will provide the ideal space to highlight the disparities of climate change experiences worldwide and to set key priorities for action accordingly. This includes implementing early warning systems, filling capacity gaps, and improving access to finance.
Just a day before COP27, India concluded its 7th India Water Week (IWW2022) on high note on Saturday, November 5.
The time has come to take proactive steps to resolve all Inter-State water disputes as these favour none and are against the interest of the country and people at large, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar said on November 5 in a valedictory ceremony of IWW2022. Dhankhar highlighted that equitable distribution of natural resources is the fundamental spirit of the Indian Constitution.
“It is the fundamental spirit of the Indian constitution. It is reflected in the Directive Principle of the State policy. There shall be equitable distribution of natural resources,” he said.
He also reminded people that natural resources such as water and fuel should not be wasted as the country can ill afford to do so.
Addressing the valedictory function of the 7th India Water Week, Mr. Dhankhar stressed the need to rejuvenate water bodies.
Earlier, even the Agriculture Minister said, efforts are being made to increase agriculture through programs like watershed development projects. We should use more and more technology and equipment in irrigation so that water can also be saved and the crop is also good. He said that all of us are concerned that there should be no food security crisis in future and for this the technology which should be included in agriculture, the Government of India under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri Modi is working with full dedication.
The Minister said that the central government and the agriculture ministry are concerned about water harvesting, and called for due deliberations and effective implementation of the proposals, which will come out of the five-day brainstorming.
Indeed, the 7th International Water Week was bigger than ever with the theme, “Water Security for Sustainable Development with Equity.” By introducing sustainability and equitable ideas developed over time by National and International Water experts and organisations, the multidisciplinary international conference will focus on long-term planning and management.
Just a day before COP27, several policymakers and innovators came together under one roof with the goal of identifying and building technological, political, economic, and social security for ‘Water Security for Sustainable Development with Equity’ in India.
But the question still remains. Will the policy makers, authorities and implementing agencies take this learnings and apply the innovative solutions with in certain time period? Past experiences are quite dissapointing.
In 2017, the NGT – the country’s top environmental court – confirmed that water was indeed the cause of the mass sickness in villages across five districts in western Uttar Pradesh after the crisis was brought to its attention by environmental campaigners and it tested the groundwater and river water.
In the villages that did not have a piped water supply, villagers were drinking polluted groundwater pulled up by hand pumps.
The NGT recommended a door-to-door medical survey across the 48 hardest-hit villages in the region. It also called for providing piped drinking water, the establishment of specialised hospitals, and curbs on industrial effluents, among other measures.
But the health department in the state – India’s most populous – has not followed through on most of the recommendations.
Four years since the country’s top environmental watchdog recommended measures, local authorities have only partially implemented them.
Most of the polluting industries, mainly sugar mills, distilleries, electroplating workshops and slaughterhouses, continue to dump effluent into the rivers with little or no facilities put in place to treat industrial waste.
The NGT formed a supervisory committee in 2018 to monitor the implementation of its recommendations. The committee in its four reports since 2019 said no meaningful action had been taken by authorities to clean up the Kali, Krishna and Hindon Rivers. It accused Uttar Pradesh officials of “apathy” and even “stonewalling” its action plan and monitoring.
In its last directive – released in February 2021 (and also published by one of the international media) – the NGT notes that officials “did not comply” with most of its recommendations. The state government has not cooperated and its attitude was “disappointing”, the NGT said.
Addressing the inaugural ceremony of the 7th India Water Week, President of India, Droupadi Murmu also said providing clean drinking water to the growing population will be a big challenge in the coming years. the President said that proper use and management of water is very important for water conservation. “The issue of water is multifaceted and complex, for which efforts should be made by all stakeholders. We all know that water is limited and only its proper use and recycling can sustain this resource for a long time. Therefore, all of us should try to consume this resource carefully.”
About 80% of the water resource in India is used for agriculture purposes, said the President. She said that the issue of water is relevant not only for India but for the entire world.
“This issue is linked to national security too as the vast amount of available freshwater is spread between two or more countries. This combined water resource is an issue in which the international cooperation is necessary. Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel and the European Union are participating in the 7th India Water Week. All will benefit from the exchange of ideas and technologies on this forum,” President Droupadi Murmu added.
India and Denmark both have ambitious goals within the climate agenda. On September 28 2020, Prime Minister of Denmark and Prime Minister of India, co-chaired a Virtual Summit between India and Denmark. Both the Premiers agreed to elevate the Indo-Danish relations to a Green Strategic Partnership after an exchange of views in a friendly atmosphere on bilateral relations, the Covid-19 pandemic and global matters, including climate change and green transition. On 2nd November, at IWW 2022, Denmark showcased its new hardware to manage, secure and monitor water system very efficiently.
However, Indian and Israel has also been sharing the strong relationship over the last couple of decades. With the mantra for success, working with nature and minimal technology, Israel has always been eager to showcase top-of-the-line innovation. In the India Water Week, they demonstrated “Watergen” – an innovation which creates drinkable water from atmosphere. Israel has always been known for it’s smart technology and solutions for agriculture and water system.
And we all know, that agriculture remains the backbone of India’s economy and smallholder farmers constitute the bulk of the country’s agrarian population.
However, Indian farming is highly dependent on rainfall, which continues to defy projections and has been increasingly erratic in recent years. To meet the challenge posed by climate change, while meeting food and energy needs in an environmentally and socially sustainable way, climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is becoming popular around the globe.
India has seen in recent years, improved technologies and practices for better water management and climate-smart agriculture. International Water Management Institute (IWMI) has also carried out research on water and agriculture for over two decades working closely with various initiatives to help enhance the impacts of their water interventions. IWMI was also one of the participants at India Water Week 2022. Dr. Smith, Director General, IWMI was in India to attend the 7th India Water Week.
“The reports we see in the press and in the media over the last two years in terms of floods and droughts and extreme water events across the world are alarming. The initiative is based on six high ambition missions for science-based action on water security built upon through a series of regional multi-stakeholder dialogues that culminate in the ‘Transformative Futures for Water Security’ conference in March 2023”, says Dr. Mark Smith, Director General, IWMI.
IWMI recently introduced the South Asia Drought Monitoring System (SADMS)– a satellite-based online drought management tool that provides farmers, extension workers and water management authorities with all the information needed to monitor, forecast and manage drought in South Asia. It is developed in close partnership with Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
“We have been working very closely with ICAR- Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) on SADMS since 2016-17, particularly with a focus on validating the outputs which are emanating out of this SADMS, and how they can be best used in drought contingency planning to mitigate production risks”, says Dr. Alok Sikka, Country Representative, IWMI.
Yet droughts or flood are not the only water-related hazard of concern for the world. There are many other factors as well which contribute in climate crisis.
‘World Animal Protection’ (WAP) says, Factory farming is the silent culprit we are failing to address, despite the clear climate impact of the 69 billion meat chickens and 1.5 billion pigs factory farmed each year.
They (WAP) appeal world leaders attending COP27 to halt the building of new factory farms – one of the biggest threats to the planet’s ecosystems.
World Animal Protection’s recently released Climate Change and Cruelty report revealed the true extent of unsustainable deforestation caused by factory farming – a silent climate culprit – with four trees felled to make way for animal feed crops to produce just 10kg of chicken, and five trees cut down for every 10kg of pork.
Researchers for World Animal Protection captured the environmental and climate change impacts of farmed pork and chicken meat production in the world’s four biggest factory farming hot spots: Brazil, China, the USA and the Netherlands.
-Dr. M Shahid Siddiqui; Follow via Twitter @shahidsiddiqui