Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
New Delhi: Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Monday said there is need to convert the "jan andolan" (people's movement) into "jal andolan" (water movement) and the people of Delhi should take the lead.
The minister made the remarks at the foundation stone-laying ceremony for India's largest sewage treatment plant at Ohkla, which will be able to treat 56.4 crore litres of waste water per day.
"It's a major step towards cleaning the Yamuna," he said, adding that the Centre is providing 85 per cent of the funds for the project.
Shekhawat said the countries that have become self-sufficient in terms of water have worked on the principles of "maximum utilisation, judicious use and reuse" and India needs to follow suit.
He said India has got only 4 per cent of the water available in the world, while it accounts for 18 per cent of the world's human and livestock population.
Considering the threat posed by climate change, Delhi is one of the most "vulnerable states" in the country. It is among the states with the most polluted water resources in the country, he said.
"It is time the issue became a matter of public concern and discussion. Efforts in this direction should have been made much earlier. If we don't make sincere efforts now, it will become a compulsion in the future," the minister said.
India records 4,000 billion cubic metre (bcm) of precipitation per year, while the water holding capacity of the 5,000 reservoirs across the country is just 250 bcm, Shekhawat said.
"After evaporation and other losses, around 1,200 bcm of usable water is left with us every year. We are able to utilise only half of it... It is time we converted the 'Jan Andolan' into 'Jal Andolan'. And Delhi has to take the lead," he said.
"Every resident of Delhi should be concerned about it and discuss it... It should become our duty like corporate social responsibility for corporates," he added.
Recounting his experience of cleaning a 'Chhath Ghat' along the banks of the Yamuna recently, the Union minister said, "The common people need to take responsibility for cleanliness. Until that happens, the government's efforts will go waste."
He said 89 per cent of India's extracted groundwater is used in the agriculture sector.
States need to come up with innovative ideas for judicious use of groundwater like crop diversification and drip irrigation, which are being implemented in a few states such as Maharashtra and Haryana, he said.
"India's population needs 200 bcm of drinking water every year. Our facilities are generating 140 bcm of treated or untreated water from sewage. We need to think of ideas to make it fit for drinking," he said.