With a diverse population that is three times the size of the United States but one-third the physical size, India has the second-largest population in the world. According to the World Bank, India has taken significant steps to reduce poverty, however, the number of people who live in poverty is still highly disproportionate to the number of people who are middle-income, with a combined rate of over 52% of both rural and urban poor.
Although India has made improvements over the past decades to both the availability and quality of municipal drinking water systems, its large population has stressed planned water resources and rural areas are left out. In addition, rapid growth in India’s urban areas has stretched government solutions, which have been compromised by over-privatization.
The factors contributing to India’s water crisis are industrialisation, urbanisation and climate change which is above all, is only aggravated by huge population that is growing at a phenomenal rate in terms of volume. None of the Indian cities now supplies 24X7 good quality drinking water. It is estimated by 2030, 12 years from now, India’s demand for drinking water will exceed all the sources of supply.
However, India is seeking Israel’s help to ensure functional tap-water to every Indian household by 2024. During his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that more than Rs 3.5 lakh crore will be spent in the coming years under the ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’ to bring piped water to households by 2024.
India’s newly appointed Ambassador to Israel, Sanjeev Singla, told PTI that “During the historic visit of our Prime Minister (Modi) to Israel in July 2017, India and Israel agreed to establish a ‘Strategic Partnership in Water and Agriculture’ in view of the centrality of these areas to development.
Under PM Modi’s leadership, the Government of India is according top priority to conservation, development and management of water resources”.
One of the Envoy’s mentioned about a planned visit by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to Israel for the fulfilment of the government’s mission. Singla, who served as Private Secretary to Prime Minister Modi, emphasised “The visit by Shekhawat is significant as both sides will explore possible areas for further collaboration and tangible outcomes. It is also in line with the Prime Minister’s vision to ensure functional tap-water to every household in India by 2024 under the Jal Jeevan Mission.”
The Asian Development Bank has estimated by 2030, India will face a water deficit of 50 per cent. The Union Ministry of Water Resources estimates that India will need around 1200 billion cubic metres in 2025 and 1447 billion cubic metres in 2050 up from around 1100 billion cubic metres at present.
But river water supply and groundwater tables are shrinking, monsoon has become more erratic and climate change threat looks more real than before.
Whereas, Israel has made water recycling an integral part of daily life. More than 80 per cent of household wastewater is recycled, amounting to 400 million cubic meters a year, the Environment Ministry says. That ratio is four times higher than in any other country, according to Israel’s water authority.
Shekhawat, who will be on a three-day visit to Israel between November 17 and 19 will be interacting with Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s Minister of Energy, who is also responsible for natural resources like water.
Shekhawat is expected to co-chair the India-Israel Strategic Partnership on Water, organised by the Embassy of India in Tel Aviv, along with the Israeli Ministry of Energy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on November 18, 2019.
He will also be the head speaker for the prestigious biennial WATEC event on November 19. The Union Cabinet Minister is being accompanied by a large delegation from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Delhi.
Representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Energy and Foreign Affairs have also expressed enthusiasm at the first visit of Indian Minister. The Israeli ministry stated “Israel is glad to continue this important bilateral dialogue, to share its experience and innovation related to water management challenges, inspired by the vision of both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Modi with India.
They further mentioned “We are glad for this opportunity to strengthen our ties, sharing knowledge and standing by each other solving common challenges for the benefit of our peoples. Water is a source of life. Every human being has the right to access to water, and we are partners in promoting this goal.”
Waste-water treatment, recycle and reuse; water use efficiency; water – assessment, measurement and management are the five major issues to be discussed at the meeting. The ‘functionality’ aspect will be monitored in terms of regularity of water supply to every household on daily basis, adequate quantity and prescribed quality system of monitoring through sensors and use of IoT in the country.
Treatment facilities are said to remove contaminants to a level set by the Health Ministry and the water is then sent to farmers. Exports of water-saving Israeli technologies exceeds 1.5 billion US Dollars a year, as per industry sources
Israel’s advancement in water technology might help India fight its water crisis. Although China, Japan and Canada, all have shown interest in Israel’s growing water technology prowess to solve their own problems, India has keenly engaged with Israel on the issue since 2008.