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Water Sustainability Awards 2023: Experts Emphasize on Sustainable Water Use & Innovative Technologies

At the Water Sustainability Awards (WSA), held on the eve of World Water Day in New Delhi, government authorities and experts emphasized the importance of sustainable water use and the vital need for technical advancements for its successful management.

Shivam Dwivedi
'Air to Water' technology has the potential to deliver Water for Everyone
'Air to Water' technology has the potential to deliver Water for Everyone

"We need a large strategy on water storage - both on the surface and under our feet," Debashree Mukherjee, Special Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti, said, observing that essential methods were needed to address the issues faced by the water industry. "How can we optimise storage such that we have it when and where we need it?"

About water fairness, she stated that the resource must reach the poorest and most marginalised members of society. "We need to collaborate with states and communities to understand equity concerns," she stated at the WSA, which was organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), financed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and endorsed by the Ministry of Jal Shakti.

Mukherjee also underlined the importance of effectively managing the existing storage methods. "It is estimated that we will lose 50 billion cubic metres of storage to sedimentation by 2050 if we do not manage our reservoirs and catchments adequately."

Noting that water use efficiency in agriculture remained a difficulty, she emphasised the need for innovations to solve the issue and, more crucially, to simplify their transition from laboratories to the field. Realizing the circular economy of water is another problem that will necessitate new solutions, according to her. "It is beneficial to have treated water recharge existing water bodies. It is worthwhile to guarantee that water is treated to a standard that does not pollute ground water during replenishment of existing waterbodies. We must also consider measures to reward municipalities for water treatment in order to preserve ecosystems."

Bharat Lal, Director General, National Centre for Good Governance and former Mission Director, Jal Jeevan Mission, observed that the real crisis in the water sector is one of management, and that scientific and innovative technological interventions are required to reduce water waste and improve water security. "Water sustainability necessitates technological advancements. Water measurement and monitoring, as well as its supply and recovery, are critical," said Lal, adding that the availability and accessibility of sensor-based water quality testing is a much-needed innovation.

The WSA honours individual and collective efforts to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on water, and the Water Champion awards were granted to Sadhguru, who heads the Isha Foundation, and Nana Patekar and Makarand Anaspure, who head the NAAM Foundation. Sadhguru received the Water Champion award for his environmental projects such as Project GreenHands, Rally for Rivers, and Cauvery Calling, all of which address the critical need to increase green cover, revive Indian rivers, and restore soil health. The NAAM Foundation received the Water Champion award for institutions for their water management solutions in Maharashtra's drought-affected districts.

"Without water, there is neither sanitation nor food for her," Dr Kiran Bedi, Founder and Mentor, Navjyoti Foundation and former Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, remarked, emphasising the crucial importance access to water plays in a woman's life. It impairs her movement when she needs to go fetch water, and she may prevent her daughter from going to school in order to fetch water. Water is critical to India's transformational quality of life."

Dr. Bedi cited the effort in Puducherry, where an 86-kilometer stretch of the canal that divides the Union Territory into two distinct areas was desilted, and said the approach could be applied anywhere. "It is a collaborative paradigm that includes the government, the community, and the business world." Whatever corporation is a water guzzler can use the adjoining canal... "Pay for it directly and have it cleaned," she stated ahead of the award ceremony during a discussion on 'Accelerating Change - Imperative to Achieve Sustainable Development Goal on Water Women in Water Leadership.

"We have just 1126 billion cubic metres of utilisable water for the country, whereas our demand is predicted to reach 1180 billion cubic metres," said Archana Varma, Mission Director, National Water Mission. No matter how effectively we enhance the supply side, we can never have a water-secure future unless we minimise the demand side."

"It is about finding the good practices that existed, then promoting it, and co-creating," said Dr. Anitha Sharma, Counsellor in Urban Development at the Royal Danish Embassy. Rema Mohan, Chief Executive Officer of the NSE Foundation, emphasized the need of community involvement and ownership in maintaining initiatives to revitalize water structures. Vikram Chandra, Founder, Editorji Technologies Pvt. Ltd., moderated the debate and remarked that women understand the challenges associated with water the best and are the most eager to find a solution.

Dr. SK Sarkar, Distinguished Fellow, TERI, said in his welcoming address that, half way through the 2030 time period for the SDGs, water availability and sanitation remain two areas where India has achieved progress. "Areas such as water use efficiency, water treatment, integrated water management, and water ecosystem restoration necessitate additional work," he noted.

At the occasion, a policy brief on 'Air to Water' technology, which has the potential to deliver Water for Everyone, and a WSA compendium were released. TERI and Deendayal Port Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on water conservation and water neutrality. Dr Vibha Dhawan, Director General of TERI, and V Raveendra Reddy, Chief Engineer of Deendayal Port Authority, signed the MoU. TERI and Diamond Toons collaborated to release the comic book Chacha Chaudhari aur Har Ghar Jal: Humara Haq in an effort to raise awareness about water conservation. The WSA was created to encourage stakeholders to reduce their water footprint by implementing 'water neutrality' measures.

The WSA evaluates excellence in new ideas, approaches, processes, products, services, technologies, and other innovations in the water sector which can tangibly address the SDGs. Winners in the multiple categories are: UltraTech Cement Limited (Category: Water for All); Network 18 (Category: Sanitation for All); Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, Kochi (Category: Wastewater Treatment & Safe Reuse); NTPC Tamil Nadu Energy Company Limited and Jhajjar Power Limited (Category: Excellence in Water Use Efficiency – Industrial Sector); Sarvottham Organics (Category: Excellence in Water Use Efficiency – Agricultural Sector); Lupin Human Welfare and Research Foundation (Excellence in Participatory Water Management); Self-Reliant Initiatives through Joint Action (SRIJAN) (Category: Protect and Restore Community Water Resources); Royal Danish Embassy in New Delhi (Category: Promoting Water Cooperation); Solidaridad Regional Expertise Centre (Category: Innovation in Water Technology).

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