India’s First National Water-Body Census

Context:

  • Groundwater reduction, biodiversity loss, and an increase in the frequency of floods and droughts due to climate change are all contributing to India’s water issue. Water bodies are crucial in this scenario.
  • The primary goal of the first water-body census was to create a national database that contained data on the number, use, ownership, status, and conditions of water bodies. It covered any structures, whether natural or man-made, that are enclosed on all sides and used to store water.
  • By describing ownership, use, cost of building, and repair, the first edition alone offers high-level guidance on the best course of action.

Points to Ponder:

  • The Ministry of Jal Shakti carried out the first-ever water body census to create a national database with data on the size, function, ownership, status, and conditions of water bodies in India.
  • Water bodies are crucial because they act as a bulwark against climate change, support the security of food and water, and have cultural and ecological value.
  • To successfully manage water bodies, which are increasingly in danger from pollution, encroachment, urbanisation, and drying, we need action plans that call for baseline data.
  • The census was based on current and openly accessible satellite-derived statistics and covered all naturally occurring and artificially created units delimited on all sides for holding water, regardless of condition or use.
  • Data-processing workshops were held to train the surveyors in all States and Union territories. The census used software for data entry and a mobile app to capture the location and visual of the water bodies.
  • The vast majority of water bodies in India are less than one hectare (ha) in size, making up the majority of the nation’s water bodies.
  • In drier States like Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan, water bodies typically tend to be larger and publicly owned, whereas, in wetter regions of the country, more than three-quarters of the water bodies are privately owned. The water bodies exhibit geographical patterns that correlate with rainfall.
  • Despite the increasing interest in renewing water bodies, the majority of them have never been fixed or revived. Additionally, numerous water bodies were designated as “not in use”.
  • There are some gaps and inconsistencies in the census, including a lack of data on the ecological roles played by water bodies, problems with how those bodies are categorised, and discrepancies in how the enumerators interpreted certain data.
  • The census data can aid in better managing water bodies, but more investigation and analysis are required to overcome the data’s shortcomings and discrepancies.