There’s need for integrated approach

High Climate Variability across the globe has replicating effect seen through global warming; raising water foot print, haphazard urbanisation have created increasing water scarcity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report 2018 reveals that human-induced activities have caused average global warming of 1°C above pre-industrial levels. Meghalaya is also influenced by changes brought about in natural environments by human activities like urbanisation, industrialisation, illegal rat hole mining and stone quarrying which have led to pollution of water bodies.
High spatial variability is also visible in some areas of Meghalaya seen through patterns of relatively wet desert for around eight months and drier climate on the other side as rainwater is wasted because of surface runoff that drains to the neighbouring states. Mismanagement and unscientific utilisation of surface and ground water, depleting availability of water resources and insufficient revival of Jal Kunds, natural resource management and community ponds have altered water levels in the state. Deforestation, traditional jhum cultivation and unscientific extraction of minerals etc have drastically affected the hydrological parameters, viz rainfall interception, infiltration, soil moisture, evaporation, ground water, water yield, soil loss, floods, etc. Catchment areas and river systems are being exploited leading to the reduction in the discharge or drying up of many rivers, streams and rivulets with less focus on recycle and reuse.
The days of relying on natural water resources are coming to an end. If we do not come together to find answers to our water shortage, Meghalaya will face major supply-related issues in the near future. Meghalaya is endowed generously by nature as far as water resources are concerned. We must nurture this resource and have sustainable mechanisms for water management. Signifying the importance of Water (SDG 6) as a socio-economic connector, climate change coping strategies (mitigating and adaptive measures) like Community Water Jal kunds, springsheds revival and restoring the water-land-biomass balance must be augmented towards appropriate natural resources planning and management.
Communities must be trained and mainstreamed to understand the importance of nature-based solutions and secure water availability through efficient ‘Water Use and Water Use efficiency’ in the region. Water augmenting strategies such as harnessing water conservation and power generation through multi-purpose reservoirs through Integrated Water Shed Management must be enabled in Meghalaya to use both water and energy in a sustainable manner to ensure water-energy-food security. Policy instruments like envisaging science-policy linkage and mainstreaming climate change agenda in state policies and campaigning for making ‘Right to Water’ as a fundamental right must be espoused at the ground level. Altogether, the perusal of judicious combination of advocacy, knowledge dissemination, policy analysis and strengthening participatory governance must be implemented to reclaim water as a scarce natural resource.
India Water Foundation, as a partner in progress of Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA) has fostered the implementation of Integrated Basin Development Livelihood Programme (IBDLP). As Friends of Meghalaya since a decade, our inputs have been instrumental in implementing water mission under the IBDLP. Meghalaya’s water resource management problem is further amplified due to the fact that about 80 per cent of Meghalaya’s population resides in rural and widely distributed areas (census 2011). Hence, there is much focus on promotion of citizen and state action for water conservation, augmentation and preservation, focused attention to over-exploited areas, improve water use efficiency, judicious use of water moving towards holistic ‘water security’ because water is socio-economic connector not a mere sector.
Methods of traditional water conservation are propagated, alongside restoration of existing water bodies and monitoring of surface and ground water quality.
IWF has tirelessly worked to spread the significance of the SDG 6 (Water) and build ‘Water & Sustainable Environment Infrastructure’ in Meghalaya Interlinked and Integrated with SDG goal 1(No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger), 3 (Health & Well Being), 4(Quality Education), 7(Clean Energy) and 17 (Partnership for goals). Keeping water as a key economic connector (infrastructure) with other 11 missions under IBDLP, it served as a bridge to engulf the gap between the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development. Since a decade, with the help of the government and other stakeholders Meghalaya has showcased best practices and a report published by UNDP, Good Practices Resource Book 2015, on the innovative practices evolved under Meghalaya’s flagship programme IBDLP entails an added testimony to it.
I, as a member of Meghalaya State Council on Climate Change and Sustainable Development (MSCC&SD) has been advocating in envisaging green solutions to deal with the impending climatic stress on natural ecosystems. As a member of Meghalaya State Water Resource Council, my inputs to Studies on water budgeting, water scarcity and assessment and maintenance of water quality, etc has proved instrumental.
IWF has proactively disseminated knowledge and information and learning modules as specified in Integrated Water Resource Management, Water-Food-Energy Nexus and Ecosystem based Adaptation approaches and effortlessly promoted knowledge dissemination regarding sustainable management of ecosystem services, leveraging water as natural capital and green practices anticipating vulnerabilities and improving resilience among the communities.
IWF advocates the support for cross-cutting convergence in Meghalaya focusing on assimilating knowledge dissemination, capacity building, institutional partnership, technology adaptation, bringing them on one single platform.
Meghalaya has also given the world a successful model to emulate. With Meghalaya having proximity location surrounded by neighbouring countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan, India), tangible outcomes are witnessed through market access, water and hydro-electric power cooperation, building economic transportation corridor, enabling successful South-South cooperation with countries incorporating the learnings in their national policy. The inputs by IWF on Ecosystem Based Adaptation, being a part of IBDLP was taken into national policy by countries like Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar. Meghalaya should incorporate the same in its national policy.
Being a member of Technical Advisory Committee for India’s Third National Communication and Biennial Update Reports to UNFCCC and member of the ‘National Wetlands Committee’, MoEF&CC, Government of India, it shall be significant to share my expertise and inputs on environment prosperity, water security, natural resource replenishment, improving water footprint and gauge to make Meghalaya reclaim its lost scenic beauty through an integrated, impactful, innovative and inspirational approach’.
Also, as a member in the Board of Governors of World Water Council, it gives me an immense opportunity to showcase Meghalaya at the centre stage at the global level. Given the synergising presence of best practices, branding and sustainable funding, Meghalaya should galvanise the opportunitiesof ‘Leading from First’. Conservation of water is the first pre-requisite to integrate SDGs for which the draft Meghalaya Integrated Water Resource Management Bill, 2015 must be enacted as a law to translate Ambitious water plan targets into workable action.
Water is the new OIL and hence it’s high time that Meghalaya must preserve, conserve its natural capital. Enlightening community through ‘Sensitising, Incentivising and Galvanising’ model along with Institutional support is perhaps the best approach to endow Meghalaya as a ‘Water Secure State’ once again.

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