February 18, 2020

Water for the Future: ACF & Government Align

Recognising India's grave water emergency, the Governments' top priority for 2019-24 is ensuring India's water security and providing access to safe and adequate drinking water to all Indians.  Having worked on the issue of water resource management for the past 25 years, ACF is also ramping up its commitment to the issue of water, in alignment with this strategic Government objective.
The formation of a new ministry in May 2019, Ministry of Jal Shakti, was a major step in the right direction, which saw a merging of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, to ensure a much needed, coordinated effort across all government departments to tackle this critical issue.
The Ministry has identified four major thrust areas, which in fact mirror the key programme thrust areas of ACF's water programme and directly look to tackle the key issues that underpin the country's water crisis:  
  1. HarGharJal  ‘हर घर जल’ - Piped water supply to all rural households by 2024
  2. Water use efficiency and its improvement by 20%
  3. Water conservation through integrated demand and supply side management of water at the local level which includes creation of local infrastructure for source sustainability like rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge
  4. User participation in all water management initiatives through the formation of water user associations.
ACF's vast water work has focussed on similar thrust areas, and for their efforts so far, ACF was recognised and appreciated by the Jal Shakti Ministry for their work in promoting water efficient agriculture. Most recently in 2019, ACF's work in Gujarat was awarded in the First National Water Mission Awards, in the category - 'Focused attention to vulnerable areas including over exploited areas.':
  • Water Harvesting: Across regions ACF has employed a wide variety of water harvesting and storage solutions as appropriate to the local conditions such as - Check dams, Khadins, sub surface dykes and deepening ponds in Rajasthan, reviving and deepening existing ponds and old mining pits and linking them to rivers and canals in Gujarat; water sheds; and Spring Shed revival initiatives in Himachal Pradesh. All of these initiatives have ensured all year round water supply for the communities for domestic, agriculture and animal husbandry. In partnership with NABARD, ACF has implemented watershed management programs across Himachal Pradesh marrying traditional practices with the latest technology to enhance the effectiveness of localised water harvesting and storage solutions. 
  • Drinking Water: Just like water storage solutions, drinking water solutions too need to be adapted to local conditions. For instance in parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat, where rainfall is adequate, we have promoted Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting structures with the twin aims of ensuring water security at household level as well as  addressing drinking water quality issues (salinity and fluoride) engendered by groundwater contamination. In Himachal Pradesh where  natural springs are found, we've promoted the installation of hand-pumps at the household level, and in several other parts where groundwater is unsuitable for drinking, we have installed water ATM's.
  • Water Conservation: In India, agriculture has been both the primary contributor to the water crisis (through rampant extraction of groundwater and inefficient farming techniques), as well as the main fatality of the crisis. ACF works extensively with farmers to promote water use efficiency by training farmers to adopt Drip irrigation and System of Rice Intensification techniques. The government has launched several financial schemes for   micro irrigation, and we facilitate t linkages with these schemes, assisting farmers in availing earmarked subsidies.

ACF programs are guided by the philosophy that the community must play a key role in tackling the water problems they face and work together to address water issues. Much of our work hence focuses on educating communities on the benefits of investing in solutions, providing technical support for the installation and providing linkages with government schemes and financial subsidies, wherever applicable.  Building People's Institutions is a key facet of our work where we 'Energise, Involve & Enable' people as part of a process.

A key example of this is being seen in ACF's role as an Implementation Support Agency to the Government in implementing  the Har Ghar Jal - village water distribution scheme. ACF's  role has focused on building strong village level community led institutions (Pani Samitis and water user associations) that can manage these schemes and facilitating and ensuring the smooth functioning of the partnerships between  the government departments and the village level community led institutions.

The government has identified 256 districts as 'water critical' and over exploited, for focused investments. Much of ACF's water work is concentrated in the water-stressed districts of the 11 states ACF currently works in.  However, there is much more work to be done, and ACF seeks like-minded partners to invest in water projects to help address these pressing national issues.
Tags: Water
February 18, 2020

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