A seminar on West Bengal and its water resources was conducted by the Bengal Centre for Development and Policy Studies, an undertaking of New Global Indian Foundation, January 4 at Rotary Sadan in Kolkata. One of the objectives of seminar was to know about the ways to save water, and guest of honour for the event and the key speaker was Dr. Asit K Biswas, an IIT Kharagpur-alumnus and 2006 Stockholm World Water Prize Laureate. Biswas is also the founder-president of Third World Centre of Water Management, and is now based in Mexico City.
Professor K. J. Nath, chairman, science & technology, Sulabh International Social Service Organization; president of Institute of Public Health Engineers, India, chairman of Arsenic Task Force, West Bengal, member of National Ganga River Basin Authority, member, scientific advisory Board & SEA Regional Coordinator, International Forum on Home Hygiene, IFH, UK former director, All India Institute of Hygiene & Public Health,; Professor Jayanta Badyopadhyay,: ex-president of the Indian Society of Ecological Economics a former adviser to the Tuft University, Medford, USA, and a faculty of Indian Institute of Management Kolkata; Satadev Bhattacharya, chief engineer in the Public Health and Engineering Department, West Bengal.
The seminar was inaugurated with a welcome speech by Anam Aziz, introducing the chairman of the New Global Indian Foundation, Kanchan Banerjee of Boston. The first speaker Professor K J Nath spoke about water resource management in India. He pointed out that all south-east Asian nations are facing the problem of not only water resource management, but even quality. There are two major problems: anthropogenic and contamination. An anthropogenic problem means mismanagement of solid waste and contamination of mercury, lead and arsenic in water that is afflicting across India. The arsenic and contamination of water started since the 80’s. Besides, there is an acute crisis of diarrhoea and cholera. Proper management of the industrial waste material needs to be done, and since there is large number of ponds in India, and they could be used as water resource for any other purpose besides drinking.
Professor Jayanta Bandhyopadhyay discussed about the unscientific overuse of rivers, lakes and groundwater that has led to degradation of the water bodies, affecting our entire ecosystem.
Satadev Bhattacharya explained that availability of good quality of potable water is important for an overall growth of the country. Selection of appropriate technologies plays an important role and extends benefit at optimum level. A technology that is selected should be sustainable; cost effective, simple, immune from monopoly and easy to operate and maintain. Its operation and maintenance should be such that community can afford. West Bengal which has a population of more than 100 million with wide variation in topography, climate, rainfall, water resource, nature of ground water pollutions etc across the state. Ground water was considered as the cheapest source of potable water in West Bengal except coastal belts of North & South 24 Parganas, Purba and Paschim Medinipur till the findings of dreaded pollutants like arsenic and fluoride in ground water. Presently effects of water pollution, particularly arsenic pollution has taken a shape of catastrophe apart from other pollution like fluorides, chloride, iron and pathogens.
Removal of arsenic, fluoride and chloride from ground water is a costly affair and should be used as a last alternative. Effort may be given on use of surface water from river, pond etc., and conservation of rain water using several rain water harvesting methods. In water sector lot of new technologies are coming in the market. An independent authority comprising experts from industry, research institute, engineering college/IIT and government departments may be formed to create technology bank, taking up R&D activities to develop cost effective technologies, suggest correction on existing technologies on a case to case basis.