The landmark 6th India Water Impact Summit (IWIS), organized jointly by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and the Centre for Ganga River Basin Management and Studies (cGanga), IIT Kanpur, was held from December 9th to 14th, 2021. The five-day-long summit was organized in a hybrid mode – online and physically at the NMCG office, New Delhi and IIT Kanpur.
The inaugural session in New Delhi on Thursday, 9th December, was attended by Jal Shakti Minister, Hon’ble Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Minister of State, Hon’ble Shri Prahlad Singh Patel and other dignitaries. Woven around the theme “Allocation of River Resources – Planning and Management at the Regional Level”, the summit hosted a number of experts, stakeholders and dignitaries from across the globe.
Addressing the inaugural session, Jal Shakti Minister, Hon’ble Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said, “At this point of time, water supply, conservation of water resources, and curbing water pollution are outstanding challenges for the whole world, and global experiences must unify to solve these problems. Global conferences like IWIS are, therefore, very important.”
Minister of State, Hon’ble Shri Prahlad Singh Patel said during the inaugural session, “The challenge before us is not only to conserve water but also water quality.” He added that Arth Ganga is an example of an inclusive and balanced approach to benefit all from this process, and stressed on coordination in the implementation of various projects.
Prof. Abhay Karandikar, Director, IIT Kanpur said, “The River Ganga holds major cultural as well as ecological significance to us. The onus is on every stakeholder to safeguard and conserve it for a healthy holistic future. IIT Kanpur has been undertaking rigorous and relentless initiatives to ensure good health of the Ganga. In line with such efforts, I believe this summit would initiate a perpetual discourse in ensuring not only the conservation and preservation of the River Ganga, but also of all the water bodies vital to us.”
The Summit hosted the sessions with integrated as well as individual focus on Science, Technology & Policy, Finance & Economics, Technology & Innovation, Policy, Law & Governance and International Cooperation, and the discussions were on several key areas such as river resource accounting, sustainable agriculture, water recycling, wastewater management, marine pollution, water economy, to name a few.
The summit saw the participation of distinguished national and international experts from academia, government organizations, think tanks, NGOs, and industry. It also sought the participation of small and large stakeholders from upstream and downstream regions from the Ganga Basin states, namely Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal, to initiate discussions on systematic assessment, planning, and management of river resources for holistic development.
After rigorous discussions on various themes and issues, some key suggestions that emerged are as follows:
- Rivers degrade if their resource exploitation is uncontrolled, hence river conservation must have clear goals.
- Traditional water conservation techniques, such as those practiced in Rajasthan, should be actively propagated in India.
- Given the inter-relatedness of rivers, ponds and other waterbodies, the bottom-up approach for river conservation propounded by cGanga is strongly recommended.
- A green buffer zone and protection of floodplain ecosystems are essential.
- Israel’s water-saving irrigation methods, re-use techniques and prudent usage of freshwater resources and sea water can be very useful for India.
- Australia’s successful Water Reforms (Water Law Amendment), River Basin Management, Water Allocation principles, and Private Sector Participation can be emulated in India.
- Restoration and conservation of the Sundari mangrove forests in the Indian Sunderbans is an urgent necessity to save the Ganga delta and its upstream reaches.
- With active engagement of local labour and synergistic efforts of district administrators and local bodies, about 25 rivers of 36 districts in U.P. had been restored during the Covid pandemic, including the notable Noon river in Jalaun district, and many other rivers can be restored thus with funding from the government’s MNREGA program.
- Conservation of river islands and clearing their encroachments need to be prioritized.
In the valedictory session on 14th December, the Chief Guest Hon’ble Sri Bishweswar Tudu, Minister of State for Jal Shakti, appreciated the work of NMCG and cGanga and said that the conservation of River Mahanadi in Odisha had started after the impressive progress on Ganga. He emphasized on the importance of implementing the outcomes of these discussions and focus on more practical approaches.
Dr. Vinod Tare, Founding Head of cGanga, IIT Kanpur said that IWIS is a unique conference for scientific, management and administrative experts for wide-ranging discussions and brainstorming on river conservation, water management and water conservation.
Shri Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General, NMCG, said, “River Ganga is a lifeline, it exists in the thinking of each one of us. In this summit, we have had many international sessions also, as the topic is not only limited to India but also concerns the rivers and regions across the globe.” He added that NMCG is resolved to transform Ganga into Samarth Ganga through Arth Ganga and the other four pillars of Aviral Ganga, Nirmal Ganga, Gyan Ganga and Lok Ganga.
On the concluding day, four important releases namely, ‘Uttarakhand River Atlas’, ‘Alaknanda and Bhagirathi River Basin Atlas’, ‘Yamuna River Basin Atlas’ and the ‘Samarth Ganga Report’, were launched. A documentary film on Sundarbans produced by Green Oscar Award winner Mike Pandey was also screened on the occasion.
The 5-day Summit witnessed the signing of an MoU between cGanga and Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) for the development of a sludge management framework. Similarly, two MoUs have also been signed with Innovation Centre Denmark and UPS Hungary to encourage the sharing of knowledge and increase participation of Hungarian industry in the Ganga River Basin Restoration and Conservation Program. An MoU between cGanga and British Water was also signed to promote the development of 21st century infrastructure in water and the environment sector. The summit ended with the resolve to make today’s Ganga into Samarth Ganga (Able Ganga) – fully capable of carrying out her multifarious natural functions to benefit the whole river basin and the nation.