The government would provide clean drinking water to every household of the country by 2024, Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Shekhawat said on Wednesday in Rajya Sabha.
Besides, the government would also undertake and promote steps for water conservation and curbing extraction of underground water, which is depleting the water table and is a matter of concern, the minister said.
The minister was replying to a short duration discussion in the Upper House on water crisis in the country during which members suggested a slew of steps like river interlinking, the district-specific blueprint for water conservation and speedy approval for rainwater harvesting projects.
Leaders from Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra highlighted the plight of the people, with CPI-M's T K Rangarajan saying "gold is cheaper than water" in Chennai.
"We would try to provide drinking to every household of this country by 2024," said Shekhawat and lauded the steps taken by governments of Karnataka and Maharashtra for the conservation of water.
"With their efforts, they (both states) have now come in the water balanced state category," Shekhawat said adding that other states should also promote such schemes.
The government is also considering the reuse of water from the category of black water and grey water.
He also stressed the need to promote crops which consumes less water.
"In India to produce one kg of rice, around 5,600 liters of water is spent, while in China it is only 350 liters," Shekhawat said.
According to him, at present only five per of the total water available is used for drinking purpose, 15 percent by the industry and rest 80 percent is used by for agricultural purpose.
States such as Maharashtra are now permitting the use of drip irrigation for sugarcane crops, while Haryana is incentivizing farmers for growing crops other than rice, he added.
The minister also requested the member of parliaments to spend money from their MPLAD (Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) on water conservation projects in their constituencies and areas.
While participating in the debate Husain Dalwai of Congress said that people in Maharashtra are facing acute water shortage and are depending on supply from tankers.
Vishambhar Nishad of SP said that studies about water crisis should be added to the school curriculum and students should be made aware of the issue.
He said Bundelkhand area is facing acute water shortage in districts as Banda, Chitrakoot, Hamirput, Mahoba.
DMK's R S Bharathi said that water should be brought under the concurrent list of the Constitution and government should work on river interlinking projects.
Lal Singh Vadodia asked the government to promote micro-irrigation, drip irrigation techniques as done in countries like Israel, which receive fewer rains.
Initiating the debate, AAP leader Sanjay Singh urged the central government to approve a rainwater harvesting project near the Yamuna proposed by the Delhi Government, cautioning that the national capital could face a water crisis in 2020.
"We have proposed rainwater storage project... but we need central government support otherwise there would be a big water crisis in Delhi in 2020," he said.
He informed the House that the AAP government in Delhi increased drinking water availability to 88 percent from 55 percent four-and-a-half years ago.
"Still 12 percent of people don't get drinking water in Delhi. Therefore rainwater storage project is required.
Delhi used to get 990 MGD (million gallons per day) water in 1996-97 and after 23 years the sanctioned water is 900MGD."
BJP member Satyanarayan Jatiya said the delay in Monsoon has further aggravated the water crisis in the country.
Amee Yajnik (Congress) asked the Government to come up with a definite plan to recycle polluted water, recharge groundwater and also rain harvesting to deal with the water crisis.
She said that water shortage is going to be the issue of the century.
AIADMK member R Vaithilingam spoke about the problems faced by Tamil Naidu due to water shortage.
Rangarajan said Chennai is the first Indian city "to have gone dry" with the Central Water Commission reporting a rainfall deficit of 41 percent in Tamil Nadu till June 13 this year.
"Most of the Chennai population today depends on water tankers, municipal supply, and private supply for drinking water. A tank of private water costs more than one gram of gold. Now gold is cheaper in Chennai than water. This is the truth," Rangarajan said.
D Raja of the Communist Party of India (CPI) said Tamil Nadu is passing through unprecedented water crisis and asked the government to try and evolve a national consensus on interlinking of rivers.
Shiv Sena's Anil Desai said water crisis has assumed gigantic proportions to the extent that it is believed the next war will be fought over water.
Manoj Kumar Jha of the Rashtriya Janata Dal said there is a need for penal provisions to arrest the misuse of water.
Ranjan Bhunia of the All India Trinamool Congress cited a Niti Aayog observation that 60 crore people are suffering due to an acute crisis of water in India. He claimed that 84 percent rural households lack piped water access.
Ravi Prakash Verma of Samajwadi Party suggested carving a national district-specific blueprint for water conservation.
He said the government must ensure that zero effluent discharge policy is strictly implemented by industries.
Banda Prakash of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi said around 21 cities in the country are facing acute drinking water crisis and requested the Centre for speedy disbursal of funds to Telangana to tackle water-related issues.
Ashok Bajpai of BJP, Ashok Siddharth of BSP, DP Vats of BJP and Vandan Chavan of NCP, V Vijayasai Reddy of YSRCP, Binoy Viswam of CPI and C K Gohel of BJP also participated in the debate.
Janata Dal United's Kahkashan Perween, Prashanta Nanda of the Biju Janata Dal and Om Prakash Mathur of the BJP were also among the members who spoke on the issue.