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Conserve or face severe water shortage: PM


New Delhi : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday warned of acute water shortages over the next few decades and called for effective measures that combine conservation with scientific expertise in locating new sources.

"Our planet will encounter in the next few decades severe shortages of water if we are not careful in conserving and preserving the precious and increasingly scarce water resources of our country," the prime minister said.

"We need proper institutional arrangements to ensure that both scientific expertise for location of sources and collective action for water recharge are effectively mobilised," he told a conference on rural drinking water here.

He also laid equal emphasis on the safety of drinking water and hygiene, saying while environment provided backward linkages to potable water, the forward linkages were in health and sanitation.

"Increasingly, we are faced with a situation where diseases related to public health, number of communicable diseases, especially water-borne diseases, are on the increase," he said, adding this occurs even in areas with safe water.

"Here again, the Department of Drinking Water has to take proactive action to sensitise the community on safe water and its use."

He said the central government had significantly increased fiscal allocations for safe drinking water since it was key to the well-being of people, along with proper sanitation.

"The onus now is on the state government to ensure that these resources do get translated into actual entitlement of safe drinking water and improved services for the benefit of common man."

In this regard, he urged the states to decentralise this crucial component of rural development and ensure that the subject of drinking water moves away from state capitals to the district level.

"This is also a constitutional obligation as water supply is one of the basic functions to be carried out by rural and urban local bodies as per the 11th Schedule of our constitution."