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The Mission Amrit Sarovar is an ambitious project of the Government of India which was launched and is being implemented across the country with the purpose of conserving water besides serving some other purposes like expediting the infrastructural projects with soil and silt from the ponds, generating employment opportunities, irrigation, augmentation of tourism, fisheries etc. A water-stressed situation prevailing across the globe, including India, makes it imperative to moot out such ideas as Amrit Sarovar for the conservation of water throughout the year for public use. But only after completion of the scheme by August 2023, that the success and feasibility of the initiative can be assessed properly.
As per a report published by the Ministry of Jal Shakti on 4th August 2022 the per capita water availability in the country is reducing due to an increase in population. The average annual per capita water availability in the years 2001 and 2011 was assessed as 1816 cubic metres and 1545 cubic meters respectively which would have further reduced to 1486 cubic meters in the year 2021 experiencing a water stress situation as per projected population growth. It has been admitted in the report itself that water becomes a commodity as precious as gold in India. A large number of Indians face high to extreme water stress, according to a recent report by the government's policy think tank, the NITI Aayog. India's dependence on an increasingly erratic monsoon for its water requirements increases this challenge and climate change is likely to aggravate further the pressure on water resources.
Realizing this problem the Mission Amrit Sarovar was launched on National Panchayati Raj Day on 24th April 2022 by the Prime Minister of India as a part of the celebration of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav with an objective of conserving water for the future. The Mission is aimed at developing and rejuvenating 75 water bodies in each district of the country. Amrit Sarovars will play an important role in increasing the availability of water, both on the surface and underground. The development of Amrit Sarovars will also create sustainable and long-term productive assets. This Amrit Sarovar will be constructed on at least 1 acre of land with a water holding capacity of about 10,000 cubic meters. If the district is unable to create as many new Amrit Sarovars, then it may take up rejuvenation of the existing structures for restoring their ecological and productive utility.
This mission is run with the participation of six ministries and organizations which include, the Ministry of Rural Development, the Ministry of Jal Shakti, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of
Panchayati Raj, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change and Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geo-informatics (BISAG-N).
Site selection for the project is the most crucial part of the process. As per guidelines in order to optimize the benefit of the Amrit Sarovars and to ensure that the implementation is done in the most credible manner, the latest and most relevant technologies like remote sensing and geospatial will be used extensively from site selection till its completion."Amrit Sarovar" Portal developed by BISAG-N is utilized to generate a list of potential sites, monitor progress and upload media. A list of about 100 potential sites will be generated by BISAG-N for every district on the basis of the availability of wastelands and rainwater, topography, the pattern of soil etc. In particular, the following factors will be kept in view: availability of land (wasteland), availability of rainwater through drainage, preferably selection of sunken or low-lying areas and land with deep, non-alkaline, non-saline, non-acidic soil quality. In this regard, the district may also receive suggestions from public representatives, Gram Panchayat, members of the public, civil society organizations, academic and research bodies etc. on potential sites. Till now, 92408 sites are finalized for the construction of Amrit Sarovar out of which work has been started for 53,446 Amrit Sarovars and work has been completed at 26263 sites.
Presently many infrastructural works are being carried out across the country and many of them are held up due to a lack of soil and silt. According to railway sources, many railway projects were held up due to the delay in getting the required quantity of burrow earth from the local authorities. Besides addressing the issues of the water crisis the Amrit Sarovar mission is expected to boost infrastructure projects. Soil obtained from deepening ponds is to be put to use for the ongoing infrastructure works. In a move that could expedite the implementation of railways and highways projects across the country, the Union government has asked the Ministry of Railways and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to use the soil/silt excavated from ponds/tanks in all districts across the country under the Amrit Sarovar mission for their infrastructure projects.
With an aim to construct 50,000 ponds for conserving water by August 15, 2023, Mission Amrit Sarovar not only seeks to boost water security in the country but offers employment opportunities to millions of rural residents in the construction of these ponds. People's participation is the key to the entire initiative, as it is meant to evoke the collective spirit of the community. People's participation is required at all levels of Amrit Sarovar's execution from site selection to execution of the project. People may participate by donating construction materials or offering physical labour. Gram Panchayat will decide on a fair disposal of silt coming out of this Amrit Sarovar construction/renovation. The ponds are supposed to manifest as a local tourist hub where people from adjoining locations can visit for outings, and participate in public events and celebrations.
As per the vision of this flagship project of the Government of India, it will help in the conservation of water and fight drought-like conditions, irrigation, augmentation of the fishery sector, maintenance of soil health in the region and creation of habitats for local and migratory birds. But the success of a project depends on its execution with strict adherence to the guidelines which are reflective of its inherent spirit. The Amrit Sarovar mission aims at addressing some very relevant issues, but we must wait for time to tell how far it remains efficacious to serve the declared purposes for public benefit. Site selection is in fact a very crucial step in the entire project and concrete guidelines have to be followed in this regard for preventing any sort of adverse impact on the environment and to make the ponds really useful for the public. Once arable lands are converted to fisheries or ponds it is not practically possible to convert the ponds to crop fields. Therefore, all decisions in this regard are to be taken judiciously and with utmost precaution ensuring the involvement of the environmentalists, the public and the administration. Guidelines are there for the commemorative plantation of trees like neem, peepal, and banyan at the construction sites. Construction of the ponds across the country must have left a huge trail of devastation of ecosystems. To compensate for that loss a robust plantation drive is to be carried out with the involvement of the public.