National Hydrology Project: Sustainable water management in India

Non-Aligned Movement has reaffirmed the importance of integrated water resources management and its sustainable use at all levels. Non-Aligned Movement recognises the significance of water for sustainable development and acknowledges the economic, social, and environmental significance of water. In this context, NAM has welcomed the Resolution 71/222 adopted by the UN General Assembly on 21 December 2016 which emphasises that water is critical for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger; water, energy, food security and nutrition are linked and that water is indispensable for human development, health and wellbeing and a vital element of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and other relevant goals in the social, environmental and economic fields.

In India, Ministry of Jal Shakti (MOJS) has implemented a number of schemes for sustainable water management. Prominent among them is the National Hydrology Project. It was approved in April 2016 as a central sector scheme with a total outlay of Rs. 3679.7674 crore. This included Rs.3,640 crore for National Hydrology Project (NHP) and Rs. 39.7674 crore for National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC) to be taken up in two stages. The objective of the NHP is to improve the extent, quality and accessibility of water resources information, and to strengthen the capacity of water resources management institutions in India. NHP aims to improve and expand hydrology data and information systems, strengthen water resources operation and planning systems, and enhance institutional capacity for water resources management. The project will thus strengthen the information base and institutional capacity for evidence-based decision making in water resources planning and operational management at the basin scale across India using the latest technology and tools. NHP also contributes to the Digital India initiative by integrating water resources information across state and central agencies.

NHP follows a four-pronged strategy: 1) Establishing monitoring networks in new project states, with a focus on deploying new sensors, data storage and telemetry technologies across the whole country, to establish comprehensive, modern, automated, real-time monitoring systems for surface and groundwater. Enhanced use is made of powerful earth observation systems to provide improved information on water resources. Comprehensive data management systems will be further developed and deployed nation-wide; 2) Developing and demonstrating tools for water resources assessment, hydrologic and flood inundation forecasting, water infrastructure operations, groundwater modelling, and river basin and investment planning; 3) Building on the dramatic advances in cloud computing internet, mobile devices, social media and other communication tools to modernize access to and visualization of customized water information by different stakeholders; and 4) Complementing technology investments with investments in people and institutional capacity.

This Central Sector Scheme is being implemented by Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation with support from World Bank. The project has a coverage on Pan India basis and intends to set up of a system for timely and reliable water resources data acquisition, storage, collation, management and dissemination. NHP also serves as a platform to develop tools and systems for informed decision making in field of flood management, reservoir operations, drought management, etc. The project also seeks to build capacity of the State and Central sector organisations in water resources management through the use of Information Systems and adoption of State-of-the-art technologies. To achieve the objectives as above, NHP contemplates to promote international level knowledge exchange, solutions exchange and networking necessary to realize these changes.

A series of annual Conferences with the theme Sustainable Water Management are also being organised under NHP. The first such conference was hosted in December 2018 in Chandigarh. The conferences provide a platform for practicing engineers, scientists, academia and decision makers to come together regularly to discuss evolving water management challenges and opportunities in India. NHP has been central to efforts in India to improve the planning, development, and management of water resources, as well as flood forecasting and reservoir operations in real-time. The project has led to a significant change in the availability and reliability of hydro-meteorological data in India.

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