Jalpurush Rajendra Singh says water management is a collective social responsibility, not just government’s

By Brij Khandelwal

Agra July 6

Magsaysay Award winner, India’s waterman (Jalpurush) Rajendra Singh, presiding over a Jal Panchayat today said that water management was a collective responsibility, not just that of the government. He urged citizens to actively participate in water management efforts and to raise awareness among those indifferent to their water rights, especially through campaigns in educational institutions.

The Panchayat’s leadership, including Shashi Shiromani, Brigadier Vinod Dutta, Dr. Madhu Bhardwaj, Rajiv Khandelwal, and Anil Sharma, reviewed several critical recommendations based on complaints about Agra’s water issues. These recommendations will guide the Civil Society of Agra in coordinating and preparing an action plan.

Participants agreed that Agra was experiencing severe water scarcity, with water availability far below the demand for both drinking and irrigation, outside of the monsoon season. The depletion of the groundwater system was evident, as hand pumps and submersible pumps were proving increasingly ineffective. Despite a Central Water Commission report highlighting this issue, the irrigation department has not taken substantial action.

The Yamuna River, suffering from poor management at the Gokul Barrage, and other district rivers like Utangan, Khari, and Terah Mori are critical points of concern. The Rajasthan Irrigation Department’s neglect of the Khanua Dam exacerbates the problem, impacting water availability for Agra.

Green activist Rajiv Saxena said “It is very painful that there is very little water in the Yamuna river, Gokul Barrage is suffering from bad management. At the same time, the flow of water from Rajasthan to Utangan, Khari, and Terah Mori dams from other major rivers of the district has been stopped. The head of the Utangan River, ‘Khanua Dam’, once known as Baban Mori Dam, has been almost rejected by the Rajasthan Irrigation Department. Similarly, the Yamuna river has been stopped at the Gokul Barrage (in the months other than the monsoon season). As a result, there is a severe shortage of drinking water and irrigation water in Agra.”

The Panchayat criticized the Uttar Pradesh government’s lack of response to the cessation of water flow from Rajasthan. It called for official meetings between UP and Rajasthan irrigation departments to secure Agra’s rightful share of water.

Rajendra Singh stressed that the Jal Panchayat was a Satyagraha, not just a campaign, aimed at addressing Agra’s water issues. He highlighted the need for effective water conservation strategies during the monsoon season and questioned the success of current government-funded structures.

The Panchayat decided to organize future Paani Panchayats on a larger scale and ensure strong participation in the National Panchayat in Delhi on October 2.

Anil Sharma, leading the Panchayat, shared experiences from Alwar and ongoing programs in Bhikampura Alwar on the 50th anniversary of Tarun Bharat Sangh. The Panchayat concluded with a Jan Jagran Yatra, led by Rajendra Singh, from Sheroes Hangout Cafe, raising awareness with the slogan “Neer, Nari Nadi – Narayan, Narayan, Narayan, Narayan.”

Jalpurush Rajendra Singh has said that Agra may be struggling with the water problem, but the coming time is bright and the time is not far when the citizens will have availability of water in abundance. Mr. Singh, who was addressing the Pani Panchayat in Sheros Hangaut, said that water management is not only the responsibility of the government, citizens also have a right over it, as a result, they will also have to come forward to participate in the management. He told the members present in the Panchayat to make those who are indifferent aware of their water rights and run a comprehensive campaign on educational campuses. The Panchayat’s Panch Mandal included Shashi Shiromani, Brigadier Vinod Dutta, Dr. Madhu Bhardwaj, Rajiv Khandelwal, and Anil Sharma. During the hearing, the Panch Mandal made several important recommendations for action based on complaints received for solving Agra’s water problem. Based on this the Civil Society of Agra will coordinate and prepare an action plan. On 4th July 2024, a ‘Paani Panchayat’ was held on the water problem of Agra in collaboration with the Civil Society of Agra and Chhanv Foundation at Shiroz Hangout, operated in Fatehabad Road Hotel Complex. In which the chief guest Jalpurush Rajendra Singh was present as Panch Chaudhary. The main point of discussion in the Panchayat is to connect the general public with the campaign focused on rescuing the metropolis from the current phase of the water crisis. The Panchayat participants unanimously agreed that Agra is in a period of severe water scarcity. If we leave out the three months of monsoon season, the availability of water is far less than the requirement from both drinking water and irrigation perspectives. The groundwater system or aquifer system here is continuously shrinking, which is evident from the near end of the utility of hand pumps. Even submersible pumps can draw much less water from the ground than their capacity in most areas. The Central Water Commission has also prepared a study report of the district on the shrinking of the aquifer system, but the irrigation department has not taken it seriously.

It is very painful that there is very little water in the Yamuna river, Gokul Barrage is suffering from bad management. At the same time, the flow of water from Rajasthan to Utangan, Khari, and Terah Mori dams from other major rivers of the district has been stopped. The head of the Utangan River, ‘Khanua Dam’, once known as Baban Mori Dam, has been almost rejected by the Rajasthan Irrigation Department.

Similarly, the Yamuna river has been stopped at the Gokul Barrage (in the months other than the monsoon season). As a result, there is a severe shortage of drinking water and irrigation water in Agra.

– Negligence towards arbitrariness

Why and on whose orders the water coming from Rajasthan to Utangan, Khari, Chiksana Drain and Parvati River has been stopped, is a matter of concern for us. The complete indifference shown by the Uttar Pradesh government in this regard was taken even more seriously in the Jal Panchayat. All the above are inter-state rivers or water storage structures and UP, i.e. Agra, along with Rajasthan, has a right on their water. The Panchayat believes that the officials of the UP Irrigation Department and the local administration should hold an official meeting with their counterparts in Rajasthan and demand UP’s rightful share of water.

— Satyagraha, not a campaign

Jal Panchayat is the first attempt to bring awareness to the water problem of Agra. It is not a campaign but a Satyagraha. Agra has plenty of water available during the monsoon season but none of the plans to conserve it have been successful. The Panchayat does not want to say anything about the usefulness of the structures created for water conservation with government funds. Still, it wants to know in which development block of the district the condition of groundwater has improved and the ponds have become full of water.

-Unite and spread awareness

Waterman Shri Rajendra Singh, while sharing his experience in the Panchayat, called for awareness among the people of Agra. He said that when the public representatives and the administration do not pay attention to the management and conservation related to water, then such problems arise.

He expressed hope that the situation would change rapidly if the citizens could get organized.

Many speakers said that keeping in view the time and cost, efforts should be made to bring facts before the administration and government by avoiding going to the courts as much as possible.

–Experiences shared

Panchayat Panch Shri Anil Sharma introduced the concept of ‘Paani ki Panchayat’ and gave information about his experiences in Alwar last month. Shri Anil Sharma and Mrs. Kanti Negi gave information about the programs going on in Bhikampura Alwar on the occasion of completion of 50 years of Tarun Bharat Sangh.

–Panchayat decisions

It was decided in the Panchayat that in the coming time, Paani ki Panchayats will be organized on a more comprehensive basis and Agra’s strong participation will be ensured in the National Panchayat to be held in Delhi on 2 October.

-Panchayat will send information to the administration

It was also decided that information about Paani Panchayat decisions will be sent to the public representatives of Agra, the concerned administration and Tarun Bharat Sangh.

While Anil Sharma took the responsibility of running the Panchayat, the Panchs included – Shri Shashi Shiromani, Shri Rajiv Khandelwal, Brigadier Vinod Dutta, Dr. Madhu Bhardwaj, Anil Sharma etc.

Jan Jagran Yatra

After the Panchayat, a Yatra was taken out for the awareness of Pani Panchayat under the leadership of Shri Rajendra Singh. The slogan in this was – ” Neer, Nari Nadi – Narayan, Narayan, Narayan, Narayan. The Yatra started from Sheroes Hang Out Cafe at Shilpgram Road, Fatehabad Road.

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