India is faced with the challenge of sustaining its rapid economic growth while dealing with the global threat of climate change. This threat emanates from accumulated greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, anthropogenically generated through long term and intensive industrial growth and high consumption lifestyles in developed countries. While engaged with the international community to collectively and cooperatively deal with this threat, India needs a national strategy to firstly, adapt to climate change and secondly, to further enhance the ecological sustainability of India’s development path. Climate change may alter the distribution and quality of India’s natural resources and adversely affect the livelihood of its people. With an economy closely tied to its natural resource base and climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water and forestry, India may face a major threat because of the projected changes in climate. The global warming may affect the hydrological cycle which could result in further intensification of temporal and spatial variations in precipitation, snow melt and water availability. The report on “India’s Initial National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change” published by Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India in the year 2004 identifies the following projected impacts of climate change on water resources. “It is obvious that the projected climate change resulting in warming, sea level rise and melting of glaciers will adversely affect the water balance in different parts of India and quality of ground water along the coastal plains. Climate change is likely to affect ground water due to changes in precipitation and evapo-transpiration. Rising sea levels may lead to increased saline intrusion into coastal and island aquifers, while increased frequency and severity of floods may affect groundwater quality in alluvial aquifers. Increased rainfall intensity may lead to higher runoff and possibly reduced recharge.” Some of the possible identified implications of climate change on water resources are listed below:
• Decline in the glaciers and the snowfields in the Himalayas;
• Increased drought like situations due to overall decrease in the number of rainy days over a major part of the country;
• Increased flood events due to overall increase in the rainy day intensity;
• Effect on groundwater quality in alluvial aquifers due to increased flood and drought events;
• Influence on groundwater recharge due to changes in precipitation and evapo-transpiration; and
• Increased saline intrusion of coastal and island aquifers due to rising sea levels.
With a view to address the related issues, the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) has been prepared by the Government of India, which has been released by the Hon’ble Prime Minister on 30th June 2008. The NAPCC has laid down the principles and has identified the approach to be adopted to meet the challenges of impact of climate change through eight National Missions namely,
(a) National Solar Mission,
(b) National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency,
(c) National Mission on Sustainable Habitat,
(d) National Water Mission,
(e) National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Eco-system,
(f) National Mission for a Green India,
(g) National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, and
(h) National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change.
This Comprehensive Mission Document of “National Water Mission” identifies the strategies for achieving the goals of
(a) Comprehensive water data base in public domain and assessment of the impact of climate change on water resource,
(b) Promotion of citizen and state actions for water conservation, augmentation and preservation,
(c) Focused attention to vulnerable areas including over-exploited areas,
(d) Increasing water use efficiency by 20%, and
(e) Promotion of basin level integrated water resources management.