India’s first water body census – The Core IAS

India’s first water body census


The Ministry of Jal Shakti has released the report of India’s first water bodies census, a comprehensive data base of ponds, tanks, lakes, and reservoirs in the country. The census was conducted in 2018-19, and enumerated more than 2.4 million water bodies across all states and Union Territories.

How a ‘water body’ is being defined?

  • First Census Report considers “all natural or man-made units bounded on all sides with some or no masonry work used for storing water for irrigation or other purposes (e.g. industrial, pisciculture, domestic/ drinking, recreation, religious, ground water recharge etc.)” as water bodies. The water bodies “are usually of various types known by different names like tank, reservoirs, ponds etc.”, it says.
  • According to the report, “A structure where water from ice-melt, streams, springs, rain or drainage of water from residential or other areas is accumulated or water is stored by diversion from a stream, nala or river will also be treated as water body.”
  • As per the report, West Bengal’s South 24 Pargana has been ranked as the district having the highest (3.55 lakh) number of water bodies across the country. The district is followed by Andhra Pradesh’s Ananthapur (50,537) and West Bengal’s Howrah (37,301).

Does the census cover all water bodies that fit this definition?

No. Seven specific types of water bodies were excluded from the count.

They were:

1) Oceans and lagoons;

2) Rivers, streams, springs, waterfalls, canals, etc. which are free flowing, without any bounded storage of water;

3) Swimming pools;

4) Covered water tanks created for a specific purpose by a family or household for their own consumption;

5) A water tank constructed by a factory owner for consumption of water as raw material or consumable;

6) Temporary water bodies created by digging for mining, brick kilns, and construction activities, which may get filled during the rainy season; and

7) Pucca open water tanks were created only for cattle to drink water.

What was the need for a water body’s census?

  • The Centre earlier maintained a database of water bodies that were getting central assistance under the scheme of Repair, Renovation and Restoration (RRR) of water bodies.
  • In 2016, a Standing Committee of Parliament pointed to the need to carry out a separate census of water bodies. The government then commissioned the first census of water bodies in 2018-19 along with the sixth Minor Irrigation (MI) census. The objective was to collect information “on all important aspects of the subject including their size, condition, status of encroachments, use, storage capacity, status of filling up of storage etc.”, according to the census report.

How was the census data collected?

  • According to the report, “traditional methodology, i.e., paper-based schedules, was canvassed both for rural and urban areas. A “village schedule”, “urban schedule” and “water body schedule” were canvassed, and a smart phone was used to “capture latitude, longitude and photo of water bodies”, the report says.

What does the census reveal about encroachment of water bodies?

  • The census found that 1.6% of enumerated water bodies — 38,496 out of 24,24,540 — had been encroached upon. More than 95% of these were in rural areas — which is logical because more than 97% of the water bodies covered by the census were in the rural areas. In almost 63% of encroached water bodies, less than a quarter of the area was under encroachment; in about 12% water bodies, more than three-quarters of the area was under encroachment.
  • Uttar Pradesh accounted for almost 40% (15,301) of water bodies under encroachment, followed by Tamil Nadu (8,366) and Andhra Pradesh (3,920). No encroachment was reported from West Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Chandigarh.

Source: Indian Express

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