The government formed a new 'Jal Shakti' Ministry by merging the ministries of Water Resources and Drinking Water and Sanitation with Gajendra Singh Shekhawat at its helm.
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat took charge of the ministry on Friday, a day after he was sworn in as minister.
During the election campaign, Modi had promised to form an integrated ministry dealing with water issues. "All the water related works will be merged under one ministry," Shekhawat said after taking the charge.
The ambit of the ministry will encompass issues ranging from international and inter-states water disputes, the byzantine Namami Gange project, the flagship initiative to clean the Ganges, its tributaries and sub-tributaries and provide clean drinking water.
In the first Modi government, the project to clean Ganga was moved from the Ministry of Environment and Forests to the Ministry of Water Resources. With a greater push and much larger monetary allocation, the Namami Gange project was launched.
The minister said as promised in the party manifesto, the priority will be to provide clean drinking water to everyone. Rebutting the charge that nothing was done under the Namami Gange project, Shekhawat said the Ganga river has been cleaned to a large extent and now the priority will be to clean its tributaries and sub-tributaries.
Currently, management of water resources is fragmented between six or seven ministries, a centralised system would plug loopholes and even put the river clean up missions in the country on track. Ganga clean up action was Modi's commitment to his constituency and electorate but in the past five years things have not moved in the pace that he had envisioned.Hundreds of crores set-aside for the Namami Gange plan lie unspent.
Almost 400 million people's lives depend on Ganga water. If the new government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi can actually get a team to focus on cleaning up the river, manage it in such a manner that the water is piped into every home in the region in the next two or three years
BJP's manifesto had promised the setting up of a unified Ministry of Water to end the water woes of the country. From April to July every year the situation in at least eight states in the country is grim. The Centre issued a drought advisory to Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu, asking them to use water judiciously in the coming weeks as water storage in dams dropped to a critical level.
With almost all of rural India depending on monsoon rain for agricu monsoon rain for agriculture and domestic purpose, there is a desperate need for water management on a war footing. It is estimated that 200,000 Indians die every year due to inadequate access to safe water.