Over the years, natural calamities like flood and famine have dealt a crushing blow to the Indian economy. While the recent floods in Chennai caused unprecedented loss of life and property, the 2013 Uttarakhand flash floods had resulted in damage across Uttar Pradesh, NCR, and Nepal, among others regions.
Presently, many states in India are reeling from severe drought. For instance: Two-thirds of Maharashtra’s 1.37crore farmers (90 lakh) farmers have been affected by drought, which has mainly hit the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions. Around 273 farmers in the state committed suicide in the first three months of 2016 alone.
Thus in order to tackle crippling effects of natural calamities, India needs a comprehensive database containing all the required hydro-meteorological data so that experts can analyse the same to recommend pertinent solutions.
What does hydrological data encompass?
Hydrological data refers to information on the scientific study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on the Earth and other planets, including the hydrologic cycle, water resources and environmental watershed sustainability. Such data provides us with impromptu knowledge on available water resources, amount of possible rainfall, snow and also the quantity & quality of surface water and groundwater.
Why is it the need of the hour?
A comprehensive database of hydrological data will help India on several fronts, like:
a) Efficient water management: Though India has abundant water resources, poor management has made water scarcity a major problem.
b) Reduce dependence on monsoon: Unreliable monsoon is also the big reason behind the floods as well as the drought conditions in the country.
c) Outdated records: The first phase of this project began 20 years back and has digitalised real time data in only 13 Indian states. Further, whatever hydrological data is available dates back to 1993. The data collection method is also quite primitive.
d) Lack of cooperation among states: With states being unwilling to share data on water resources impedes the process of comprehensive water assessment. Thus, a centralised hydrological data will enable access to all the states.
e) Illegal construction: Construction on the river banks leads to silting in the rivers which can cause water retention in the region and cause floods. An example would be the heavy floods that immobilised Mumbai on July 26, 2005. Silting in the Mithi River was left unattended which eventually flooded the area and beyond.
National Hydrology Project: An overview
The Centre is set to launch the Hydrological Project in order to avoid spending over Rs.6,000 crore to repair damages caused by floods. Under this project, the National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC) will be established as an independent body under the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR, RD&GR).
The core objective of this project is to gather hydro-meteorological data which will be accessible at the village/district/state level. The data will be analysed to plan water management, flood forecasting, drought management, etc.
It will be a Union government initiative with a total outlay of Rs.3679.7674 crore, of which Rs.3,640 crore has been allocated for the National Hydrology Project (NHP) and Rs.39.7674 crore for the National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC).
Out of the total budget allocated for the NHP, 50% i.e. Rs.1839.8837 crore would be funded by a World Bank loan, while the remaining 50% will be provided by Central Assistance from the budgetary support.
The components of the proposal are:
a) In Situ Hydromet Monitoring System and Hydromet Data Acquisition System.
b) Setting up of National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC).
c) Water Resources Operation and Management System
d) Water Resources Institutions and Capacity Building
The National Hydrology Project will endeavour to improve various activities. These include-
1. Improve data storage, exchange, analysis and dissemination through the NWIC.
2. The lead time in flood forecast will be changed from 1 day to 3 days.
3. To work towards mapping of inundated areas during floods to help disaster management authorities.
4. To facilitate better planning and allocation for the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), NHP will help in assessing surface and groundwater resources in river basins.
5. NHP will take up the tasks of reservoir operations through seasonal yield forecast, drought management, SCADA systems, etc.
6. NHP will also endeavour to create designs of SW & GW structures, hydropower units, interlinking of rivers, smart cities, etc.
7. NHP will strive to fulfil objectives of the Digital India campaign with its __data storage and sharing systems.
8. It will provide tools for informed decision making through Decision Support Systems (DSS) for water resources assessment.
9. NHP also aims to build various state and central sector organisations, water resources management by use of Information Systems and adoption of technologies like remote sensing.
Adopting a people-centric approach:
a) NHP is a people and especially a farmer-centric programme which will help farmers in crop planning and other pivotal activities.
b) The automated speedy system for forecasting of floods will help the vulnerable masses in the respective regions beforehand and it will also help them for migration to the safe places, reducing the loss of life.
How would NHP benefit India?
a) The real-time flood forecasting and reservoir operations will be done systemically to enable authorities for disaster management during natural calamities.
b) The NHP will facilitate integrated water resource management. It will be done by adopting river basin approach through collation and management of hydro-meteorological data.
c) Integrated water resource management on will ensure proper planning of India’s water resources.
d) With the data collected, an accurate water resource assessment will be possible. With this, prioritisation of water resources and their consumptive use various purposes can be done in order to avoid situations like the Marathwada water crisis.
e) At village level, NHP’s data can facilitate equitable use of available ground water.
f) At an individual level, farmers will be informed about current groundwater levels in their region which will allow them to choose an appropriate cropping pattern.
g) The NHP will also provide useful information on quality of available water.
h) The data will also help in timely releasing of water from reservoirs and prevent untimely floods.
i) The project will use satellite information to help figure the amount of snow melt, and make projections on the flows into the reservoir. This is particularly useful in the case of the Bhakra basin.
j) The data collected by NHP will help in designing canals and channels for irrigation.
A systemised storage and analysis of Hydrological data is the primary need of an agriculture-dependent economy like India as around 70% of the total population is employed in agriculture and allied sectors. Despite abundant water resources in the form of rivers, lakes, etc. we still face water crisis because of a lack of a system for optimisation and conservation of water. The National Hydrology Project envisions to change the status quo. The 13 states where this project was introduced in the first phase have witnessed a noticeable drop in flood-related disasters. The exigencies related to irregular monsoon cycles in India can be minimised and tackled successfully if India works towards digitising its hydrological data. It will also play a vital role in stabilising the agriculture sector and eventually the Indian economy.