The recent conversation between Shreya Jai and Aditi Mukherji sheds light on the critical issues surrounding water security and climate adaptation in India. Aditi Mukherji, an expert in water resource management, highlights the importance of water in climate adaptation and the challenges India faces in addressing these issues. She also discusses the outcomes of COP26 and the need for greater cooperation, both domestically and internationally, to ensure water security in vulnerable regions. Furthermore, she shares insights into India’s “Har Ghar Jal” mission and its potential impact on providing tap water to all households.
Climate Change Mitigation vs. Adaptation
Mukherji highlights the importance of distinguishing between climate change mitigation and adaptation. While mitigation aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation focuses on preparing for and responding to the impacts of climate change. In the context of India, where agriculture contributes significantly to carbon emissions, solar irrigation emerges as a promising adaptation strategy. Solar pumps offer an eco-friendly alternative to traditional energy sources, mitigating emissions without harming farmers’ incomes.
The Kusum Project: A Solar Solution
The Kusum project, which stands for “Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan,” encompasses various components aimed at promoting solar irrigation. Mukherji describes three models within the Kusum project:
Kusum A: This model centralizes solar panels, creating solar grids connected to the main electrical grid. Farmers continue to use existing equipment, ensuring minimal disruption.
Kusum B: Standalone solar pumps are provided to farmers, enabling them to harness solar energy for irrigation independently.
Kusum C: Farmers install solar panels on their fields, connecting them to the grid. This model allows farmers to access electricity from the grid while also contributing excess energy, offering a balanced exchange.
Mukherji emphasizes the importance of multiple models and the need for flexibility to cater to diverse agricultural and geographical conditions in India. The success of these models hinges on the effectiveness and professionalism of state discoms (distribution companies).
Challenges in Adapting to Climate Change
Shreya Jai raises the question of India’s readiness to address climate adaptation. She discusses the challenges related to water scarcity, policy, and cooperation. Aditi Mukherji underscores the need for India to prioritize climate resilience in its policies and decision-making. While adaptation is crucial, many development projects continue to prioritize economic growth over climate resilience.
The Importance of Transboundary Cooperation
In the context of water security, transboundary cooperation is vital, especially in South Asia. Mukherji acknowledges the historical issues surrounding water sharing but encourages a shift away from the zero-sum mentality. She suggests that cooperation should focus on shared goals, early warning systems, and cooperation around natural disasters.
Geopolitical and Cross-Climatic Zone Cooperation
Mukherji discusses the importance of region-specific cooperation. For instance, in the Hindu Himalayas, an organization like ICIMOD promotes cooperation among eight regional governments. Initiatives like the Himalayan Council could address issues related to melting glaciers and shared water resources. However, Mukherji stresses that cooperation should not be limited to technological solutions but should also address the protection of catchment areas and water sources.
The “Har Ghar Jal” Mission
Shreya Jai raises the recent development of India’s “Har Ghar Jal” mission, a nationwide effort to provide tap water to all households. While Mukherji sees the potential in this initiative, she raises concerns about the focus on construction rather than addressing the source of water. She stresses the importance of empowering local municipalities and ensuring the sustainability of water sources.
Aditi Mukherji’s insights shed light on the intricate relationship between water security and climate adaptation in India. While progress is being made through initiatives like the “Har Ghar Jal” mission, challenges related to water sources, policy coherence, and climate adaptation remain. Cooperation, both domestically and internationally, is crucial in addressing these issues and building a more climate-resilient future for India. Water security and climate adaptation must become central to policy discussions to protect vulnerable communities and ensure sustainable development.
(Access the complete interview by tuning in to the TIEH podcast available on our website and other major podcast platforms.)