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Israel Offers Help to India in Tackling Water Scarcity

Israel has offered help to India in tackling its severe water problem with not just technology to desalinate water but also in areas like waste water treatment, drip irrigation and conservation .

"Most of our principles, approach and technologies are applicable in India," said Yosef Dreizen, deputy commissioner of water and the head of Desalination Board in Israel.

"It had been an uphill task for Israel over the last few years to battle acute water scarcity," he told a seminar on water management here, making an elaborate presentation on how his country was seeking to tide over the issue.

"Israel's goal is to spread awareness about water conservation and ways of tackling the problem," added Daniel Zonshine, the Israeli consul general in Mumbai. The mission organised the seminar with the Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Giving some statistics, experts at the seminar said that per capita availability of water in India had dipped from 6,000 cubic metres at the time of independence in 1947 to 1,600 cubic metres now and it is expected to dip further to 750 cubic metres by 2025.

As per international norms, per capita supply of water below 1,700 cubic metres was termed "stress" situation, less than 1,000 cubic metres was "scarcity" and less than 500 cubic metres was called "absolute scarcity".

"The fact is that unlike other commodities water supply in India is static while the demand is increasing by the day," said Ajit Nimbalkar, chairman of the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority.

"It is about time that we take a serious note of this problem and take measures to tackle it," he said, adding India could learn a lot from the way Israel has been able to tide over its water crisis with the help of new technologies.

Israeli experts explained that the country has three major desalination plants already in place and a 75 percent recycling rate. The country produces some 25 percent of its total water consumption of two billion cubic metres annually.

"Desalination is one of the most effective and viable options to produce fresh water. Unfortunately, desalination accounts for less than one percent of our total supply," said Sriram Kulkarni of desalination firm Technochem Agencies.

"Several states in the country have flirted with the idea of desalination plants but most projects were shelved even before they took off," said Kulkarni, adding the choice of right technology was important given India's contaminated water.

"Another fear is desalination is expensive technology. But the choice of right technology can bring down the cost to as little as Rs.20 (approx US 50 cents) per cubic meter, which is a little more expensive than the existing sources."

Experts pointed out that Israel also had excellent drip irrigation technology with 60 percent of its agricultural land using this process, compared with just 6 percent in the US.

"As of today only 1.2 million hectares of our agricultural land is cultivated wit drip irrigation system and sprinklers, whereas the potential is 690 lakh hectares," said Nimbalkar.

"Such systems are limited to horticulture and should be extended to the rest."

In a country like India where 80 percent of water is used up by the farm sector and 60 percent of work force is employed by the sector, promotion of such modern methods used widely in Israel is the need of the hour, Nimbalkar added.


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