A discussion on climate change and water crisis was organized at Mahabodhi Society of India, Bodhgaya on the occasion of Niranjana (Phalgu) Festival organized by Niranjana River Recharge Mission on 23rd March 2023. This two-day programme began on 22 March on World Water Day and concluded on 23 March. PAIRVI participated and facilitated a special session on climate change and water crisis on the second day. The Leelajan River originating in Chatra district of Jharkhand becomes Niranjana in Bodh Gaya, Bihar and later called Falgu in Gaya. This river is considered most sacred for Hindus as well as Buddhists. This perennial river has now become seasonal, flows only during the rainy season, and remains dry during the rest of the period. Large number of people including water activists, environmentalists, social workers, academicians, and youths participated in this programme.
Dinbandhu Vats from PAIRVI initiating the discussion said that change in climate is felt primarily through a change in water. Climate change is disrupting weather patterns, leading to extreme weather events, unpredictable water availability, exacerbating water scarcity and contaminating water supplies. Such impacts can drastically affect the quantity and quality of water. Water crisis is directly related to our economy. It affects agriculture, health, livelihood and migration. Citing the NITI Aayog report on Composite Water Management Index, he said that India is undergoing the worst water crisis in its history and nearly 600 million people are facing high to extreme water stress. India is placed at 120th amongst 122 countries in the water quality index, with nearly 70 percent of water being contaminated. Policymakers must put water at the heart of action plans. Sustainable water management helps society adapt to climate change by building resilience, protecting health and saving lives. Solution lies in sustainable, affordable and scalable water management, which include improving carbon storage, protecting natural buffers, harvesting rainwater, reusing wastewater and harnessing groundwater. Encroachment of common water bodies is common in Bihar. Almost half of the ponds and water reservoirs have been encroached.
Experts are of the view that rivers of India are going through a tremendous change. Due to the pressure of population and development, our perennial rivers are becoming seasonal. Many small rivers have already disappeared. Floods and droughts are becoming more frequent as the rivers run out of control during the monsoon and disappear after the rainy season is over. In every state, perennial rivers are either becoming seasonal or drying up completely. Bharathapuzha in Kerala, Kabini in Karnataka, Kaveri, Palar and Vaigai in Tamil Nadu, Musal in Orissa, Kshipra in Madhya Pradesh. Many small rivers have disappeared. Kaveri has lost 40 percent of its water flow. The water in Krishna and Narmada has reduced by about 60 percent. Vivek Tyagi from Bijnaur, Ram Iqbal Singh from Vaishali, Shard Kumar Singh from Azamgargh, Lalita Kumari from Sasaram and others shared their view. Santosh Upadhyay from Bandi Adhikar Andolan moderated the session.