Gangtok, 25 Apr [IPR]: The first phase of the 2nd World Bank Mission was conducted here in the capital today. The three-day mission-cum-conference that aims to review the implementation of the National Hydrology Project [NHP] was inaugurated by Minister for Water Resources & River Development Department, Somnath Poudyal.

The Mission is being attended by over 60 delegates from across the country including Team Leader, World Bank, Anju Gaur, Senior Joint Commissioners, Ministry of Water Resources & Ganga Rejuvenation, Neeraj Manglik and Rakesh Kashyap, and senior officials from 12 other States and central agencies from across the country.

The Second Phase of the Mission will be held at Munnar in Kerala in May for other States and Agencies who could not attend the conference in Gangtok.

Mr Poudyal, in his inaugural address, stressed on the need for proper management of water due to imminent inadequacy of drinking water and water for farming resulting in scarcity of food due to global warming and related challenges.

Speaking about the situation in Sikkim, he shared that Sikkim experiences extreme water shortages and drought prone conditions for about four months during the winters which he said is paradoxical since Sikkim primarily gets good amount of rainfall during the monsoons and the percolated and surface runoff water runs its course for about six months.

He expressed hope that the NHP will play a pivotal role in the effective management of water resources, especially during the lean period.

He further shared that Sikkim has harnessed a lot of its hydro power potential over the years and the time has now come to undertake its management along scientific lines for equitable use as well as sustainability.

“Now, with the NHP, the State will be establishing data measuring stations to a certain extent, five automatic weather stations, and ten manual rain gauge stations and few other gauge stations, and many more to come in future,” the Minister stated.

He also shared with the delegates some of the green initiatives of the State of Sikkim including the Organic Mission. He attributed the development to the consistent leadership and political will to propel the State to new heights.

In conclusion, Mr Poudyal stated that the NHP will have collection and analyzing water related data as one of the major outcomes. This will ultimately help in reducing the effects of global warming and climate change for the people of this country as also its flora and fauna and the environment as a whole, he added.

He congratulated the Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India for having successfully engaged the World Bank in availing the financial support for the Project and also thanked the World Bank for their support.

After the inaugural session, the delegates were engaged in a technical session and presentation by each State/Agency and review by the World Bank and the Union Ministry. The Mission will conclude on 27 Apr.

It may be mentioned here, the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India is implementing the NHP [on a pan India level] at an estimated cost of USD 350 million approx. The Government of India has received a loan vide No 8725-IN, from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development [IBRD] in various currencies equivalent to US$ 175 million towards the cost of NHP.

The project objectives are to improve the extent, quality and accessibility of water resources information, and to strengthen the capacity of water resources management institutions in India. The project envisages expanding the hydrological information platform and institutional capacity, improved infrastructure for water resources data collection, management and sharing, develop tools to verify water resources data, and develop tools for water resources planning and for management of water.

The NHP will seek to integrate the water resources information across state and central agencies. The focus will be on using the information generated, for water planning and management. The expectation is that knowledge, open access and stronger institutional capacity will contribute to a shift towards integrated water resources management at the basin scale. The resulting improved water allocation and improved management of drought and flood risks will bring substantial socio-economic benefits.

The activity under the project envisages improving the extent and reliability of water resources data through automated/digitized and real-time communication systems. Hydro met networks will encompass meteorological, hydrological [surface and groundwater] and water quality measurements. The emphasis will be on real-time data collection and telemetric transmission for use in water resources planning, reservoir operations and flood management.

The project will also develop web-based water resources information systems [WRIS] at State and Central levels. Building on protocols developed by central agencies, information sharing amongst agencies will be facilitated. The knowledge portals will provide easy access and analysis of water data. Public access will be developed by a mobile-based app, and disaster-related information will be rapidly disseminated through mobile services. Stream flow forecasting and reservoir operation systems will support integration of real time data, weather forecast and hydrological models for water resource management and improved alert systems for disaster management.

This project is a 100% funded Central Sector Scheme under the Union Ministry. Scientific management of water as envisaged in the Project will also help in mitigating the adverse effects of Global warming and Climate change and for equitable and judicious use of water.