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Modi calls for greater water conservation push as drought hits

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INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday pushed for greater grassroots water conservation efforts amid concerns weak monsoon rains would push millions of drought-hit people to the edge and hammer agricultural production in Asia's third-biggest economy.

New Delhi

INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday pushed for greater grassroots water conservation efforts amid concerns weak monsoon rains would push millions of drought-hit people to the edge and hammer agricultural production in Asia's third-biggest economy.

The monsoon season is responsible for around 70 per cent of India's annual rainfall, and is particularly important for the farm sector since more than half of the country's arable land is rain-fed.

"Only 8 per cent of all the rain water in India is conserved," Mr Modi said in his first monthly radio broadcast after winning re-election last month. "It's now time to solve this problem."

India received 24 per cent less rainfall than the 50-year average in the week ended June 26, data from the India Meteorological Department showed, with scant rains over the central and western regions of the country.

Drought in some parts of India in 2018 destroyed crops, ravaged livestock, exhausted reservoirs, leaving some cities and industries with little water.

"There is no one formula to deal with the water crisis across the country," Mr Modi said, adding that he had written to scores of village chiefs across the country about the need to conserve water earlier this month.

The prime minister said there was a need to create public awareness about water conservation and explore traditional water management methods. However, he did not outline any specific measures his government would take to deal with the ongoing situation, which has already affected the sowing of summer crops and forced many communities to buy water from expensive private tankers.

Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), said Mr Modi's initiative would have limited impact without the government fixing problems like rampant groundwater usage. "The government is doing nothing to regulate groundwater use," he said. SANDRP is a non-governmental organisation that advocates better water management practices. REUTERS