Meghalaya has a total of 13,332 water bodies as per the first census of water bodies carried out by the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
Of these, 12,798 water bodies are located in the rural areas and 534 are located in the urban areas.
The Ministry of Jal Shakti launched the first census of water bodies in convergence with the sixth minor irrigation census (reference year 2017-18), under the centrally sponsored scheme – “Irrigation Census”.
The objective of the census of water bodies is to develop a national database for all water bodies by collecting information on all important aspects of the subject including their size, condition, status of encroachments, use, storage capacity etc.
In the first census of water bodies, a total of 24,24,540 water bodies were reported in the country out of which 23,55,055 water bodies are in rural areas and 69,485 water bodies are in urban areas.
According to the Ministry of Jal Shakti, the lesser proportion of water bodies in the urban areas is quite obvious since the urban areas have undergone expansions and infrastructural development which might have caused depletion of water bodies. Water being a State subject, steps for augmentation, conservation and efficient management of water resources are primarily undertaken by the respective state governments.
“All natural or man-made units bounded on all sides with some or no masonry work used for storing water for irrigation or other purposes (e.g. industrial, pisciculture, domestic/drinking, recreation, religious, ground water recharge etc) were treated as water bodies in the first census of water bodies. All such water bodies were enumerated in rural as well as urban areas as per the master data provided by the states/union territories at the time of launch of the census,” the Ministry said.
Maharashtra is the leading state for water conservation schemes. Whereas West Bengal has the highest number of ponds and reservoirs, whereas Andhra Pradesh has the highest number of tanks, Tamil Nadu has the highest number of lakes.
The Meghalaya government has come up with the Meghalaya Waterbodies (Preservation and Conservation) Guidelines, 2023 to protect water-bodies in the State.
However, the Meghalaya High Court last month had criticised the Meghalaya Water bodies (Preservation and Conservation) Guidelines, 2023 as being more of a formality without addressing the real issues.
According to the High Court, the guidelines do not deal with the most serious aspect of buildings and construction mushrooming around water-bodies.
“Though the guidelines indicate that garbage, trash and debris may not be dumped into the water-bodies, it is surprising that the guidelines are issued without indicating how far away from the high-water level of every water-body construction may be permissible,” the High Court had said.
“The guidelines introduced by the State as disclosed in the affidavit fall woefully short of the expectations or the measures necessary to protect the water-bodies, particularly the Umiam Lake,” the court added.