Welcome Speech – “Water Management Through Integrated Planning and Regional Collaboration”

Here is the text for the welcome speech delivered by Probir Banerjee, President, Pondy CAN, at the opening of the consultation meet on “Water Management Through Integrated Planning and Regional Collaboration” held at Town Hall in Auroville, 15 May 2008.

Good morning, bonjour, vanakkam.

Chief guest of today’s consultation meet Shri Harjit Singh Anand, Shri Negi-ji, distinguished panelists, senior government officials and friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this seminar on “Water Management through Integrated Planning and Regional Collaboration” jointly organized by Town and Country Planning (TCP), Govt of Pondicherry, L’avenir d’Auroville, Pondy CAN and INTACH.

We are indeed privileged to have with us this morning, Dr Harjit Singh Anand, Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Government of India. He was earlier head of the National Capital Region Board and is highly respected for his profound knowledge and vast experience. The National Capital Region is carved out from 5 states, namely Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan. We are most grateful to you Sir, for kindly accepting our invitation.

We are thankful to our eminent panel of speakers, our distinguished guests and the press for kindly agreeing to be with us this morning.

Friends, you will agree that it is time we take up this issue of water very seriously. It is said “The wars of the twenty-first century will be fought over water”. We keep reading in newspapers about people being killed in water disputes. Water is life. Water truly is everywhere; still most take it for granted.

Water is a key component in determining the quality of our lives. Contrary to the past, our recently developed technological society has become indifferent to this miracle of life. Our natural heritage, the lakes, rivers, seas and oceans, has been exploited, mistreated and contaminated. So much so that today, treatment of water for drinking is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity!

Integrated water management is vital for poverty reduction, environmental sustenance and sustainable economic development. National Water Policy (2002) envisages that the water resources of the country should be developed and managed in an integrated manner. Clean water is an investment in the future of our country.

We are happy that today we have all agreed to discuss the issue of water with a regional perspective as water knows no boundaries. As we look forward to learn from the distinguished speakers and specialists, let me quickly recapitulate some of the challenges we are facing regarding water in this region.

There is depletion of ground water due to over extraction, salt water intrusion into the aquifers, poor ground water recharge from the rains, contamination from open defecation, garbage, and industrial waste etc. The waste water is not treated (and thus not available for re-use) and just runs off into the sea thereby polluting that environment.

We are also happy that we have started off a consultative planning process involving all the stake holders, including the government agencies from both Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu, NGOs and citizens.

I have attempted to flag a few critical areas with the hope that this would elicit responses and reactions from the experts and practitioners present here. Seeing such a distinguished gathering, I am confident, significant recommendations and strategies will emanate from today’s deliberations, which will go a long way in helping us to develop strategies for this region’s water management.

And what better place to start this regional planning on water than Auroville. This once dry and arid land has become a forest, a classic example of excellent water management. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity. Auroville is conducting practical research on sustainable living and the future cultural, environmental, social and spiritual needs of mankind.

It is only by creating harmony not only among ourselves but with our environment that we can make this world a better place to live.

With these words, I once again welcome all of you.

Thank you.


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