World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to advocate strongly sustainable management of freshwater resources the world over. In fact, an international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). On the eve of World Water Day, Watershed Organisation Trust, popularly known as WOTR, made a significant presentation to the law makers of the Maharashtra legislature. It was part of an event titled “Tackling climate change in Maharashtra” presided over by chief minister, DevendraFadnavis.

Speaking about Maharashtra’s flagship programme the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan or JSA, Crispino Lobo, managing trustee and co-founder of WOTR, said that its fundamental principles were sound and aligned towards achieving its objective of making Maharashtra drought free. He, however, cautioned the government that JSA faces a major threat in climate change. Irregular and intense rainfall leads to intense and high volume runoffs. This will adversely affect all the major activities of the JSA such as stream deepening and training, small dams, farm bunding and farm ponds.

Lobo, 61, who has been successfully fighting drought and helping farmers in drought-prone districts of Maharashtra for nearly 30 years in the field to conserve whatever amount of rains fall from the skies, impressed upon the legislators that the state needs to make its agriculture resilient to climate change.

WOTR outlined steps to make JSA climate resilient and urged the government to include integrated soil and water conservation measures and initiatives to increase water use efficiency, effective crop-weather advisories and sustainable agriculture practices. It also shared with the government insights from the experience of its innovative Water Stewardship Campaign. This covered over 100 villages in Maharashtra. WOTR would also partner government in implementing the Maharashtra Groundwater Management Act throughout the drought affected districts.

Climate resilience means that people are better able to cope with and adapt to climate induced shocks reduce losses, maintain productivity and capitalise on opportunities that climate change offers.

Michael Gonsalves