India’s government has created a new ministry to grapple with a growing water crisis, with more than 60% of the country’s 1.3 billion people dependent on farming and good monsoon rains.
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind told Parliament on Thursday that the new Ministry of Water Power will tackle water conservation and management.
Kovind said traditional water conservation practices are disappearing as ponds and lakes are filled to build houses and other developments, and that vanishing water sources have worsened the crisis for the poor.
Millions of people have been forced to rely on water from tank trucks in the southern Tamil Nadu state, which had a 62% shortfall in monsoon rains last year.
Kovind said water shortages are one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century and are likely to be worsened by climate change.
He said the creation of the new ministry “is a decisive step in this direction, which will have far-reaching benefits.”
Kovind, whose position is largely ceremonial, addressed both houses of Parliament at the start of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term after his party’s massive victory in elections last month.
The creation of the new government portfolio comes as a combination of newly released satellite images reveal reduced water levels in a reservoir in Chennai before and during a drought.
The side-by-side Maxar Technologies pictures show the Puzhal reservoir with diminishing water reserves in the two images which were taken about 10 months apart.