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Suresh Nair
Friday, Jun 6, 2014

Asia

Water, the new gold

tabla! | Suresh Nair | Friday, Jun 6, 2014

Indian prime minister-elect Narendra Modi (R) performs the "Ganga Puja" religious ritual with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Rajnath Singh (2nd R) and other senior BJP leaders on the banks of the River Ganges in Varanasi, the constituency from where he contested the national elections, on May 17, 2014.

SINGAPORE - Singapore's success story in water management can be effectively replicated in India, says Professor Seetharam Kallidaikurichi, a former director at the Institute of Water Policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School, now based in Manila.

"Singapore's experience is very do-able and politically appropriate with India's recent changing leadership under new prime minister Narendra Modi. Most Asian countries may have the technology but not the political will. It also may not be at the stage of development where the outcome can be replicated."

He saluted Singapore's evolution from a water-scarce country with polluted rivers and waterways to one lauded for its water management initiatives with a burgeoning water industry. And he attributed this success to Singapore's engineering systems approach, which views a large and complex problem from all angles including non-technical factors such as economics, policy and social considerations. Taking such a holistic outlook also led to innovative solutions such as the recycling and treatment of used water to NEWater, reclaimed water pure enough for drinking and industrial use.

He added: "If Singapore can do it, so can India, just going on the flow of how Singapore, a country with so little water of its own, managed to become the world's most successful in water management, a model country that serves as a benchmark for others."

The new Indian government has promised a clean-up of the river Ganges, even appointing Ms Uma Bharti - who took charge as minister of water resources, river development - to supervise the rejuvenation of the Ganges. Mr Modi has promised the sacred river will be clean in five years. "Mother Ganga needs someone to take her out of this dirt and she's chosen me to do the work,"

Mr Modi told Bloomberg Businessweek, on the banks of the river where Hindu pilgrims believe a dip washes away sins.

But the Ganges is no ordinary river. It originates pristine from a Himalayan glacier 3,048km high, worshipped as a goddess, reverently called mother. Yet raw sewage from 29 cities blights its 2,525km route as bloated bodies of dead animals, funeral pyre ashes, reduced flow from dams and factory waste foul its waters.

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