A web-based initiative by a NGO could be a useful public and media resource on national water data and management practices.
by Anil Gulati
The Government of India has designated the year 2007 as the "Water Year". Several districts of the country face challenges regarding the availability and quality of water and its accessibility; consequently, this formal theme should help draw immediate attention to the issue of judicious water management and its inherent link to sanitation.
An impetus to this theme was provided when the prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, launched a "water portal" on January 12, 2007.
Called Indiaï¿½s Water Portal, this web-based initiative is expected to be a one-stop knowledge resource on water in the country. Developed by the Arghyam Trust, a non-governmental organization, the portal places important information in the public domain and offers a platform for debates, discussion, idea-sharing and case studies to help create a national knowledge base.
Indiaï¿½s Water Portal clearly lays its focus on water with its theme "safe, sustainable and for all". According to the portalï¿½s articulated principles, it intends to be an open, inclusive, web-based platform for sharing water management knowledge amongst practitioners and the general public. It aims to draw on the rich experience of experts from the water sector, package their knowledge, add value to it through technology, and then disseminate it to a larger audience through the Internet. The portal intends to pursue alternative outreach methods like the print media, radio and workshops, to ensure that this knowledge reaches those who need it the most. The ultimate objective of the portal is to address equity and sustainability issues in the water sector.
In his inaugural address during the launch of the portal (refer to the Press Information Bureau release), Dr. Manmohan Singh said that "[it] can help create repositories of knowledge. Their utility will increase as Internet penetration grows."
In this portal, information is available both in Hindi and English, adding value to its reach within India. Although some information still needs to be translated, it is a good beginning. The home page displays a good photograph that could be enhanced by photograph credits and a caption.
The portal features sections like Organization, Tools and Techniques, Data and Resources, Networks and Projects that can be updated. Interestingly, meteorological data on various indicators from year 1901 to 2002 for any part of India is available, which should be useful for water resource planning and research. Links provide details on a various topics: for instance, in the section on Tools and Techniques, details are available on rainwater harvesting, agriculture, drinking water management, water body restoration, urban water management, ground water management, watershed development, sanitation, waste water management and water quality. Other highlights include lists of courses, movies, slideshows and case studies, research and policies related to specific areas of knowledge. The lists of recommended reading and links that are provided in some sections make the site web-friendly and a one-stop resource for information on water.
Indiaï¿½s Water Portal could function as a quotable resource for the media and media advocates to help raise concerns on issues related to water resources, as a link to access feature stories, and as an information base for buttressing op-eds and articles. This author suggests that featuring media stories as well as stories of challenges faced by the people of India would make the portal more dynamic and truly for the people.