Born in 1934, Dr. Madhav A. Chitale has played a major role in getting India’s decision-makers and strategic planners to think of water as a resource whose quality and availability need to be safeguarded. He was the first Indian to internationally put forth the idea of signalling March 22 as the World Water Day at the Rio de Janeiro United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, 1992. The United Nations General Assembly then adopted a resolution by which March 22 of each year was declared World Day for Water, to be observed starting in 1993. The main focus of the day is to support the achievement of sustainable development goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.
Dr Chitale joined the Maharashtra State Engineering Service in 1956, where he held engineering posts at various levels associated with planning, investigation and construction of river valley projects. He then worked as secretary to Government of Maharashtra (1981-1983), before moving over to the central government in 1984, as commissioner, River Basins. He was appointed chairman, Central Water Commission, an apex body of India’s water sector, and ex-officio secretary to GOI in 1985, and thereafter as secretary, Ministry of Water Resources from 1989. He retired from government service in August 1992. Later, he became secretary-general of International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage during 1993-1997.
As a part of the nationwide programmes to develop cover several rivers, Dr Chitale was one of those who originated of the Ganga Action Plan to improve the waters of the holy river. He was also involved in the development of the World Water Council and the Global Water Partnership. This effort placed the subject of water on the priority agenda not only of India but also of the bordering countries in South Asia. He received many honours and awards in recent years for his achievements for the millions of people in the region who benefit from his work. He
honoured with the degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) by the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad, in 1989, and Stockholm Water Prize in 1993 for his contribution to the conservation of the world’s water resources and public education programmes.