Born in 1934, Dr. Madhav A. Chitale graduated in civil engineering with distinction in 1955. He 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.
Dr. 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. Moreover, he increased public awareness. In the 1980s he introduced an annual nationwide water resources day. A different theme is chosen for the day each year, which influenced neighbouring countries in South Asia.
In the mid-1960s, a World Bank project was planned to supply the city of Mumbai with drinking water, carrying it 60 km from a reservoir in closed pipelines. Chitale managed to get the plan changed to involve irrigation canals and a hydropower station and under-stream tunnels.
“My view has always been that development projects as big as this should be as fully integrated as possible with other development opportunities,” Dr. Chitale said.
He was one of the originators of the Ganga Action Plan to improve the waters of the holy river. This was developed into a nationwide programme covering several rivers. He was also involved in the development of the World Water Council and the Global Water Partnership. In South Asia, he promoted local and national water partnerships. A 30-year perspective of water development was prepared and published by the Maharashtra water and irrigation commission under his chairmanship.
Dr. Chitale was chairman of Indian National Committee on Large Dams (1986-1987), Indian National Committee of International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (1986-1987) and Indian National Committee on Hydrology (1985-1988), president of Indian Water Resources Society (1989-1990) and vice president of International Water Resources Association (1989-1991).
He was 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.
Dr. Madhav A. Chitale is currently busy with the nurturing of voluntary networks in water management.