Imminent Water Crisis in India Part 2 of 2 (Solutions)

Posted on October 8, 2009 in Environment, Society

Anshul Tewari

An immediate solution to India’s water crisis is to change water management practices by regulating usage with effective legislation. However, as previously mentioned, there is significant opposition to raising electricity tariffs, and there would most likely be even more resistance to enacting tariffs on water itself.

Another proposed solution to the water crisis is the privatization of water. Proponents claim that a privatized water supply would prevent waste, improve efficiency, and encourage innovation. The World Bank supports a policy of privatized water in India, claiming that water could be supplied to all of India’s inhabitants, but at a higher cost. Many people vehemently oppose this plan arguing that it will not only exacerbate poverty, but also that privatization does not have a good track record around the world.

India is also considering large-scale engineering projects, similar to those adopted in China, such as the South-to-North Water Diversion Project. However, as India is the world’s largest democracy, such projects have been extremely difficult to pass because they are controversial and have stirred lots of debate and much resistance. The most talked about project is the $112 billion Interlinking of Rivers project. The ILR was approved by the president in 2002 and is due to be completed in 2016. This project will link all 37 rivers by thousands of miles of canals and dozens of large dams. This project is intended to increase the amount of water available for irrigation and would add 34,000mw of hydropower to the national pool. Civil society organizations and traditional water managers have dismissed the ILR because it has the potential for stirring international conflicts, by reducing the water that flows to bordering countries, such as Bangladesh. In addition, ILR is expensive, will most likely face the same fate as India’s dams: broken and inefficient due to lack of maintenance and reinvestment.

The Indian government is already trying to get states to start rainwater harvesting in order to more efficiently tap into the huge quantity of monsoon rain. Collection of rainwater recharges water tables, allows easier accessibility to water resources, and increases availability for irrigation throughout the year leads to improved village.


India is facing a looming water crisis that has implications not only for its 1.1 billion people, but for the entire globe. India’s demand for water is growing even as it stretches its supplies. Water infrastructure is crumbling, preventing the government from being able to supply drinking water to its citizens. Pollution is rampant due to unfettered economic growth, poor waste management laws and practices. Although many analysts believe that demand will outstrip supply by 2020, there is still hope for India. Water scarcity in India is predominantly a manmade problem; therefore if India makes significant changes in the way it thinks about water and manages its resources soon, it could ward off, or at least mollify, the impending crisis. India has had success with water infrastructure development, which allowed the country to take advantage of its water resources in the first place and achieve food security. These projects did enable the expansion of urban and industrial sectors and increased availability of safe drinking water, but then they were allowed to dilapidate. India needs to make water supply a national priority the way it has made food security and economic growth priorities in the past. India’s need for a comprehensive management program is so severe because of its rapidly depleting water supply, environmental problems, and growing population. If the country continues with a business as usual mentality the consequences will be drastic. India will see a sharp decrease in agricultural production, which will negate all of the previous efforts at food security. India will become a net importer of grain, which will have a huge effect of global food prices, as well as the global supply of food. A rise in food prices will aggravate the already widespread poverty when people have to spend larger portions of their income on food. In addition to devastating the agricultural sector of India’s economy, the water crisis will have a big effect on India’s industrial sector, possibly stagnating many industries. Finally, India could become the stage for major international water wars because so many rivers that originate in India supply water to other countries. India has the power to avoid this dark future if people take action immediately: start conserving water, begin to harvest rainwater, treat human, agricultural, and industrial waste effectively, and regulate how much water can be drawn out of the ground.