By Rohit Singh:
Three fourth of earths surface is covered with water but still there is a lot of babble over saving water across the globe. According to the UN World Water Development Report; ‘By 2025 it is predicted that large parts of India will join countries or regions having absolute water scarcity’. If we look down at some facts and figures it is quite noticeable that 96.5 percent of the total volume of world’s water is estimated to exist as ocean and only 2.5 percent as fresh water. Naturally 70 percent of this fresh water occurs as ice sheets and glaciers, while a little less than 30 percent is stored as ground water. India receives nearly 4 percent of the global precipitation & ranks 133 in terms of water availability per annum. However the total renewable water resources of India are estimated at 1897 sq km per annum.
Post-independent India witnessed intensive industrialization & urbanization creating vast opportunities for us. But with adding comfort it has also added to our problems. If we look into the housing societies, each one of them have their own groundwater pumping devices to meet their requirements. As a result, these fragile water resources are being depleted. But apart from the quantitative aspect, there are certain areas where water is sufficiently available but the area still suffers from water scarcity, due to bad water quality.
For the sake of water management and conservation, we have built dams but ironically they have triggered floods due to sedimentation. Moreover big dams mostly have been unsuccessful in controlling floods at the time of excessive rainfall. No one has forgotten the miseries of the people of Maharashtra and Gujarat in 2006. Multipurpose projects or dams have been the cause of social movements too like the ‘Narmada Bachao Aandolan’ and the ‘Tehri Dam Andolan’. Resistance to these projects had been due to the sufferings of the local people who are the worst sufferers. In Gujarat, the farmers of the Sabarmati basin almost roused a riot for giving higher priority to water supply in urban areas. Interstate water disputes are also common with regard to sharing the cost & benefit of multipurpose projects. The Krishna-Godavari dispute is due to objects raised by Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh government regarding more water distribution at Koyna.
In ancient times, India with the most sophisticated hydraulic structures, had an extraordinary tradition of having water harvesting systems. In hills and mountainous regions, people built diversion channels called ‘guls’ or ‘kuls’. ‘Rooftop rain water harvesting’ was commonly practiced in Rajasthan to store drinking water. In Bengal people developed ‘inundation channels’ to irrigate their fields during floods. ‘Bamboo drip irrigation system’ used in Meghalaya is a 200 years old water harvesting method. But despite having such a rich heritage it is sad to see that, now people have either forgotten, or no longer want to trouble themselves using these systems and methods. However they are ready to fight and cry over their woes.
Water scarcity does not occur due to non-availability of water only but sometimes it is the outcome of the growing demand from a growing population and its unequal access to it. On one hand, a country like Israel having average rainfall of 25cm doesn’t have any water scarcity. Contrary to it with an average rainfall of 114cm our country always faces drought in one part or the other. The availability of water in our country is sufficient, but due to ill management of our resources most of the rainwater goes down into seas and oceans. This is the major cause of water problems in our country which need to be tackled. Tamil Nadu is the first and only state in India which has made rooftop rainwater harvesting structure compulsory in all houses across the state, with legal provisions to punish the defaulters. The need of the hour is to draft some more practical laws across the country and make people more aware of their old traditions and culture.