The Indian Water Crisis Is No More A Child’s Play

Posted on April 14, 2012 in Environment

By Mmrityunjay Nanda:

A class three question, ‘What are the basic requirements of a life?’, has been irrationally erased from the matured Indian minds. Air, Water and Energy are the absolute needs for a life to blossom on the green planet but today, in the space-age, are we forgetting to care one of the prime necessities and thus endangering our existence?

Yes, I am talking about the famous inorganic matter, when two atoms of hydrogen chemically combine with one atom of oxygen to formulate the precious water (H2O). In the race of globalization and modernization the consciousness ‘Jal hi Jeevan i.e. Water is life’ has vanished somewhere midway. Now while the crisis is at peak, people searching for alternatives rather than solving the issues concerned with the existing problems. The human needs are growing at an alarming rate, subsequently the need for water too. But the supply or actions against crisis of water are not remarkable at all. Administrators, public and media have been only yelling about the issue but significantly no one still has a perfect approach. While addressing the crisis, a 2006 United Nations report describes “There is enough water for everyone” and “Water insufficiency is often due to mismanagement, corruption, lack of appropriate institutions, bureaucratic inertia and a shortage of investment in both human capacity and physical infrastructure”.

Talking about India’s water crisis, it is absolutely a manmade problem. Neither India’s climate is completely dry nor is it lacking in rivers or groundwater. As a matter of fact India possesses around 432 bcm (billion cubic meters) of groundwater which replenished yearly from rain and river drainage, but only 395 bcm is usable. Out of that 395 bcm, a mere 18% is used by domestic and industrial purposes. Though overexploitation of aquifers in some areas and non-uniform distribution of rainfall have resulted in falling groundwater levels; unclear laws, industrial-human waste and damming of our rivers upstream by China have caused the water supply crunched and rendered. An interesting response from UNICEF’s report on Indian water crisis dictates “There will be constant competition over water, between farming families and urban dwellers, environmental conservationists and industrialists, minorities living off natural resources and entrepreneurs seeking to turn it into a commodity resources base for commercial gain”

While accessing drinking water continues to be a headache, assuring its safety is turning into a huge challenge. The problem is even getting worse due to continuous unrestrained activities like bacterial contamination of water- a widespread problem across the country and a major cause of illness and deaths with 37.7 million affected by waterborne diseases annually. According to the World Bank, 88% of all waterborne diseases are caused by unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. In contamination due to over-exploitation, 90% of the sewage generated by municipal councils and over 50% of sewage discharged by municipal corporations goes untreated. Effluents and industrial waste is another major cause for the pollution of ground and surface water as in increased use of fertilizer and pesticide in agriculture and industrial sectors. Where a report explains that in India, an estimated 200,000 tons of faeces load is generated every day due to open defecation there the industrial sector contributes 30729.2 mcb of effluent right in to our bodies. The World Bank has estimated that the total cost of environmental damage in India amounts shockingly to US$9.7 billion annually. Furthermore, cultural practice is yet another substantial cause of the pollution of water bodies. Water bodies have been used as dustbins for various offerings that have degraded the drinkability of surface water. Defecation on boundaries of water bodies results in bacteriological contamination and so the rivers have high fluoride content, which annually affects 66 million people nationwide.

It’s not completely true that requisite proceedings have not undertaken but a lot of those have been proved as daydreams. Though millions have been spent on pollution clean-ups, the public eyes have gone blind en route to the outcomes. In 2005, a government audit indicted the Jal Board for having spent $200 million on pollution clean-up but regretfully no tangible results were found. Despite of several honest attempts, the response of the Indian government on more big dams, hydropower projects, distance water transfer and desalinization on a grand scale is completely off the mark. The government has shown the greatest enthusiasm in only undertaking the formation of committees which make reports, more reports and only reports. These reports have been published, guidelines have been issued, laws have been passed and that’s all that has been done. It’s not too late for actions but if we still only plan on official papers sitting idly, expecting government’s assistance, then literally no one can save us from getting drowned in a drought. The only universal prerequisite is an impulsive action and its implementation.

At the end of the show, I am not going to throw any suggestions from my side. Instead of claiming on others’ faults, I would be doing my part of the job to ensure my responsibilities towards the society and mankind. What about you?


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