A water crisis is a situation when the supply of water is less than the demand due to non-availability of water or mismanagement of water resources. According to the United Nations Water Development Report 2016, one of the most serious problems the humanity is facing today is the scarcity of potable water for drinking and domestic use.
This crisis is feared to worsen dramatically in the coming decade. But we Indians are still not ready to accept the seriousness of the water problem in the country, and the failure of the government machinery to implement an efficient process for the management and utilisation of potable as well as ground water has already caused a major water crisis in India.
Water, water, everywhere. But not a drop to drink! – true to this paradox, this single crisis can hit us the hardest in the near future.
The entire earth has a finite supply of fresh water. Also, ours is a vast country with an assortment of weather types, geographical features, flora and fauna and diverse climatic conditions. Due to this, there is a disparity in the overall availability of ground and underground water resources in all the states.
Amid these limited resources, the urban dwellers, the agriculturists and the industrialists are always competing amongst themselves for the greater share of water. According to a UNICEF report, in India, 90% water is used for agriculture, 6% for industries and only 4% for domestic purposes.
But this proportion has changed dramatically in the last decade. Due to changing lifestyles and massive industrialisation, the water requirement of urban dwellers has increased to 7-8% and similar trends have been observed in industrial sector too. But, the used water is not at all treated appropriately, resulting in the rise of the volume of pollution.
For example, New Delhi alone produces 3.6 million cubic meters of sewage every day, but due to poor management, less than half is effectively treated. The remaining untreated waste is dumped into the Yamuna River. Thus a combination of sewage disposal, industrial effluents, and chemicals from farm runoffs, arsenic and fluoride are leaving India’s rivers unfit for drinking, irrigation, and even industrial purposes.
In the agriculture sector, a significant percentage of farm lands are still not irrigated. As a result, the underground water resources like well and tube wells are overused which has led to a tremendous decrease in the level of underground water.
Also, due to global warming, rainfalls have become erratic, unpredictable and highly insufficient, severely affecting the process of farming. All this has resulted in creating an enormous strain on the available resources for catering to water needs of the country.
The famous author and agriculturist, KR Gupta, says: “Potable drinking water will soon be a rare commodity for all. With the water pollution and wastage, the day is not far when water will be sold at premium rates”.
The situation of the gap between demand and supply of water has resulted into two sections of people i.e. the “haves” and the “have-nots” in terms of access to quality water.
This has in a way broadened the gap between the rich and the poor. The rising cases of starvation deaths, malnutrition, farmer’s suicide in Vidarbha and increasing number of viral and bacterial diseases are in a way closely related to the growing water problem. Insufficient yield from farmland due to the scarcity of water is one of the main causes of farmer’s suicide, and along with that, the quality of yield produced is also getting degraded day by day. It has also affected the power generation projects. The thermal power plants of Chandrapur and Parli are going to be closed for the coming summer due to water shortage.
The World Bank’s report on India says that while the development of sustainable, safe, usable water is a global challenge, it’s an acute matter in India because of its high population density, time and space variability of rainfall and increasing contamination of available groundwater resources.
It is estimated that by 2030, India’s demand for water will exceed all the available sources of supply. The country’s vast and ever growing population is one of the biggest barriers in planning some efficient water conservation and administration model. In addition to the social and economic implications, the water crisis in the country also has political, legal and environmental implications resulting to a great challenge for the future.
India will need to tap each and every drop of available water resources to meet its total requirement in the future be it domestic, agricultural or industrial to get out of this water crisis. To utilise the surface water in the country, the first challenge for India is to create an ample storage by building new dams. Reservoirs should be constructed in river plains at high topographical altitudes where the untapped potential of the pure, clean water lie. Since 90% of the water is used in the agricultural sector, it would be very efficient if higher yielding crop varieties are developed which can make away with less water per unit of food grain produced.
The other method of reducing water consumption is to develop crop varieties with resistance to moderate or low salinity. Strong and effective measures should be taken to avoid the mixing of industrial wastewater into rivers so that maximum volume of water can be reused industrial as well as domestic purposes.
The government of India is well aware of the impending water crisis, and effective measures are being taken on water planning, administration, conflict resolution, utilisation and appropriate consumption. However, any such efforts taken for enhancing the water usability should be within reach of the poorest of the poor citizen of India