The world’s second-most populous country is running out of water. India is facing one of its major and most serious water crisis. According to the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) released by the NITI Aayog in 2018, 21 major cities (Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and others) are racing to reach zero groundwater levels by 2020, affecting access for 100 million people.
However, 12% of India’s population is already living the ‘Day Zero’ scenario. The CWMI report also states that by 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual 6% loss in the country’s GDP.
After two consecutive years of weak monsoons, 330 million people — a quarter of the country’s population — are affected by a severe drought. According to India Meteorological Department (IMD)’s data, October 2018 was the driest month for the country since 1976. In fact, the rainfall for the month was even lower than that drought years.
Although, the actual deficit on last monsoon was modest and barely 10%. But, the past monsoon rainfall (October – December 2018) has recorded as 44% deficit. Vidarbha, Marathwada and central Maharashtra have been facing a drought-like situation, with water levels in reservoirs reaching extremely low levels. The deficit is in these areas likely 84% to 88%. This low-rain and no-rain situation is resulted a worst water crisis in its history.
A water crisis generally means the insufficient availability of drinking water, lack of sufficient available water resources to meet the demands of water usage within a region. A water crisis is a situation where the available potable, unpolluted water within a region is less than that region’s demand. Water crisis can be a result of two of reasons:
a) absolute reasons and
b) economic reasons.
Absolute reasons result in inadequate natural water resources to supply a region’s demand. On the other hand, economic reasons result in poor management of the sufficient available of water resources.
According to the NITI Aayog report, India’s water crisis is more dire than imagined:
1) 600 million people are dealing with high to extreme water shortage.
2) An average of 200,000 Indian lives is lost every year due to inadequate supply or contamination of water.
3) About 75% of households do not have drinking water at home, 84% rural households do not have piped water access, and 70% of India’s water is contaminated, with the country currently ranked 120 among 122 in the water quality index.
4) India is the world’s biggest groundwater extractor. As things stand, it forecasts that 21 cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad, will run out of groundwater by 2020; also, 40% of our citizens will have no access to drinking water by 2030.
5) By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply.
6) This will be implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions and an eventual loss of around 6% of the country’s GDP by 2050.
7) Droughts are becoming more frequent, creating severe problems, especially because approx 53% of agriculture in India is rainfed.
8) Inter-State disputes over the water issue has been raising now, with 7 major disputes are seen right now.
9) India holds about 4% of global freshwater and 16% of its population.
10) The NITI Aayog database says 54% of wells in India are declining in level due to unsustainable withdrawals for irrigation.
|Water Management Scores, By State|
|State||Score (In %)||Performance|
Data Source: Composite Water Management Index, NITI Aayog.
A Times Of India report on The Economic Survey 2017-18 stated the complexity of India’s water crisis and explained the triggers, including rapid groundwater depletion, decline in average rainfall and increasing dry monsoon days.
The union government recently formed a new Jal Shakti (water) ministry, which aims at tackling water issues with a holistic and integrated perspective on the subject. The ministry has announced an ambitious plan to provide piped water connections to every household in India by 2024. The ministry has set a tough target at a time when hundreds of millions don’t have access to clean water. Aiming at laying huge pipeline networks for water supply means that yet again, we are giving more preference to infrastructure.
Jal Shakti will be the umbrella ministry under which all water-related ministries will be integrated. So, the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation with the former Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation will be merged into the new ministry.
I think it’s high time for India to declare a climate emergency. It’s not just the climate issue but the entire breadth of environmental issues we are facing today. Air pollution, poor management of waste, growing water scarcity, falling groundwater tables, water pollution, preservation and quality of forests, biodiversity loss, and land/soil degradation are some of the things we’re struggling with.
1) The government needs to seriously take action in educating the public on proper uses of water, and people also need to concern themselves about the dangers of wasting water.
2) The government of India must concentrate on managing demand. They must ensure a timely, leak-proof and safe water supply rather than promising 24 hours supply based on nothing.
3) Controlling the water consumption at irrigation level is the most important factor as it consumes 85% of groundwater without inflicting food security of the country.
4) Water literacy at the national level should be the primary focus, which has not been seriously done so far. It is high time to introduce special models on water saving, conservation and utilization – starting in school.
5) The government of India needs to launch an aggressive program of nature based solution, ecological restoration, ideally to build resilience and generate livelihoods.
6) There is an urgent need to increase and spread awareness about recycling, reusing and conservation of water.
On a positive note, many organizations such as actor Aamir Khan’s Pani Foundation and Nana Patekar’s and Makarand Anaspure’s NAAM Foundation have played an important role in the building of small ponds, widening and deepening of water bodies with mutual cooperation and work. Therefore, the government, NGOs and a group of people have implemented many such programmes to resolve the crisis; to increase awareness about the conservation of water. It is now our responsibility to make a success out of this!