Monday, December 11, 2023

The water crisis is another alarm bell

By Priyanka Saurabh

The NITI Aayog report states that India is facing its ‘worst’ water crisis in history. The taps have dried up in summer, causing an unprecedented water crisis. According to a forecast by the Asian Development Bank, India will have a 50% water deficit by 2030. Recent studies include Mumbai and Delhi at the top of the 27 weakest Asian cities in terms of low water availability. UN-Water states that “adopting the water effects of climate change will protect health and protect life”. Also, using water more efficiently will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, in response to the Kovid-19 epidemic, additional attention has been focused on handwashing and hygiene.

The water crisis in India is more severe than imagined. The annual per capita availability of water has come down from around 5,177 cubic meters in 1951 to about 1,720 cubic meters in 2019. Twenty-one cities including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people. Apart from megacities, many fast-growing small and medium cities such as Jamshedpur, Kanpur, Dhanbad, Meerut, Faridabad, Visakhapatnam, Madurai, and Hyderabad are also included in this list. The demand-supply gap in most of these cities varies from 30 percent to 70 percent. About two lakh people die every year due to insufficient access to safe water, nearly three-quarters of households do not have access to drinking water and about 70 percent of the water is contaminated. The rate of groundwater extraction is so severe that NASA’s findings suggest that India’s water table is declining dangerously at a rate of about 0.3 meters per year.

At this rate of scarcity, India will have only 22 percent of the current water available per capita in 2050, possibly forcing the country to import water. Approximately 81 percent of India’s final irrigation potential, estimated at 140 million hectares, has already been built and thus the scope for large-scale irrigation infrastructure expansion is limited. Climate experts have predicted that there will be fewer rainy days in the future but there will be more rain on those days.

The ever increasing dependence on groundwater and its continued excessive exploitation are reducing the groundwater level and adversely affecting the quality of drinking water supply, which is a complex challenge. Drying of water sources, rapid depletion of the groundwater table, recurrence of drought and deteriorating water management in different states are presenting different types of challenges. Repairs of closed bore pumps, water supply pipelines are not being done in time due to which area-specific Peijal crisis has been present in

Due to the pressure of industrialization and urbanization, the sources of water have been destroyed. This worrying aspect was consistently ignored by various governments. Not only is drinking water inadequate in rural India, but its imbalance is widespread across the country. The water crisis has become a major problem in 30 countries of the world, and in the next decade, nearly two-thirds of the global population will face extreme water shortage. In real terms, the water crisis in India has become a major challenge.

A combination of population explosion, unplanned growth of the city, and its expansion into some traditional catchment areas and large-scale deforestation has reduced the natural flow of water. Climate change, natural flow, and recharge of water have fallen sharply as a result of very little rainfall during the winter months. State governments to check the unplanned development and exploitation of water resources central to managing the quantity and quality of water or No attempt has been made at the state level

The vegetation pattern has changed, tree cover is shrinking and unscientific dumping of debris pervades the water currents. Also, the increasing number of tube wells led to the depletion of groundwater. Changes in farming patterns lead to higher water consumption for irrigation and also changes in soil morphology due to the use of fertilizers, with states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Jharkhand being the lowest-ranked states of India with most agricultural produce. Half the population is home. Lack of interest in maintaining India’s traditional water harvesting structures is also the main reason for the water crisis.

There were well-managed wells and canal systems, karages, baoli, wavas, etc. in ancient India. Today we need to revive and protect indigenous water harvesting systems at the local level. Digging rainwater harvesting pits should be made mandatory for all types of buildings in both urban and rural areas. Technologies capable of converting non-potable water into freshwater, need to offer a possible solution to the impending water crisis.

The Water Bank Cities of the World Bank seeks to promote an integrated approach, which aims to manage water resources and service delivery in water-resourced cities as a basis for creating climate change resilience. There is a need to better understand groundwater extraction patterns through robust data collection.

Public awareness campaigns, tax incentives for water conservation, and the use of technology interfaces can also go a long way in addressing the water problem. A collaborative approach such as adopting a public-private partnership model for water projects can help. Constant measures should be taken to prevent pollution of water bodies and the pollution of groundwater. It is also necessary to ensure proper treatment of domestic and industrial wastewater.

Water is not predominantly important in India. “People think it’s free”. India’s water problems can be solved with existing knowledge, technology, and available funds. India’s water establishment will have to accept that the strategy so far has not worked. The climate is changing and changing day by day, which mainly affects society through the water. Climate change will affect the availability, quality, and quantity of water for basic human needs, potentially threatening the effective use of human rights for sanitation and water for the people.

(Priyanka Saurabh is independent journalist, columnist, research scholar in political science and poetess. She can be reached at [email protected])  

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