India’s growing water crisis, the seen and the unseen

India’s growing water crisis, the seen and the unseen

India’s growing water crisis, the seen and the unseen

#GS03- Disaster Management 

For Mains

Concerns about impending Water Crisis

  • The UNESCO United Nations World Water Development Report of 2022 has helped to put into perspective, the global concern over the sharp decrease in levels of freshwater from streams, lakes, aquifers and human-made reservoirs, which foreshadows the rise of water scarcity being experienced in different parts of the world.
  • In 2007, ‘Coping with water scarcity’ was the theme of World Water Day (observed on March 22).
  • The new Water Report of the Food and Agriculture Organization by the United Nations (FAO) gave a note of caution about this impending crisis of a global dimension, which will result in millions of people being deprived of water to live and to sustain their livelihood.
  • A review paper published in 2019 reported that, globally, urban water infrastructure requires the transfer of an estimated 500 billion litres of water per day across a combined distance of 27,000km. At least 12% of large cities in the world rely on such inter-basin transfers.
  • A UN report on ‘Transboundary Waters Systems – Status and Trend’ (2016) says that the issue of water transfer is connected with various Sustainable Development Goals proposed to be achieved during 2015 to 2030 since it poses risks in biophysical, socio-economic and governance aspects.

How critical is India’s water crisis?

  • The Global Drought Risk and Water Stress map (2019) showed that major parts of India, particularly west, central and parts of peninsular India are highly water stressed and experience water scarcity.
  • A NITI Aayog report, ‘Composite Water Management Index’ (2018) has tried to raise alarm about the worst water crisis in the country, with more than 600 million people facing acute water shortages.
  • World Urbanization Prospects, 2018 estimates that the urban population component in India will cross the 40% mark by 2030 and the 50% mark by 2050 which will add an extra stress to the already stressed water table.
  • City water supply is fast becoming a subject of inter-basin and inter-State transfers of water as seen with the case of Ahmedabad which now depends on the Narmada canal for the bulk of its water supply.
  • The increasing dependency of cities on rural areas for raw water supply, regardless of their source, surface or groundwater, has the potential to ignite the rural-urban dispute.

What can be done to improve this?

  • The usual response when it comes to water shortage or scarcity is to transfer of water from the hinterlands/upper catchments or drawing it from stored surface water bodies or aquifers.
  • Strengthening of Institutions can create entry points and provide opportunities to build flexibility into water resource allocation at a regional level, enabling adjustments in rapidly urbanising regions.
  • A system perspective and catchment scale-based approach can help to link reallocation of water with wider discussions on development, infrastructure investment, fostering a rural-urban partnership which will help in adopting an integrated approach in water management.