According to the newly released report on water Index by NITI AAYOG, the policy think tank of the Government of India, India is said to be facing its worst water shortage in the history. Almost 600 million people are said to be suffering from acute to extreme water shortage in India. The report also states that over 200,000 lives are lost every year due to inadequate supply and contamination of water. Both urban and rural areas are equally affected due to the lack of supply of potable drinking water.
Apart from the areas of hygiene which is concerned, Indians are also facing the huge problem of inadequacy in the supply of water for one’s basic needs. The concept of sustainable water Development has made really slow progress in India.
The recent water crisis in Shimla can also be an example of the dire need to conserve water. The problem in Shimla was escalated when the water almost dried up in the Nauti-Khadstream. The water from this stream is one of the key sources which feeds Gumma, one of Shimla’s oldest water supply schemes. But the main question which has been raised by both the residents of Shimla and other people who witnessed what happened was, whether this situation could have been prevented? The answer to this question raised is definitely a YES.
Many residents believed that the main reason for the drying up of water was not due to inadequate rainfall, but the increasing number of tubewells near the stream beds uphill. Although 80% of states in India have legislation for the prevention of water, bad data management, and the nonexistent pricing mechanism have all been contributing factors to the growing shortage in water supply in India. Being a predominantly agricultural country, India uses more than three-quarters of its fresh water supply for agriculture and irrigation.
It is also not an understatement to say that the methods of irrigation and agriculture practiced in India are far from being efficient and effective in the conservation of water. Policies wherein the states are giving free electricity and subsidies for groundwater extraction through bore wells and tube wells are also to be blamed for the uncontrolled exploitation and wastage of resources, that is,harol water.
With the rapidly depleting groundwater tables and scarce rainfall, many people in the country are getting affected with little or no water for basic needs. Drip Irrigation, a method through which the exact quantity of water can reach the roots of a plant, has also not witnessed huge consumers. The main reason for this decline, being the large costs involved in the setting up of the drip irrigation facility to be used by farmers.
Water has also not been valued a lot in India, people have always considered water to be an abundant resource (with many considering it to be as free). Not much had been done till now so as to prevent this already existing problem to escalate any further. The report also highlights that almost three-quarters of the Indian population is getting affected every year due to the intake of highly contaminated water, over 20% of the country’s diseases also correlate with this problem.
Lack of proper sewage disposal and treatment plants often force the disposal of urban wastewater directly into the freshwater streams. Cholera, typhoid, dengue are amongst the many diseases which are caused by the intake of contaminated water. The disposal of sewage and toxic waste materials has also severely impacted the marine ecosystems.
The recent closure of the Jal Nidhi Board for the supply of water in Kerala’s, Pathanamthitta district also made it to the news. Many people reportedly fell sick with typhoid and jaundice after the direct intake of water supplied by the Board. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that the chlorination and purification plants were far from being in working conditions.
About 70% of the population that is over 800 million people live in the rural areas, thus making the delivery of clean drinking water accessible to people being very challenging. The improvement of water quality in some of India’s largest states still remains to be a huge challenge.
Almost twenty-one major Indian cities are feared to get run out of groundwater by the year 2020 (which is just two years away). At the national level, the Ministry of Water Resources (MOWR) has drafted a model Groundwater Bill for the future conservation and prevention of the groundwater. The main objective of the bill is to provide a legal framework which can be adopted by all the states together for the necessary steps and actions to be taken.
About the author:
Sharol Shibu- Jesus and Mary College, DU