The NITI Aayog’s Composite Water Management Index, which ranks States on water management on the basis of nine parameters, once again reminds us that India is in the grip of a water crisis that needs to be addressed on a war footing. The report flags a few factoids that point to how life-threatening the situation is:
“When water is available, it is likely to be contaminated, resulting in nearly 2, 00,000 deaths each year.”
Even as India relies increasingly on groundwater for its irrigation and livelihood needs, with rivers running dry or being reduced to sewers, it has recently come to light that uranium contamination is common.
With water levels dropping to 1,000 feet in dry regions of peninsular India in particular, fluoride contamination too is on the rise. The report assesses States on restoration of surface and ground water, development of watersheds, participatory irrigation, sustainable farming and urban water supply and sanitation and places Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra in the top five. The Centre expects a new groundwater management regime as well as a technology partnership with Israel to make a difference.
Twenty-one cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people, the study noted. If matters are to continue, there will be a 6% loss in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2050.
Moreover, critical groundwater resources, which accounted for 40% of India’s water supply, are being depleted at “unsustainable” rates and up to 70% of India’s water supply is “contaminated”.
Increased population pressure along with competing demand for water from different sectors (drinking, agriculture, industry and energy) are putting a huge stress on water resources in India. The data published by the Central Water Commission indicate that agriculture alone accounts for about 85 per cent of all water use, mostly drawn from groundwater.
A growing population, lack of adequate planning, crumbling infrastructure, indiscriminate drilling of bore wells, large-scale consumption of water, and a false sense of entitlement in using water carelessly are causing water shortages.
The water scarcity is mostly man made due to excess population growth and mismanagement of water resources. Some of the major reasons for water scarcity are:
The problem has been compounded with increased concretization due to urban development that has choked ground water resources. Water is neither being recharged nor stored in ways that optimizes its use while retaining the natural ingredients of water. In addition, the entry of sewage and industrial waste into water bodies is severely shrinking the availability of potable water. Marine life is mostly lost in these areas already. This is the genesis of a very serious emerging crisis. If we do not understand the source of the problem we will never be able to find sustainable solutions.
India’s water problem is being caused by several factors — increase in population, reduced rainfall, encroachment of water bodies, poor handling of industrial waste water, exploitation of natural resources, change in food consumption pattern etc. have all come together to deplete the amount of water available. Let us see how the change in food consumption increases the demand for water.
We need to look for new paradigms to obtain usable water from various sources coupled with technology.
Today, Israel is the most efficient to handle water crisis by adopting innovative technologies, dedicating its greater resources and social consciousness to the water crisis.
70% of the total available fresh water is used by agriculture. So it’s time to revolutionize the farming method to use less water and Israel is creating wonders in this area. Drip irrigation, an Israel invention in the area of irrigation process is the modern technique which is a type of micro-irrigation that has the potential to save water and nutrients by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either from above the soil surface or buried below the surface. The goal is to place water directly into the root zone and minimize evaporation. Drip irrigation systems distribute water through a network of valves, pipes, tubing and emitters.
In many countries waste water is not treated at all, polluting rivers and oceans. Whereas in Israel, nearly 85% of the sewage water is recycled and reused for agriculture.
Water-Gen Ltd., an Israeli company whose technology captures humidity in order to make drinking water out of air.
Israel, one of the driest countries on the earth with 60% dessert now makes more freshwater than it needs.
It is an invention which traps water drops from fog. In desert areas like the Peruvian coast there is lack of water and rain, but there is a lot of fog. The aim is to capture the micro droplets suspended in the air and trap them in the mesh. The little water drops caught by this mesh are collected and passed through an organic filter into a tank. From this tank fresh water is derived.
The government has come up with a Rs. 6,000-crore World Bank-aided Atal Bhujal Yojana with community participation to ensure sustained groundwater management in overexploited and ground water-stressed areas in seven States.
There needs to have a multidisciplinary approach involving various scientists and ecologists to devolve various water management techniques so that effective solutions are created than building dams and canals. We need to connect with nature to help rebalance the water cycle in a sustainable and cost-effective way by planting new forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains and restoring wetlands. Governments, communities, the private sector, and researchers must collaborate.
Conscious efforts need to be made at the household level and by communities, institutions and local bodies to supplement the efforts of governments and non-governmental bodies in promoting water conservation. Sustained measures should be taken to prevent pollution of water bodies, contamination of groundwater and ensure proper treatment of domestic and industrial waste water. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle must be the watchwords if we have to handover a liveable planet to the future generations.
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