By Gyan Pathak
India needs to manage water for 17 per cent population of the world but has only 4 per cent of world’s freshwater resources. Though annual utilizable water is 690 BCM from surface water sources and 447 BCM from groundwater, water supply is so mismanaged that about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene. The burden of unsafe water on individual is 40 times higher than in China, and 12 times higher than even Sri Lanka. With huge amount of waste water generated annually, mismanagement of waste water contaminating both surface and ground water, lack of liquid waste management, the poor sanitation conditions and habits contributed a significant portion of population suffering from water-borne diseases.
All these have been revealed in the Composite Water Management Index of India released recently by Niti Aayog in association with the newly created Ministry of Jalshakti and the Ministry of Rural development. In spite of possessing surface water, the country is highly dependent on groundwater resources for day to day survival. India is therefore facing the challenge to fulfil its demand through the existing but depleting resources.
The increased scarcity of water is affecting the broad spectrum of economic, social and developmental activities of the nation. It not only affects GDP directly in the form of loss of productivity of agriculture, industrial and service sector but also decreases the ability of the nation. The impact of water scarcity is already being severely felt in some regions, and if states and UTs fail to control the situation, it is only going to deteriorate.
Over the years, expanding agriculture, growing industrialization, increasing population and rising standards of living have increased our water demands at same static supply. Efforts have been made to collect water by building dams and reservoirs and creating ground water structures such as wells, but mismanagement of the resources and lower user efficiency has resulted in a water stress situation in the country.
Currently, nearly 820 million people in 12 major river basins of India are facing high to extreme water stress situation. Out of these, 495 million alone belong to Ganga river basin which generates nearly 40 per cent of the country’s GDP. The scarcity of water resources also has many cascading effects including desertification, risk to biodiversity, industry, energy sector and risk of exceeding the carrying capacity of urban hubs.
The overall performance of the states in water management remains well-below of what is required to adequately tackle India’s water challenge. The index has placed 16 states out of 27 stated in low performing category. It is a serious problem because these states account for 48 per cent of population, 40 per cent of agricultural produce, and 35 per cent of economic output of India. Large economic contributor states have low-water management scores which can hamper India’s economic progress. Food security of the country is also at risk on account of poor performance of the agricultural producer states.
Achieving food security for India, with its rising population, is going to be a significant challenge, and water scarcity will make the goal tougher to attain. India will host more than 1.5 billion people by 2030, and serving the food needs of its entire population will be a daunting task. Water shortages in the country are going to make this task harder. Wheat and rice, India’s two major staple crops for Indians, are already being affected by water-related issues. About 74% of the area under wheat cultivation and 65% of the area under rice cultivation faces significant levels of water scarcity. These trends are expected to only get worse if immediate measures are not taken. Estimates suggest that the water demand-supply gap in agriculture could be as high as 570 BCM by 2030. Groundwater resources, which account for 62% of irrigation water, are declining in 52% of the cases and highlight a serious water concern for the agriculture sector.
Urban hubs are likely to witness severe water shortages in the future, which could risk urban growth in India and reduce quality of life for urban citizens. India’s urban population is expected to reach 600 million by 2030, and fulfilling its water needs will be a great challenge. Estimates suggest that the demand-supply gap for the domestic sector will stand at 50 BCM in 2030, with the demand expected to double by that time. The present situation is also not ideal. Five of the world’s 20 largest cities under water stress are in India, with Delhi being second on the list. Additionally, 8 million children below the age of 14 in urban India are at risk due to poor water supply.
Estimates suggest that industrial water requirement will also quadruple between 2005 and 2030, highlighting the significant rise in demand by the sector over time. Additionally, a recent study reports that industries will need to draw three times the water compared to their actual consumption by 2030 due to water efficiency challenges. Water shortages are already impacting, and will continue to impact, the sector in the form of erratic and insufficient water supply, hampering production processes and efficiency. Seventy per cent of India’s thermal power plants are also likely to face high water stress by 2030, severely hampering India’s energy production and economic activity. As the water crisis worsens, India is also facing great environmental risks threatening numerous species of flora and fauna. Thirty per cent of Indian land is impacted by desertification and land degradation, and this outcome is strongly linked to poor water management.
The Ministry of Jal Shakti, therefore, must stop mismanagement of water to save lives and must find a solution to the problem created due to scarcity of water. (IPA Service)