Finding a way out of India's deepening Water Crisis.

Vishnuaravi

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This article examines the extent of the water crisis in India.

Considering the complexity and the scale of a water crisis that is facing India, it is important for the government to work out an integrated approach so that all the concerned ministries, departments and grassroots institutions are working towards the common goal of promoting water conservation and efficient usage of water.

In this regard, we must appreciate the creation of the Ministry of Jalshakti in 2019 by merging the ministries of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation with the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. This merger provided the central government with an opportunity to take a holistic look at the looming water crisis in the urban areas and the rural areas.

Previously, the water-related issues of urban and rural areas were being looked after by separate ministries, but the merger of these two ministries into a single ministry of Jal Shakti has helped in putting in place an integrated approach towards water management. If we have to truly understand the extent of the water crisis that is facing both our urban and rural areas, then first we need to identify the primary sources of drinking water for the urban and rural areas.

Studies have shown that in rural areas, nearly 80% to 90% of the drinking water supply and 75% of the water used for agriculture is met through groundwater sources. So in rural areas for both drinking water and as well as for irrigation, there is an excessive dependency on groundwater sources.

The same can be said about urban areas as well. Studies have shown that nearly 50% to 60% of the water supply in urban areas is drawn again from groundwater sources. The rest is met through surface water that is through rivers, lakes and tanks and reservoirs. But the majority of the supply in the urban areas also comes from groundwater sources.

So in this context, it becomes very important to take a look at the NITI Aayog’s Water Management Index, which was released in 2019. This study of NITI Aayog showed that most of the cities in India are on the brink of exhausting their groundwater resources in just a few years, as the demand for water in nearly 21 cities is expected to double by 2030, which is going to drive unprecedented exploitation of our groundwater resources. So this alarming finding highlights the extent of the water crisis facing the country, and we can take the examples of cities such as Chennai and Mumbai and even the rural areas of Punjab to further highlight the water crisis.

Recently in 2019, Chennai faced a major water crisis despite having witnessed massive floods during most of the years. The same can be said about Mumbai as well. Even though the city witnesses heavy rainfall and frequent floods, every now and then a water crisis is reported and the problem lies with the inability of the groundwater system in the cities to recharge due to the encroachment of floodplains and wetlands in the city, which have been completely taken over by urbanization.

So there isn’t sufficient space for water to percolate and to recharge the underground water table and this directly contributes to water shortage in these cities, even though they receive sufficient rainfall and it highlights the importance of protecting the floodplains and the wetlands and the urban water bodies.

Then in the rural areas of Punjab an acute water crisis is being reported by the central groundwater board because the groundwater table has been overexploited since the days of the Green Revolution, as the farmers have relied upon water-intensive crops such as paddy, which has not only turned the water highly saline in the region but is also leading to water shortages, thereby aggravating pressure on agriculture and as well as creating shortages of drinking water in rural Punjab.

So to solve these challenges, what we need is synergy between government institutions and an integrated approach where the centre can work with the states and the grassroots institutions to craft and implement a water conservation program, which gives a maximum focus for conserving and preserving our water sources, along with promoting the efficient usage of water.

See, currently, under the Ministry of Jalshakti, a new national water policy is being drafted, and if India is to avert this water crisis, then the new National Water Policy should focus on encouraging the conservation of our water resources, such as our groundwater table and by promoting efficient usage practices to minimize waste so that we can sustainably manage the country’s water resources.

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Hi, I am Vishnu, and I have been a blogger for more than 2 years now; and I will provide some knowledgeable current international news to my readers.

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