NITI Aayog, also known as the National Institution for Transforming India recently reported that the country is facing a threatening water crisis which promises to be the worst in the country’s history. Formed in 2015 via a resolution of the Indian Union Cabinet led by the prime minister, the think tank’s main goal is to provide policy input.
The water crisis is affecting at least half of the population as around 600 million people suffer from water shortages that range from high to extreme in severity, the report notes. Three-quarters of the population do not have access to uncontaminated water, a large proportion of the number is concentrated in rural areas, the report also mentions. According to the think tank, the effects of the crisis cannot be underestimated. For example, 200,000 deaths occur as a result of the lack of adequate and safe water. In addition, water scarcity is also thought to be connected to 20% of the diseases in the country, the CNN reports. An Indian official indicated to the former news agency that one of the main reasons for the crisis is the lack of water resources. The country has four percent of the global water and sixteen percent of its population, he indicates. However, water scarcity has amplified due to a number of other reasons including unsustainable farming techniques which demand a huge percentage of groundwater, especially in cases of seasonal drought and delay in monsoon season, Al-Jazeera reports. The rising temperatures in the recent years have also played a definite role in escalating the issue as this summer was considered to be the country’s fourth hottest in history, the ministry of environment. According to BBC, the issue also has a geographical dimension as rural communities suffer a higher risk rate than their urban counterparts because of erratic rain that affects their groundwater resources. The report concludes that water scarcity is only predicted to further increase in the future. By 2030, the demand for clean water in India will double the supply, the news agency points out.
The water crisis is predicted to escalate existing political tension between India and its regional counterparts, mainly China and Pakistan but other smaller countries are also included. In fact, Al-Jazeera reported that eleven Indian states are already in seven major disagreements over river water-sharing with neighboring countries.
With the threat of global climate change and other environmental circumstances looming in the near future water management may be one of the few critical solutions that the country can utilize at the moment. India is placed at 120th amongst 122 countries in the water quality index. While some states are doing much better than others like Gujarat, the issue stems from a lack of efficient legislation across all states. The BBC also indicates that the states ranked the lowest in the index such as Bihar, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand house almost 50% of the population. They also provide a significant portion of the agricultural produce which is considered essential to the country as a whole.
A key step to delay the water crisis may lay in applying restrictions on groundwater extraction, which do not currently exist across the nation. Some states also have policies to support farmers despite environmental implications. Suresh Rohilla, director of urban water management at the Centre for Science and Environment mentioned to CNN that examples of policies included financial support given for farmers to extract groundwater.
CNN has also indicated that the most important hurdle to sustainable conservation and state legislation is bad data management and lack of information regarding how people are using water resources. On the other hand, the report indicated that 15 states out of the 24 have done better in terms of water management than last year. But without solid efforts, the Indian water crisis may continue to only worsen in the near future.
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