ARTICLE OF THE DAY  Finding a way out of India’s deepening water stress

Water plays a very important role in human life. We can’t imagine life without it. For that we have to be very cautious that we conserve water and utilise its and conserve it for our future generations also.
Billions of people around the world lack adequate access to one of the essential elements of life: clean water. Although governments have helped many living in water-stressed regions gain access in recent years, the problem is projected to get worse with the harmful effects of global warming and population growth.

What is this water stress?
Water stress occurs when the demand for water exceeds the available amount during a certain period or when poor quality restricts its use.
Water stress causes deterioration of fresh water resources in terms of quantity (aquifer overexploitation, dry rivers, etc.) .Quality (eutrophication, organic matter pollution, saline intrusion, etc.)
Sources of water
In the rural areas, 80%-90% of the drinking water and 75% of the water used for agriculture is drawn from groundwater sources.
In urban areas, 50%-60% of the water supply is drawn from groundwater sources, whereas the remaining is sourced from surface water resources such as rivers, in addition to lakes, tanks and reservoirs.

Some examples of different states in India which are facing water crisis
The Chennai example of 2019 where life came to a standstill and parts of the city went without piped water for months. Chennai city’s inability to meet the basic needs of citizens, drinking water, cooking and sanitation. This happened due to poor rainfall received in this city as one of the main reasons for the water crisis.
Mumbai had suffered from floods previously
Punja city also can’t be left behind
82% of Punjab’s land area has seen a huge decline in groundwater levels Why this has happened in this city was due to Groundwater extraction which was at 35% in the 1960s and 1970s, rose to 70% post the Green Revolution — a period which saw governments subsidising power for irrigation that left tubewells running for hours.
Cultivation of water intensive crops such as paddy have further aggravated water depletion, even turning water saline.

Need for Synergy
Government should take it seriously regarding this water crisis in urban areas. The Ministry of Water Resources must reconfigure its relationship with other Ministries and Departments (Urban Development, Local Self-Government and Environment). This would be for enhanced integration and coordination through effective land and water zoning regulations that protect urban water bodies, groundwater sources, wetlands and green cover while simultaneously working to enhance waste water recycling and water recharge activities targeting aquifers and wells through rainwater harvesting.

Government Initiatives
The Ministry of Jal Shakti, has a targeted plan to provide water connections to every household in India by 2024. In view of the ongoing erosion of water resources and an ever-increasing demand for water, the thrust should not be on promising water supply. Instead the aim should be towards protecting and conserving water resources on the one hand and minimising and enhancing efficiency of water usage on the other.

Way Forward
We urgently require a transition from this ‘supply-and-supply-more water’ provision to measures which lead towards improving water use efficiency, reducing leakages, recharging/restoring local water bodies

By Mahima Pant

Geography Optional Faculty