Save Water, Save India!


Save Water, Save India!

Articles / Environment   /   Sep 10, 2014
karuna Gupta
karuna Gupta
She is a writer. She has done post-graduation in Political Science from Delhi University. She likes writing news stories, blogs and articles. She also likes to analyze political and international events and write stories on them. She wishes to bring a change to the lives of women by attracting the attention of leaders as well as society at large through her articles. Truth is what she stands for.

Earth is known to be the only planet, till now, with the existence of water. And, this water is indispensable for the survival of every being. The facts say that the Earth is covered by 71% of ocean water, of which 97.5% is sea water which is salty. Only 40% of fresh water is available, out of which 68.7% is in the form of ice caps, 30% is stored underground and a mere 0.3% is present on the surface. Out of the surface water, 87% is stored in lakes, 11% in swamp and 2% in rivers.

Such distribution of water has led to the scarcity of water in many countries. And, India is one of them to face this serious issue affecting millions of lives. However, the country experiences plenteous rainfall during the time of the monsoon, yet it is undergoing the scarcity. Thus, natural factors don’t majorly affect the paucity of the resource. Human factors are the one, which are leading to such adversity. Increasing human population and unsustainable lifestyle can be counted in as considerable cause. Other reasons are overuse, abuse and pollution of water. People recklessly waste water without any realization of its deficiency. There was a time when the population was in control and a simple lifestyle, water was considered as a free resource.

Several developing countries employ a large percentage of water in industrial and domestic purposes, and comparatively less in agricultural use. However, India is using 80-90% of water for agriculture and only 5-12%, which indicates the inefficient use of water in agriculture and poor investments in industrial development.  With urbanisation and industrial development, the usage of water is likely to increase in the coming years.
As mentioned above, India experiences plenteous rainfall, yet it is suffering from an acute shortage of water, because the rainwater is not stored in a proper manner. Only, 18% of rainwater is effectively used and 48% enters the river, most of which reaches the ocean. India loses 26.17% of rainwater in evaporation, transpiration and run-off. Usable water available is only 28.07%, out of which 64.82% is surface water and 35.17% is replenish-able ground water. And, roughly 5-10% water is utilized.

With growing demand and depletion of the available water, assured supply of good quality water is becoming a matter of concern. The scarceness is not only impacting humans, but other living beings as well. The acute water shortage prevailing in the forest areas of Tamil Nadu’s districts of Madurai and Dindigul has led the Indian gaurs found in the forest of the region, to death as they come in search of water and end up dead by falling into the wells.

Despite sufficient rainfall and good distribution all over, the country is failing to utilize water, reason being lack of awareness and poor infrastructure to construct dams and reservoirs. Because of which, only 35-40% of agricultural land is meted out with irrigation.

Water pollution is one of the major causes of acute scarcity as it affects the water supply as well as human health conditions. Discharge of untreated waste and industrial effluent into rivers, excessive use of fertilisers in agriculture and contamination of ground water with salts and minerals present in the lower soil profiles make the usable water polluted and severely detrimental. 5% of the total water is consumed for domestic purposes. Shockingly, 27% of rural areas and 4-6% of urban areas don’t have an access to drinking water. And the areas where the access is availed, either inadequate supply or poor water quality arises as a problem. It is reported that over 70% of the water consumed by the rural population in India do not meet the WHO standards.  It has been reported that 80% of rural illnesses, 21% of transmissible diseases and 20% of deaths among children in the age group of 5 years, are directly linked to consumption of unsafe water.

Both Asian Development Bank and the UN have rung an alarm towards the India being in danger of acute water scarcity. “The situation in India is also particularly challenging given the size of the population, its expected growth and having only about four per cent of the world’s fresh water resources,” Rana Hassan, Principal Economist, India Resident Mission, Asian Development Bank said. “In fact, with the projections that we have before us, per capita average annual water availability is reducing and we are steadily in danger of moving towards water scarcity conditions,” he added. He also noted that variations in rainfall and an increase in demand for water from industries are a few factors compounding to the situation.

According to the UN, the country should reconsider its per capita water availability index to counterbalance social and economic disparities in water usage. “The validity of the per capita water availability index needs to be re-thought in the light of social and economic disparities in water usage that exist. On the same grounds, putting forward the argument that increase in population leads to water scarcity needs rigorous debate,” a report ‘Water in India: Situation and Prospects’ brought out by UNICEF and Food and Agriculture Organisation has said. The report pointed out that there is a clash between the agricultural and industrial sector for water.
Domestic sector also stands in the line for the supply of adequate quantity of water. Thus, multiple uses of water and the traditional allocation priorities and quantities also need to be revisited. “The concept of scarcity and surpluses of water must look beyond State boundaries, as with a more disaggregated assessment, these comparisons will surely change.” Shortage in the agricultural sector will land up the country in a position where food security will also ring alarm.

The Ministry of Water Resources, National Water Policy was formulated in September, 1987 to conserve water. It was reviewed and updated in 2002 and later in 2012. One of the solutions is considered to link the rivers by the ministry. India has been successful in creating live water storage capacity of about 253 billion cubic meters (BCM) so far. The aim behind the National Water Policy 2012 is to treat water as an economic good which the ministry claims to promote its conservation and efficient use.

This provision intended for the privatization of water-delivery services is being criticized from various quarters. The policy also does away with the priorities for water allocation mentioned in 1987 and 2002 versions of the policy. The policy was adopted with disapproval from many states. The major features are:

•  To ensure access to a minimum quantity of potable water for essential health and hygiene to all citizens, available within easy reach of the household.

•  To curtail subsidy to agricultural electricity users.

•  Setting up of Water Regulatory Authority.

•  To keep aside a portion of the river flow to meet the ecological needs and to ensure that the low and high flow releases correspond in time closely to the natural flow regime.

•  To give statutory powers to Water Users Associations to maintain the distribution system.

•  Project benefited families to bear part of the cost of resettlement & rehabilitation of project affected families.

•  To remove the large disparity between stipulations for water supply in urban areas and in rural areas.

•  To support a National Water Framework Law.

Although, it received some criticisms that there is a paradigm shift in approach from a service provider of water to a facilitator of service, the policy does not deter use among those who can afford to pay for water, PPP mode may not ensure equity and the policy doesn’t follow polluter pay principle, rather it gives incentives for effluent treatment.

And now, the government has resolved to initiate a national scheme to conserve water on the birth anniversary of late philosopher and political thinker Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, that is, 25th September. The aim of the scheme is to conserve water through a multi-pronged approach that will involve the efforts of state governments, common mass and NGOs. The scheme concentrates on regeneration of the ground water, use of recycled water and motivating all sectors for consuming the scarce resource judiciously under a structured nationwide programme. Moreover, to add further measures, current union water resources and river development minister Uma Bharti has asked her officials to contribute to the programme with their own ideas and prepare the final blueprint of the ‘National Water Conservation and Water Enrichment’ scheme within 11 days so that it could be initiated on time.

According to the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), there is a diminution in the level of approximately 56% of the wells, which reflects a decline in the level of ground water in comparison with the average of the previous 10 years. This new scheme will pitch for ‘water use efficiency’ certification or industrial and domestic sector. The government has also resolved to set up a National Bureau of Water Use Efficiency (NBWUE) under its ‘National Water Mission’ for this purpose.

The Modi government is addressing the issue which is very serious and will take even a graver turn as millions will die in the hands of water scarcity. However, the government will have to ensure that no interruption causes a break in the scheme and the result gets visible soon, thus relieving the country. Moreover, it should be understood by all of us Indians that we also play a major role towards the issue as it in our hands to save as much as we can. The government will take care of its schemes and programmes, but we can take care of small steps such as making sure that the tap is closed after its use, individually harvesting rainwater and using it for household chores in which fresh water is not required, repairing the water leaks instantly, etc.

Let us all pledge to save water and save the country from facing acute scarcity of water.

(Data Inputs- Water Scarcity and Security in India by Dr. Narayan G. Hegde)

The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi. The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi.
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