Archive for August, 2013


“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

When penning the Rime of the Mariner, what did Coleridge think?

With so much water all around, we should have no parched lip,

Yet twixt the water and the lip, there’s many a proverbial slip!

We get water from the rivers and from the melting snow

Water from below the ground and regular rain water flow

We have water in ponds and we have water in lakes

Ironical that men should thirst despite the water that nature makes!

 

All the water that is there, that bounteous nature lavishes

Is more than enough for mankind’s needs but not for mankind’s ravishes!

If rain water was harvested instead of letting it just slip

Every man could have his fill, we would have no parched lip!

 

If thirst is a problem here, it’s not for lack of provision

There’s enough water to feed two Earths, but sensible use is our commission

“Waste not, want not” is an age-old saying

Fail to use our brains, and for rain we’ll end up praying!

India’s colossal and rising population is putting a severe strain on all of the country’s natural resources. Millions of Indians currently lack access to clean drinking water, and the situation is only going from bad to worse. India’s demand for water is growing at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, India’s supply of water is rapidly dwindling primarily due to mismanagement of water resources, although over-pumping and pollution are significant contributors to the same. Climate change too is expected to play a significant role in aggravating the problem by causing erratic and unpredictable weather, which could drastically diminish the supply of water. However, if we delve deeper into this situation we will find that India’s water crisis is predominantly man made. Most parts of the country lie in the tropical climatic zone and the rest, in the sub-tropical; thus, India’s climate is not particularly dry nor is the country lacking rivers and groundwater. Extremely poor management, unclear laws, government corruption, and industrial and human waste have caused this water supply crunch and rendered the water that is available, practically useless. In managing water resources, the Indian government must balance competing demands between urban and rural, rich and poor, the economy and the environment. However, because people have triggered this crisis, they have the power to prevent water scarcity from devastating India’s future, should they decide to bring about a significant change in their behaviour and attitude.

                            

The tragedy of India’s water crisis could have been largely avoided with better water management practices. There has been a lack of attention to water legislation, water conservation, efficiency in water use and water recycling and infrastructure. Historically, water had been viewed as an unlimited resource that did not need to be managed as a scarce commodity. From the time of independence, India’s primary goals have been economic growth and food security, and have completely overlooked water conservation. This has been the cause for serious ramifications being felt today, as many citizens still operate under these principles. Unlike many developing nations, especially those with severe water scarcity issues like China, Indian law has virtually no legislation on groundwater. Anyone can extract water as long as it lies underneath their plot of land. The development and distribution of electricity and electric pumps at subsidized prices has triggered rapid pumping of groundwater and subsequent depletion of aquifers. There are approximately 20 million individual wells in India contributing to groundwater depletion. The owners of these wells do not have to pay for this water, so there is no incentive to conserve or recycle it. The central government in India also lacks the ability to store and deliver potable water to its citizens. There is currently a water storage crunch, because means for storage, such as temple tanks and steep wells, have fallen apart. China is able to store five times as much water per person as India, making it crystal clear how poor India’s water management is. The government claims that 9 out of 10 people have access to water. Yet, even if this information was factual, it disregards the fact that almost all of that water is too contaminated to use. None of the 35 Indian cities with a population of more than one million distribute water for more than a few hours per day. The water situation in the capital, New Delhi, is a classic example. New Delhi demands more than 36 million cubic meters of water per day. The New Delhi Jal Board supplies just over 30 million cubic meters of water per day but only 17 million cubic meters actually reach consumers owing to infrastructure problems, such as leaking pipes. The Jal Board then sends tankers through the city to meet this unmet supply of water, for which people have to wait in long lines, and what they receive thereafter is of questionable quality. Rather than fixing the pipelines, the government is falling back on these tankers, which is an expensive and inefficient method of delivering water to its citizens. As a result of the government’s inability to provide adequate water, private water suppliers, which charge exorbitant prices, have sprung up and people have begun to dig neighbourhood wells, depleting groundwater even further.

An immediate solution to India’s water crisis is to change water management practices by regulating usage with effective legislation. However, there is significant opposition to raising electricity tariffs, and there would most likely be even more resistance to enforcing tariffs on water itself. Another proposed solution to the water crisis is the privatization of water.  Privatized water supply would prevent waste and improve efficiency. But many people vehemently oppose this plan as they feel privatisation would not only lead to increasing poverty but also it does not have a good track record in the world. One practical solution to tackle this problem could be rainwater harvesting. Rainwater harvesting provides an independent water supply during regional water restrictions. It provides water when there is drought, prevents flooding of low-lying areas and replenishes the ground water table.  It also helps in the availability of clean water by reducing the salinity and the presence of iron salts. And as you may already be aware, it is not a very expensive procedure to implement. Rainwater harvesting is being practised across the country – in schools and colleges and in various co-operative housing societies as well.

In conclusion, it is no secret that India is facing a looming water crisis that has implications not only for its 1.2 billion people, but for the population of the entire world. Although many analysts believe that demand will outstrip supply by 2020, there is still hope for India. India needs to make water supply a national priority the way it has made food security and economic growth priorities in the past. If the country continues with business as usual, the consequences could be drastic. India will see a sharp decrease in agricultural production, which will negate all of the country’s previous efforts at food security. India will become a net importer of grain, which will have a huge effect on global food prices, as well as on the global supply of food. A rise in food prices will aggravate the already widespread poverty. In addition to devastating the agricultural sector of India’s economy, the water crisis will have a big effect on India’s industrial sector, possibly leading to stagnation of many industries. Finally, India could become the stage area for major international water wars because so many rivers that originate in India supply water to other countries. India has the power to avoid this dark future if people take action immediately: start conserving water, begin to harvest rainwater, treat human, agricultural, and industrial waste effectively, and regulate how much water can be drawn out of the ground.

Water is very precious to our existence. Conserve Water!!!