Look for Dry Future as Water level Decreases Exceptionallyby Opinion Express July 9, 2019 0 comments
The crisis that is engulfing India is an existential one for the nation. There will not be one solution to it
For years, poor Indians in urban slums have had daily fights over water. Piped water, which most English-speaking Indians take for granted, is a luxury for the subaltern. And now with increased urbanisation stressing out the life-giving resource, groundwater extraction and decrease in river volumes, from Chennai in the south to Shimla in the north, it is pretty clear that there is not only a lack of water but clean water, too. So a latest government report that India is not a water-deficit country but that the scarcity is on account of severe neglect and a lack of monitoring of water resources and development projects presents some hope of harnessing water sustainably. It has further recommended “imposing regulatory measures to prevent the misuse of water and introducing rewards and punishment to encourage judicious use.” The last is something that South Africa did successfully to counter Day Zero.
Comparing old satellite photographs, scientists have seen how dramatically the glaciers that feed the mighty rivers of northern India have been disappearing. So what it essentially recommends is using latest technology to map water demand and use patterns and prevent wastage accordingly, including that of river runoffs. In fact, the existing volumes, according to the Central Water Works Commission, should be smartly managed for agriculture, industrial production and human consumption. For starters, agriculture needs to revolutionise processes. Crops are to be zoned according to water needed. So the wheat fields of Punjab and Haryana should not be growing water-sucking Basmati rice. One reason for the Cauvery crisis between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is the fact that sugarcane cultivation has been encouraged for years in its catchment area. It has been the same ritual in water-scarce areas of Maharashtra for decades. This requires urgent Central intervention and farmers, who have for years been molly-coddled and given free water and electricity, must now be asked to pay up, which will automatically help them plan their crops better. India ends up using a disproportionately high amount of water per crop – three to five times more irrigation water for crops than what is used in China, US and Israel. Rather than water storage in dams, we need to look into conservation, keep catchment areas open, harvest rainwater, recharge and recover traditional and other water bodies or tanks, re-use wastewater and go for intensive afforestation. The government has proposed more water gauging and measuring stations to better analyse water use patterns, but this is like building a stable after the horse has bolted. With this year’s monsoon not bringing the expected succour that the nation expected, we could be going thirsty sooner than expected. The Modi Government has the political capital to take some unpopular decisions around water usage because if it does not, we are looking at a very dry future indeed.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer