As Cape Town has faced water crisis recently, India also may soon face the same problem. The reasons behind the shortage of water in India are rapidly dwindling groundwater levels and changing weather patterns. People in India must take lessons from this, before it is too late to handle.
The spectre of water crisis, akin to the one faced by Cape Town, South Africa, recently seems where India is headed to as well. While the Government is doing a commendable job in electrifying the last village in India, water — a basic requirement that is exceedingly becoming a scarce resource — is now all set to pose a greater challenge to the Government.
This hurdle might, in fact, prove to be difficult to resolve than the issue of scarce electricity as people can survive without electricity but when water dries up, life simply ends. Pointers also indicate the looming crisis ahead. Year-after-year, healthy monsoons are giving India a slip and it has been a long while since the country has had its fill of satiating spell of rains. The much-look-forward monsoons this year are a welcome respite after a gruelling summer, but the Indian Meteorological Department has already spilled water on the collective hopes of a parched nation by forecasting a 44 per cent possibility of a mediocre monsoon.
Rapidly dwindling groundwater levels are only adding to the criticality of the situation. In fact, successive droughts and erratic rainfall have led to excess extraction of groundwater. This in turn has led to a 61 per cent decline in groundwater level in wells between 2007 and 2017.
levels used to compensate for inadequate monsoon but successive spells of below normal monsoons have wreaked havoc on the ground water table which is now unable to get replenished. Add to this the human exploitation of the groundwater, which means that we are extracting more than the rains are able to replenish.
Moreover, the inability of the people to quickly adopt rain-harvesting measures in large-scale also translates to a lost opportunity wherein groundwater could have got some compensation through diversion of rainwater. These factors are now culminating into a disaster of sorts and posing a serious problem of acute water shortages.
The beleaguered condition of ground water table can be attributed mainly to the rampant drawing of water through illegal bore wells and proportionate apathy shown by the authorities to quell these practices.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Advance and Innovative Research in March 2018, 67 per cent of the residents or nearly four million in 1,797 unauthorised colonies in Delhi drew underground water. Most unauthorised colonies are largely dependent on illegal bore-wells to meet their water requirement in the absence of piped supply. This state of affairs has, in fact, earned the national capital the dubious distinction of being the third highest groundwater exploited State in India. The first position in overexploitation of ground water is taken by Punjab with a rate of 76 per cent; followed by Rajasthan at 66 per cent.
India needs to learn its lesson from global water debacles. The crisis at Cape Town has shown what unplanned urbanisation can do to water availability in the world’s urban centers. Not only are our metropolises headed to a dry future, the scarcity will increase as people are migrating to urban areas at an unprecedented rate. According to a study published in Nature, about 54 per cent of the world, or 3.9 billion people, live in urban areas and they will grow between 60 and 92 per cent by the end of the century. This will exacerbate an already grim situation, as the urban water demand will increase by 80 per cent by 2050.
The climate change stoked by man will further accentuate the problem as it will alter the timing and distribution of water. A study in the Global Environmental Change points out that this state of affairs exists when the average global temperature has not even risen by 1.5°C above pre-industrialisation levels. What will happen when it rises by 2°C is a really concerning question.
These trying circumstances, coupled with pollution of remaining ground water, will result in the human race getting locked in an irrevocable path towards self-destruction as water becomes a precious commodity and subject of intense global conflicts.
India currently has a dynamic leadership that is able to address issues of environment in an effective manner. It is crucial for the Government to see the implications if the current state of affairs pertaining to water resources are allowed to continue and take urgent corrective action. This alone will prevent a “dry future” for India and set examples for the world to follow.
(The writer is an environmental journalist)
Writer: Kota Sriraj
Courtesy: The Pioneer