India is heading for acute water scarcity. While it is estimated that over 2 billion people worldwide live in regions facing water famine, in India, this is a particularly severe crisis. Millions of Indians are living without clean drinking water, and the situation is getting worse since India’s demand for water is growing at an alarming rate.
World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 97 million Indians lack access to safe water at present, second only to China. As a result, World Bank estimates that 21% of communicable diseases in India are related to unsafe water. Without change, the problem may get worse as India is projected to grow significantly in the coming decades and overtake China by 2028 to become the world’s most populous country.
India has about 16% of the world’s population as compared to only 4% of its water resources. With the present population of over 1,000 million, the per-capita water availability is around 1.170 cu m/person/year. Severe water shortages have led to a growing number of conflicts between users in the agricultural and industrial sectors, as also the domestic sector. The lack of water availability and poor management practices also have manifested in poor sanitation facilities, one among the biggest environmental and social challenges India faces today, a report of the UNICEF points out. In addition to the increasing population, over the years, growing industrialisation, expanding agriculture and rising standards of living have pushed up the demand for water. Efforts have been made to collect water by building dams and reservoirs and creating groundwater structures such as wells.
Recycling and desalination of water are other options, but the cost involved is very high. But, still, the situation is not promising. It is the human nature that we value things only when they are scarce or are in short supply. As such, we appreciate the value of water once the rivers, reservoirs, ponds, wells, etc., run dry. Our water resources have now entered an era of scarcity. It is estimated that, 30 years from now, about one-third of our population will suffer from chronic water shortages.
According to the Planning Commission, the total water resources are about 178 million hectare metres, but because of limitations of physiography, topography, geology, dependability, quality and the present state of technology, only a fraction of it could be utilised. The demand for water for irrigation is increasing rapidly due to rapid increase in population, and new technology will have to be developed for making optimum use of the available water resources.
(Read the full article in the May issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2015)