The glass is all empty

India, April 2 -- That water is more than just a resource and that we need to do everything we can to save/harvest this precious resource is a no-brainer.

Yet, India seems to be way too casual about the way it is (mis)using this resource: across urban India, there is not much effort to harvest rainwater, and in rural parts, we continue to focus on water-intensive crops leading to dwindling water levels and a severe drinking water crisis.

Add to this the increasing demand for water from industries, and India is looking at a pretty parched future.

A water crisis is not only an environmental crisis, it can also have disastrous social ramifications: in many parts of India, successive droughts and decreasing farm incomes have led to large scale migration to cities and the trafficking of girls.

This year, even though the Indian summer is yet to set in full force, there is a drought alarm in several states: Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Gujarat, Kerala and Uttarakhand, with Maharashtra facing the toughest one in years.

In March, the Centre declared "the highest relief package in recent years" of over Rs. 2,892 crore for these seven states. Come summer, more states will clamour for central help.

The South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People points out that the 2012-13 drought in Maharashtra is a disaster of water management that comes accompanied with corruption and a water-intensive cropping pattern unsuitable for the drought-prone areas.

It is well known that there is no attempt by the state to curb either planting of sugarcane, or the running of sugar and wine factories in drought-affected districts.

According to one estimate, the sugar factories use up to 90 lakh litres a day. The water needed for one acre of the crop can irrigate 10-12 acres of food crops like jowar.

As we go forward, with climate change becoming a reality, India needs to choose the way it wants to go: the window of choices, as many rightly point out, is shrinking every day.

Industries should of course get the adequate water they need, but there has to be a fair rationalisation of the division of water between the needs of the people, especially the poor, and commercial activities.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.