Do you like watching movies that are about the apocalypse? You know, the ones where humans battle it out for their basic needs. Well, good tidings, you’re living in the future already. A future without water.
Cape Town in South Africa is not the only place that is going to run out of water soon. A few years from now, your own city may run dry. You can no longer take water for granted. With temperatures soaring across India, the country is becoming drier and we are staring at a severe water crisis.
Why Should You Be Bothered About Water Crisis Now?
According to a study by Asian Development Bank, India will face a 50 percent water deficit by the year 2030, and may very well deal with this crisis by importing water. That is, if other countries don’t run out of water themselves.
The availability of water per person is dwindling at a pace faster than you can imagine. From 1951 to 2011, water availability per person dropped by 70 percent. Thirty years from now, the per person water availability is expected to be reduced to 22 percent.
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How Bad is The Water Crisis in Shimla, and Parts of North India?
Himachal Pradesh's capital Shimla has a population of nearly 2,00,000, who require 42 million litres of water per day. This does not account for the tourists, with a whopping 32 lakh tourists visiting the hill station every year.
But angry locals took to social media in June 2018, asking tourists to stop visiting the hill town for fear of worsening the water crisis. The Municipal Corporation of Shimla has been distributing water under police protection – and over 70 police personnel have been deployed only to deal with the water wars that have been reported across the hill town.
The situation is no better in Uttar Pradesh, India’s biggest state. In Rajasthan’s Ajmer, for example, residents are locking up their water tanks, fearing theft of water.
How Bad Is the Situation in Rest of India?
The national capital is fighting its own battle with water scarcity, owing to a Yamuna that is fast running dry, the legal dispute between Delhi and Haryana over water and the growing impact of climate change – with Delhi’s approximately 2 crore residents fighting for their share of the limited water supply. In March 2018, before Delhi’s dreaded summer began to bare its fangs, a 60-year-old man was killed in a fight that broke out during water collection from a tanker, in Delhi’s Wazirpur village.
According to an IndiaSpend report, 21 Indian cities–including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad–will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people. 40 percent of India’s population will have no access to drinking water by 2030, the article reported.
In agriculturally-rich Andhra Pradesh, the state government has reportedly told farmers to refrain from cultivating water-intensive crops because the Krishna river is largely dry beyond the Srisailam dam.
Karnataka isn’t faring too well either. Once known as the ‘city of lakes’, Bengaluru today makes headlines for its lakes that emit toxic froth. The Bellandur lake is a prime example of the city's struggle with sewage and industrial discharge, that seeps into its water bodies. India's Silicon Valley relies heavily on groundwater and the monsoon to meet the needs of its booming population – and is expected to be the first Indian city to witness ‘Day Zero’.
So, How Did We Get Ourselves Into this Mess?
India is not a water scarce country!
It receives an average annual rainfall of 1,170 millimetres and boasts renewable water reserves of 1,608 billion cubic metres a year. It is also the ninth-largest freshwater reserve in the world.
This frightening situation stems from our inefficient management of water resources.
- Rampant pollution and constant abuse of rivers
In the last five years, the number of polluted rivers in India rose from 121 to 275. Take, for example, the mighty Ganga. It flows through 11 states and is said to provide water to more than 500 million people. But how much of this water is actually fit for consumption?
- Over-dependence on groundwater
More than 60 percent of agriculture needs and 85 percent of drinking water supplies are dependent on groundwater. A 2018 report by the Central Ground Water Board states that the groundwater level has been decreasing from 0.5 metre to over 2 metres per year. The same study also said that in India, groundwater was exploited the most in Punjab, where 76 percent of the assessment units were found to be exploited. Rajasthan comes in at a close second with nearly 66 percent groundwater units exploited, followed by Delhi and Haryana. India uses more groundwater than China and the United States combined.
Why Is Rainwater Harvesting Important for India?
We currently utilise only 35 percent of the rainwater we receive. Take Tamil Nadu for example. In 2001, then CM J Jayalalithaa made it mandatory for residential buildings and government offices to harvest rainwater.
At the time, the move was criticised by the public. But 17 years down the lane, reports show that Chennai, which was then on the cusp of a severe water scarcity, is today better equipped to deal with the situation.
Let’s not even talk about how politicians are obsessed with building big dams that are profitable only for a select few, while the benefits of the humble community dams that can help conserve gallons of water are ignored.
We can go on with our chalta hai attitude, or we can do our bit to conserve water. Because, dear friends, we are already living in Mad Max’s apocalyptic world.
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