Five years on, India may not even get a chance to solve its on-going water crisis risking hundreds of millions of lives

Residents fill their vessels with potable water from a pipeline in Chennai.Photo/R Senthil Kumar)(
  • As many as 100 million people in the country are suffering from the nation-wide water crisis.
  • Moreover, 21 major cities are expected to be devoid of groundwater by 2020, says government think tank NITI Aayog.

No drops, No rain, nothing. India is suffering from its worst-ever water crisis in history. It has already started affecting hundreds and millions of lives and livelihoods across the country.

And, people are craving for water to drink as well.

“How will three pots of water be sufficient for an entire family of five,” asks a resident of Chennai — India’s sixth largest city — which ran out of water after all four reservoirs dried up this summer.

People rush to fill their vessels from a water tanker following acute water shortage, in Chennai.Photo)(

A large number of people are now washing utensils in dirty water, to save the clean water for cooking and drinking.

There won’t be any relief anytime soon as the southwest monsoon — accounting 80% of India’s rainfall — is late and is expected to be lower than usual in both north and south India.


As many as 100 million people in the country are suffering from the nation-wide water crisis. Moreover, 21 major cities are expected to be devoid of groundwater by 2020, says government think tank NITI Aayog

Only some parts of the country have received rainfall — that too almost a week late. Apart from the water crisis, the harsh heatwaves in the country took more than 137 lives .

India’s dwindling water sources worsened the situation. According to the Central Water Commission, two-thirds water reservoirs in the country are below normal levels.


Little Water, No Water — Current status of crisis across the country
Women fetch water from an opening made by residents at a dried-up lake in Chennai, India, June 11, 2019. REUTERS/P. Ravikumar TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

On 2 June 2019, a video of women filling bucket from the water leaked by a water tanker over the road went viral on social media, reported India spend.

More than 100 districts across the country are officially affected by drought. Most of the districts (80%) in Karnataka and Maharashtra (72%) are hit by drought and crop failure. As many as 8.2 million farmers are struggling for livelihood.


With scarcity comes strife. The state governments of Karnataka and Maharashtra — are now fighting over sharing water resources.

Every day, Maharashtra government is sending 6,000 water tankers to 4,920 villages and 10,506 hamlets or settlements ( bastis) in drought-hit areas.

In the South, the Tamil Nadu government had to sanction Rs 233 crore to initiate emergency water projects. The state capital — Chennai— had to shut down the air conditioning to save as much as 9,000 litres a day. People have to stand in line for hours and they get foul-smelling water that might have been mixed with sewage.


Karnataka too was forced to shut schools for a week due to water scarcity. Separately, residents of Bhilwara in Rajasthan have to keep water ‘locked’ in tankers since they depend on drinking water that is supplied once in 10 days. They are worried that it might be stolen!

No groundwater by 2020
Indiand stand in queues to fill vessels filled with drinking water from a water tanker in Chennai, capital of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Millions of people are turning to water tank trucks in the state as house and hotel taps run dry in an acute water shortage caused by drying lakes and depleted groundwater. Some private companies have asked employees to work from home and several restaurants are closing early and even considering stopping lunch meals if the water scarcity aggravates.Photo/R. Parthibhan)
New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad are amongst the 21 cities that will run out of groundwater by 2020. This will affect as many as 100 million people, claims a report by NITI Ayog.


Furthermore, 40% of India’s population will struggle for drinking water by 2030. With India’s water crisis deepening by the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently created Ministry of Jal Shakti that is going to look after the water resource management.

Modi also reiterated his promise to provide piped water to every rural house in India by 2024. However, analysts have claimed that won’t be enough.

A UN Human rights report claimed that soon only wealthy people in the world would be able to afford basic necessities in case of a drought, heatwave or famine.


Falling rainfall levels in India

School students offer prayers to rain god seeking rainfall following the severe water crisis, in Chennai.Photo) (

The Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) reported that 43.4% areas in the country are under drought as of 30 May 2019. A delayed monsoon is among the primary reasons for the current crisis.

In the last five years, 2017 was the only year when India did not experience drought, reported India spend. Both South west monsoon and North-east monsoon were lower than usual.

Last year, India Meteorological Department said that the ‘post-monsoon’ rainfall — responsible for 10-20% of the India’s monsoon — was lower by 44%. And the pre-monsoon rainfall was the lowest it saw in the last 65 years.

Experts fear that India is soon going to witness Day Zero if no action is taken on time.