India is in the midst of an acute water crisis and things could get much worse


  • The water crisis is so severe that over 600 million people in the country are facing “high to extreme water stress”.
  • 54% of the nation’s groundwater wells are running out and 21 major cities are likely to run out of groundwater as soon as 2020.
  • Approximately 200,000 Indians die every year because they don’t have access to clean water.

If the news of constant dust storms claiming hundreds of lives, or of how India harbours six of the 10 most polluted cities in the world have you worried, brace yourself for some more bad news.

India has now paved its way to an unprecedented acute water crisis. According to a report by government think-tank Niti Aayog, the water crisis is so severe that over 600 million people in the country are facing “high to extreme water stress”.

The exhaustive report generated based on data drawn from 24 of India's 29 states clearly says that the “crisis is only going to get worse”.

According to the report, 54% of the nation’s groundwater wells are running out and 21 major cities are likely to run out of groundwater as soon as 2020. Plus, 70% of the available water is contaminated.

In fact, of 122 countries, India features at the 120th position in the water quality index. The report also states that approximately 200,000 Indians die every year because they don’t have access to clean water.

Additionally, 75% of India’s households do not have drinking water on premises and 84% of rural households do not have access to piped water. And, with a surge in people moving to towns and cities, the burden on urban water resources is expected to increase. So much so that by 2030 the demand for water will be double the supply.

The report’s main aim is to nudge the country’s States and Union Territories to use the limited water at their disposal in the best possible manner. And while some states have managed to improve their water management system, worryingly, the highly populous states and those that are heavily dependent on agriculture, feature quite low in the water management ranking.

Gujarat topped the list of states that managed its water resources best, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. On the other hand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Jharkhand were the worst performing states. However, one reassuring finding of this report is that some of the states that experience severe droughts in recent years have made it to the high and medium performers category in the water resource management index. These states include Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana.

While the report concluded that “water management is improving across-the-board" it is perhaps prudent to make note of its rather bleak statement that a severe water crisis that will potentially affect hundreds of millions is imminent if things do not change, and fast.
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