Water Crisis
Climate Government

The Worst Water Crisis for India in it’s History?

Last year June 2018 Niti Aayog released Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) to assess and improve the performance in efficient management of water resources. There’s a lot of uproar and mentions recently over media that India is going towards an extreme water crisis. Let’s analyse the whole water crisis situation of India and its solutions in this edition of the Critical Thinkers.

According to the Niti Aayog India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history. Water supply is limited and its quality is degrading continuously. Some of the facts that prove the statements are:

  • 600 million people face high to extreme water stress.
  • 75% of the households do not have drinking water on the premises.
  • 84% rural households do not have piped water access.
  • 70% of the water is contaminated. According to Census 2011: out of total 24 crore households, only 7 crore households are getting treated tap water i.e 70 % households are getting contaminated water.
  • India is currently ranked 120 among 122 countries in the water quality index.

-Source: WRI Aqueduct; UNICEF; WaterAID, Forbes India, Census 2011

Composite Water Management Index (CWMI): The CWMI is the country’s first comprehensive and integrated national dataset for water and is a massive achievement in the context of India’s water management. The Index can reinforce the principle of ‘competitive & cooperative federalism’ in the country and enable innovation in the water ecosystem.

Overall findings of the report:

The index evaluates states on 9 broad sectors and 28 indicators. Where 14 of the 24 states analysed scored below 50% on water management and have been classified as “low performers”. More importantly it says that 21 Indian cities including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people.

It has been iterated that about 200,000 people dying every year due to inadequate access to safe water. Annual per capita availability of water is decreasing consecutively. Which may further fall even more approximately 25% until 2025. And if the problem continues, 40% of India’s population will have no access to drinking water by 2030 and India would face a 6% loss in its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.

Underperformance of states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Haryana poses significant water and food security risks for the country as they account for 20-30% of India’s agriculture output and are home to over 600 million people.

What are the issues related to this?

India being heavily dependent on agriculture and 53% of agriculture is rainfed. This water crisis may increase the frequency of draughts and jeopardize the socio-economic conditions of the farmers. Moreover, the problems like declining precipitation and threats of climate change are just adding up to the problems.

Water pollution and groundwater contamination has resulted into 70% of water being contaminated. Organic and hazardous pollutants are entering the drinking water which poses immense health risks. Lack of proper waste water treatment and other negligence in tackling other wastes entering water bodies is just amplifying the whole contamination of water issue.

Interstate water disagreements are increasing, reflecting poor national water governance. This lack of coordination among States and lack of water data is creating more and more challenges. Data systems related to water in the country are limited in their coverage, robustness, and efficiency. Detailed data is not available for several critical sectors. Inferior quality, inconsistent, and unreliable data due to the use of outdated methodologies in data collection and limited coordination and sharing are resulting in this limited data coverage.

Need of the hour:

First and foremost we need to foster Cooperative and Competitive Federalism by formulating frameworks for national water governance, to improve Inter and Intra state cooperation across the broader water ecosystem. India need to move towards holistic river basin management adopting hydrological-basin approach replacing administrative boundary approach.

Equipping the  sources clean drinking water supplies and water treatment plants with the latest technologies will help in sustaining economic growth and urbanization of cities. CWMI needs to add more indicators like health, environment, productivity and efficiency impacts. Moreover, increasing public awareness and community participation can help big time. Leveraging the private sector players in the water treatment technology and mapping the data sets may give an added advantage in tackling this water problem. Data-based decision making will be a critical lever for effective water management in India.

Rankings (Non-Himalayan States)
RanksFY 15-16FY 16-17
2Andhra PradeshMadhya Pradesh
3Madhya PradeshAndhra Pradesh
6Tamil NaduPunjab
7PunjabTamil Nadu
14Uttar PradeshUttar Pradesh
Rankings (Himalayan and NE States)
RanksFY 15-16FY 16-17
1Himachal PradeshTripura
2TripuraHimachal Pradesh

-Source: CWMI Data

Worsening water crisis in Cape Town has highlighted the risks and challenges that lie ahead for many Indian cities. These crises have increased the momentum around effective water management, as between 2015-16 and 2016-17, about 60% (15 out of 24) of the states included in the Index have improved their scores. Many water-scarce states have performed better in the Index like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana. However, we still need to move ahead a long way and that too at a quicker pace towards a water sufficient India.

Photo Credit: Shy Sol (https://www.pexels.com/@solik) (https://instagram.com/isolik/)

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