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Water scarcity in India: Call for Water conservation or hopelessness?

For decades, the shrill sing-song voices of tiny tots have uttered the following lines, to the encouraging smiles and applause of parents. Great! You have learnt a wonderful poem today. While those in the media glare are never at a loss for words when it comes to explosive rhetoric on nationalism, a bigger problem viz. the current water scarcity only manages to attract mundane comments.

Water-water everywhere,
Waste no water anywhere,
Sow a seed and water it,
See a lovely plant grow, from it.

Mythical India culture water crisis
India has high water scarcity (Source: World Resources Institute)

 

How bad is the Water Scarcity?

Most would agree that if the grim saga could be graphed, the point of maxima can be attributed to the situation in Lathur in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region. Here, the looming fear that the survival instinct can turn lethal on account of the water scarcity, has led authorities to invoke Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code that bars the assembling of more than 5 persons near wells and other water collecting sources.

Mythical India culture water crisis
(Source: oneindia.com)

 

An article by Anugraha Hadke lays bare, some troubling statistics. For instance, erratic rainfall for the past 3 years has left over 74% of the country’s farmland starved of water pushing the water crisis even further. Moreover, a whopping 50% of the groundwater is contaminated, with myriad toxics like fluoride, nitrates, etc. affecting several districts.

The worst-hit places:

Mythical India culture water crisis
Water crisis severity by states (Source: World Resources Institute)

Several states of the country are bleeping red on the radar, calling for urgent measures before the crisis turns into a ‘disaster’. Western India is particularly turning bone dry, with reservoirs in states like Gujarat and Maharashtra barely managing to fill 21% of their capacity, as against the usual decadal average of 44%. The situation is no less alarming in the Southern mainland, where the 3 major states- Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have been declared drought-hit. Here, storage levels in reservoirs have reached an abysmally low level of 17% of total capacity.

Mythical India culture water crisis
Villagers waiting for some water (Source: indianewsnetwork.in)

The zoomed in data on cities reveal that Jamshedpur, Meerut, Faridabad, Vishakhapatnam, and Hyderabad are the worst affected. Reports of the Urban Development Ministry indicate that residents of 22 out of 32 major urban hubs are facing testing times, wherein equilibrium in the water market has become a once in a blue moon thing. For instance, in Jamshedpur, excess demand amounts to around 70%.

Tackling head-on – local initiatives for Water Conservation:

While the impeding nemesis stares rural and urban dwellers in the face, there always crops up inspiring stories of local initiatives emanating from regions with the iron will to fight and not surrender to gloom and doom.

Manyali village in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra was once infamous for burgeoning farmer suicides on account of failed monsoons and perennial water crisis. A villager named Santosh, came up with the idea of a community well- an idea, which in a span of 3 years managed to evolve into a full-fledged water supply pipe system covering around 15 wells. Having achieved self-sufficiency for themselves, the villagers went the extra mile to help out communities in the neighborhood outside the ambit of their supply chain.

Mythical India culture water crisis
Locals testing water from a well at Manyali Village (Source: thebetterindia.com)

Today, the Puttenahalli Lake in Bengaluru owes its survival to a citizens’ initiative spearheaded by Usha Rajagopalan in 2009. ‘Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust’ (PNLIT) was at the centre of demands for immediate intervention in the face of growing encroachments on the lake bed. With concerted efforts in the form of monetary and labour contributions of citizens, the lake was restored and beautified. Its success spurred many other similar local initiatives that serve as the pillars of the city’s water security.

Mythical India culture water crisis
Puttenahalli Lake before & after (Source: puttenahallilake.in)

The way forward for Water Scarcity hit nation:

Headline-grabbing news of the crisis reaching epidemic proportions has elicited quite fervent brain-racking among the intelligentsia that has come up with certain viable long-term solutions for water conservation to steer the ship away from the iceberg.

Cooperative groundwater management has been accorded top priority. This involves government at all tires, empowering local groups with the understanding of the status of groundwater on a regular basis, so that extraction does not exceed the sustainable limit.

Desalination and recycling are two other viable measures with strong support from experts. Tamil Nadu was traditionally a state that often had to deal with the blow of unkind weather. However, today desalination initiatives of the state as a source of freshwater have somehow helped ease the water burden. Experts however, are of the opinion that recycling in addition to being cost-effective, also takes care of the problem of wastewater and is therefore, a much better long-term solution.

 

Mythical India culture water crisis
Desalination Plant in Nemmeli, Tamil Nadu (Source: thehindu.com)

Then of course, there is the issue of conservation. What India needs is a permanent wake-up call, not a snooze button in the form of news reports of water scarcity cropping up once in a few weeks or months. Measures such as those suggested above needs to be complemented by conservation efforts from the grassroots level.

Alysha Speer said-

“You never really know what’s coming. A small wave, or maybe a big one. All you can really do is hope that when it comes, you can surf over it, instead of drown in its monstrosity.”

The monstrous wave is already here, and we are struggling to keep our head above the water. Contemplating creative ways to win this battle can in fact determine if the next wave will be paying a visit at all.

 

We urge our readers to judiciously utilize water and avoid any kind of wastage.

 

We leave you with beautiful video on the story of water in the voice of Penelope Cruz.

Written by Bhargavee Das

Bhargavee is an avid reader and wants to be a powerful voice in the advocacy of positive change. Apart from deep passion for writing, she loves playing keeping keyboard and watching movies of various genres.

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