This World Water Day focuses on ‘waste water’. As India is experiencing acute water scarcity, it is important for us to know the current scenario of water scarcity in India.
Too much water too little to drink
There is life on earth because of water but this water is not enough to quench the thirst of people, as, according to the UNESCO estimates, the total volume of water on earth is about 1.4 billion cubic km, enough to cover the earth with a 3 km deep layer. The world’s oceans cover about three-fourths of earth’s surfaces, out of which fresh water constitutes 35 million cubic km or 2.5 per cent of the total volume. And about 24 million cubic km or 68.9 per cent is in the form of ice and permanent snow cover in mountainous regions, the Antarctic and Arctic regions and another 29.9 per cent is present as ground water (shallow and deep groundwater basins up to 2,000 meters). The rest 0.3 per cent is available in form of lakes, rivers and 0.9 per cent as soil moisture, swamp water and permafrost atmosphere.
Widening gap between demand and availability of water
According to the Report by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change on ‘National Water Framework Law’,water availability per capita has been plunging in India due to expanding population. The average annual per capita water availability in 2001 and 2011 was assessed at 1,820 cubic m and 1,545 cubic m, respectively. Over this period, India’s population rose 17.6 per cent from 1.02 billion to 1.21 billion.In addition the report also found that the availability of water may decline to 1,341 cubic m and 1,140 cubic m by 2025 and 2050, respectively. This account testifies the enormity of water scarcity in India.
When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water
India has seen an alarming fall in groundwater levels as it is the largest consumer of groundwater. While 80 per cent of India’s drinking water is provided by groundwater, there is sharp 65 per cent dip in water levels in India’s wells in the last decade. The states which witnessed this sharp plunge in ground water level includes; Uttar Pradesh, Telengana, Bihar, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra. While industries are overusing groundwater for commercial purpose, there is no safe potable water for the people to drink. Groundwater recharge and depleting reserves of groundwater is a serious concern that remains to be tackled.
Glaciers- Source of rivers are retreating
India’s perennial river like Ganges, Yamuna gets water from glaciers of Gangotri and Yamunotri respectively. Because of these glaciers these rivers flow throughout the length and breadth of country and fulfill the basic needs of people living along its banks.Hence these are also called lifelines of country. But with ever increasing global warming and climate change, its repercussions can already be seen in the form of retreating of glaciers. As the snow line and glacier boundaries are sensitive to changes in climatic conditions, these glaciers release more water in drought year and less water during flood time to ensure water supply during the lean years. One scary fact related to this is that, the 67 per cent of the glaciers in the Himalayan mountain ranges have retreated in the past decade, making the problem of water scarcity worse.
Incidents of recurrent droughts
Last year many states in India witnessed drought and experienced acute water scarcity. ‘Latur’ a small town in Maharashtra made the headlines due to intense water shortage. The whole situation was so bad that government had to send special water train/ Jal Doot. Similarly, many parts of India also badly suffered the problem of water shortage.
Nature has enough for our needs, but not for our greed. This famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi would be apt to mention here for the cause of water scarcity in the country which should be fixed before it’s too late.
In some parts of the country, the local population have found indigenous ways to save water for drinking and irrigation purposes, you can read about it here.