Talking about water scarcity while sitting in the midst of deluge? True, it’s the sorry state of affairs of ours and many other developing economies. Many parts of our country are being badly affected by both floods and drought at different times of the year. Though floods remain for relatively for shorter period it also causes immense damage both to human life and property.
But the problems caused by droughts are also of the same intensity and at times even more damaging than the floods. In short, most of the families in India have to spend their life between two extremes of flood and drought and both are the creations of mankind.
According to World Resources Institute, 17 countries, which are home to a quarter of the world’s population, face “extremely high” water stress and India is one of those 17 countries. India is one of the 17 countries facing extremely high water stress, agriculture, industry, and municipalities are drinking up 80 percent of available surface and groundwater in an average year. When demand rivals supply, even small dry shocks – which are set to increase due to climate change – can produce dire consequences. Even those who have access to water are facing problems like irregular and erratic supply of water and also at times find contaminated/poor quality water in the taps.
By government’s own admission, more than half of the districts in India are badly affected by water scarcity. The danger of water scarcity spreading to other areas in the coming years is grave because of rapid ground water depletion.
In this regard, government’s recent move, Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA), is a welcome move, though has come little late in the day. It may be recalled here that on July 1st the government had launched JSA aimed at providing drinking water to every household on priority and in a sustainable manner. Over 3.5 lakh water conservation measures in 256 districts were delivered within one month of JSA launch. Out of total 3.5 lakh water conservation measures, 1.54 lakh are of water conservation and rain water harvesting measures, 20000 relate to the rejuvenation of traditional water bodies, over 65000 are reuse and recharge structures and 1.23 lakh are watershed development projects. Its not just the numbers but the kind of buzz it has created in the country which is heartening.
Union HRD Ministry’s decision to launch ‘Samagra Shiksha-Jal Suraksha’ Drive to create awareness about water conservation among all school students in the country is also a step in the right direction. The Drive if properly implemented it can help to promote water conservation activities for School Students, so that they can become competent, conscientious and committed water citizens of our nation.
Any programme of this nature to become successful needs to adopt a collaborative approach because of the involvement of multiple ministries, departments and organisations. Also, there is likelihood of obstacles being created by the water mafia which is very strong and active in many parts of the country. The programme can become successful only if these ‘interested parties’ are successfully and adequately tackled. To make this programme successful, this should become a people’s movement. Without people’s support this programme cannot achieve the desired results.
In order to tackle the problem of water scarcity India also needs to have reliable and robust data pertaining to rainfall, surface, and groundwater to develop strategies that strengthen resilience. This is one area, the government has not paid much attention to. The government should make this aspect too past of its JSA.
Its unfortunate that even after 70 years of independence we are struggling to provide basic amenities like water and housing to the masses. India is destined to become the 5th largest economy in next few years and 3rd largest thereafter. But this achievement has no meaning if large number of people are deprived of basic necessities like drinking water.