Growing water scarcity

Even as monsoon has just started to set in, large parts of India are suffering from an acute water crisis. It is a problem which has long been in the making and growing in intensity. It is a crisis the magnitude and seriousness of which was hardly ever understood by our city-based planners and administrators. As some experts have said, it is a “time bomb that is ticking away”. The facts are, indeed, terrifying. Take Bengaluru, for example, the silicon city of India. The water table in this city has shrunk from 10 to 12 metres to an alarming 76 to 91 metres, even as the number of water extraction wells has gone up from five thousand to nearly five lakh.
Water scarcity has affected not only hydro power but even thermal power generation. Coastal Andhra, large parts of western Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Odisha are about to face a huge water crisis. Hundreds of small rivers and rivulets turn into puddles of water during the summer months. There are a number of contributory factors that make this crisis hard to deal with, like climate change, changing rainfall pattern and uncontrolled over-exploitation of ground water. Stretches of the mighty Krishna river of the South become a thin stream during the dry season. In July, 2016, there was an official report that called for a complete restructuring of the Central Ground Water Board and the Central Water Commission for creating a new authority to deal with the impending crisis. Nobody knows what happened to that report. There is no visible evidence of the implementation of the recommendations of the report.
Perhaps our political class, now busy drawing up their strategy for the next year’s general elections, have little time or inclination to think about the water crisis. They are likely to be aware when the crisis bursts on their face and not a drop of water comes out of the taps in their bathrooms. An intensive campaign for swachchha Bharat and building toilets across the length and breadth of the country is a commendable job but the toilets will be useless if there is no water in them. Promoters and developers are building one high-rise building after another and selling them at fancy prices. Neither they nor their occupants think for a moment what will happen after a decade or two when the ground water level in the cities falls alarmingly and the water extracted is contaminated with arsenic and fluorides. There is still time to mitigate the crisis by judicious and economical use of the scarce commodity called water.

Thursday, 21 June, 2018