Yojana Magazine Download (Water Management) July 2010
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In a report on India’s water economy, the World Bank has pronounced that India faces a turbulent water future. Even without this pronouncement, the fact stares us squarely in the face. Every dry water tap, every media report of water conflicts in different parts of the country, every image of thirsty man and beast and parched and cracked earth is a warning signal. Water is scarce. Our growing population, expanding cities, villages, industry, agriculture are unable to meet their water requirement and are engaging in indiscriminate extraction of literally whatever bit of the resource that they can lay their hands on. The changing global climate, as reflected in the receding glaciers of the Himalayas and the fluctuating patterns of the monsoons are worsening the problem.
The supply-demand gap for water is projected to rise to about 50 % by 2030, with demands doubling from current levels of 700 billion cubic metres to around 1498 billion cubic metres, and supply barely reaching 744 billion cubic metres. Per capita availability of water, as it were, is coming down sharply. Indiscriminate exploitation of groundwater has caused the water table to decline sharply in many areas, severely affecting its quality. It is not just a matter of adequacy in terms of quantity – the quality of water available to much of India is again a matter of concern. Even after years of work on Ganga and Yamuna Action Plans, and crores of rupees spent, we have not managed to clean up these rivers. The fate of our other rivers is no better. Our cities do not seem to be equipping themselves fast enough to deal with the increased waste generated by increasing populations and rapid industrialization.
As things stand today, our water management system is not sustainable. We need to make major changes in the way we manage and develop this scarce resource today. Fortunately for us and for the future of our country, the challenge of managing water sustainably has been taken up in right earnest by all stakeholders. The government has put in place many policy initiatives in the area and is constantly fine tuning them. The NGOs are supporting community action and have already managed to turn around many lives in extreme water scarce regions of the country. And most important of all, people are themselves waking up to the severity of the problem and trying to do their bit for conserving water and using it judiciously.