[Answered] “It is estimated that in just 30 years from now, half of India will be living in cities”. In the context of threat of water crisis, how can we ensure the next generations water security to next generations? Suggest some best eco-management practices to ensure water security.

Demand of the question
Introduction.Contextual introduction.
Body.Developing water crisis. Some measures. Eco-management practices around the nation.
Conclusion.Way forward.

The demand for water in India is steeply increasing. India’s population which was 1.3 billion in 2005 is expected to rise to 1.66 billion in 2050. There is also going to be a major impact on development in the form of urbanisation.  In 2007, 28.2% of the Indian population was living in urban areas and the urban population is expected to increase to 55.2% by 2050.

Developing Water crisis situation:

  1. Increased industrialisation will demand more water as its contribution to GDP will increase from 29.1% in 2000 to 40% by 2050. Thus, the demand for water will increase from 30 billion cubic meter in 2000 to 161 billion cubic meter in 2050.
  2. While the consumption of water in India will increase by over 50%, the supply will increase only by 5-10% during the next 12-15 years.  This will lead to water scarcity situation and most of the people, particularly those who are dependent on agriculture and living in poverty will suffer the most.  Water scarcity will affect the food production, biodiversity and the environment.  Environmental degradation will accelerate global warming, which in turn will accelerate water crisis.
  3. In the absence of harnessing rainwater in the forests and denuded hilly terrains, inadequate soil and water conservation measures are leading to severe soil erosion, silting of rivers beds and reservoirs and frequent flooding across the country.  Presently, over 40 million ha are prone to floods in the country.  One of the major reasons for soil erosion and silting of rivers is severe deforestation.  As a result of soil erosion, many of the rivers have been changing their courses almost every year damaging fertile agricultural lands. 

Some steps to ensure water security:

  1. Protection of groundwater and fresh water resources– Groundwater, that which is stored in rocks beneath the earth’s surface, is far more abundant than fresh surface water, less susceptible to contamination and requires less treatment to make it drinkable. Thus, it makes sense to utilise groundwater resources as much as possible. However, mapping of a country’s groundwater resources is often only partially completed. Lack of accurate knowledge of where or how much water there is in an area often results in over extraction.
  2. Augmentation of water resources-The solution is to tap all the possible water resources and make them available for sustainable use, while improving the water use efficiency.  This can be done by addressing various concerns and initiating suitable actions for development of new water resources, augmentation of available resources, prevention of water pollution and improving the efficiency of water use in all the sectors. 
  3. Increasing water storage capacity– Activities such as farm ponds, percolation tanks, water reservoirs and construction of small and medium size dams and rivers can retain more surface water, while increasing the ground water recharge.  Series of contour bounds particularly in undulating areas will facilitate percolation of water in the soil and improve the ground water table, while reducing soil erosion.  Gully plugging, construction of series of small dams on rivulets will help in storing water in reservoirs.
  4. Interlinking of rivers– It will help in preventing floods while improving water distribution in the country.  Control of water flow and floods will prevent soil erosion.  Presently, billions of tons of fertile soils along with precious nutrients are washed out of our fertile agricultural lands and forests.  In fact, the amount of nutrients lost due to soil erosion is almost equivalent to the chemical fertilisers produced in the country.  This highlights the impact of soil erosion control on the food production.  Reforestation of degraded forests and development of wastelands through afforestation will help in soil and water conservation.
  5. Judicious distribution of water for different uses-It can help in preventing water scarcity.  The water distribution for different purposes is influenced by powerful lobbies and vested interests. Many sectors receive more water than what is needed at the cost of others.  To overcome such inefficiency and wastage of resources, a suitable investment mechanism should be developed based on the needs and return on investments.  A transparent programme implementation mechanism and regular monitoring for quality can improve the speed and quality of the projects.
  6. Efficient irrigation practices– Efficiency in irrigation is most essential, if the country wants to face the challenge of water crisis.  As most of the crops are watered through flood irrigation, over 70% of the water used for irrigation is wasted.  Furthermore, as the water supplied is not measured, farmers have a tendency to flood the field with excessive water without any additional cost.  The Government of India should consider enforcing a ban on flood irrigation in the country.  Simultaneously, metered supply of irrigation water, recovery of water cost, promotion of micro-irrigation systems and involvement of water users’ group for water distribution would significantly help in improving the water use efficiency and reducing the cost of agricultural production.
  7. Watershed development– Development of watersheds is an important programme to make best use of the rainwater for agricultural production while improving soil conservation and biodiversity.  Government of India has given top priority for watershed development to provide assured water supply of agriculture in rain fed areas.  It is estimated that over 63% of the cultivated lands in the rain fed areas need to be brought under watershed development to conserve soil and water, which in turn would improve the crop yields as well as ground water table.  The watershed development programme is presently focussing on contour bunding and gully plugging, as the budget provided by the Government of India is just adequate to carry out these activities.  Additional funds are required to support the farmers to adopt improved agricultural practices.
  8. Control of water pollution– Excessive use of water for agriculture, industries and domestic uses is leading to water pollution, because such excess water is transformed into saline water, sewage or effluent.  Thus, rewards and punishments should be introduced for persuading people to make optimum use of the precious water.  Discharge of sewage and affluent into water bodies and rivers must be banned and recycling of waste water must be pursued and enforced. This will help in keeping the water sources clean and reducing the future demand for water. Treated sewage and effluent can be used for agriculture and industrial production.
  9. Desalination of sea water– Over 70% of the global water resources being saline, economic desalination of sea water is an excellent option to meet the future shortage of sweet water particularly to meet the human consumption.  Presently, desalination of sea water is expensive and non-popular.  However, with solar power, desalination can be a viable alternative to meet the water needs in coastal areas.
  10. Research and development– There is a need for investing in research related to ground water monitoring, weather forecasting, breeding water efficient and drought resistant crops and varieties which can cope up with the changing climatic conditions, arising due to global warming.

Some eco-management practices across the nation:

  • Mission Kakatiya,Telangana– Mission Kakatiya is a flagship program under Telangana government aimed at restoring minor irrigation sources of water like ponds and tanks. The objective is to enhance the development of Minor Irrigation infrastructure, strengthening community based irrigation management in a decentralized manner and to adopt a comprehensive programme for restoration of tanks and sources of water.
  • ‘Har KhetkoPaani’, Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh– The steps taken up during intervention were renovation of traditional water structures and promotion of crop diversification. Under the program “Har Khet Ko Pani‟ comprehensive Repair, Renovation and Restoration (RRR) of all components in the chain of Tanks was carried out throughCommunity Based Organisations (CBOs). Under More Crop per Drop, the advanced technologies were installed and the bore well mapping was done. By implementation of GIS based technologies like geo-tagging of assets the online application procedure was simplified.
  • Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM),Waghad, Maharashtra– The steps carried out during the intervention were awareness programs that promoted conjunctive use of surface and ground water and enforcement of water use entitlement which is monitored and regulated by Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority.
  • Jal Dal- Children’s Institutions for Water Management, Rajasthan– Due to lack of availability of drinking water, Government School in Godawas experienced poor enrolment and attendance rates. Children had to help their mothers fetch water from distant places and were at the suffering end of the problem of water access. The Gram Panchayat of the village constructed a 40,000 liter tank in school, enlargement of village pond and created a Jal Sabha in the village. To ensure maintenance of the newly constructed tank, a student body of 10 members called Jal Dal was constituted. The Jal Dal took the responsibility of cleaning the roof and ensuring clean water in the tank. They were also responsible for cleaning of silt chambers and meticulous functioning of the hand pump. The school children were also involved in environment conservation drives and in disseminating information about water stress to the villagers.
  • Mazhapolima Initiative, Thrissur District, Kerala– Thrissur District Administration along with various NGOs working in Kerala launched an artificial groundwater recharge program called Mazhapolima, meaning bounty of rain. In the rainy season, the rooftop rain water is led through pipes with sand filter at the end, to open dug well to replenish the aquifer. Under this initiative, employees of 100 NGOs received training to install roof water harvesting systems.
  • Some Traditional Water Management practices
    • Johads, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
    • Ahar Pyne, Bihar
    • Apatani, Arunachal Pradesh
    • Phad, Maharashtra
    • Kuls/Kuhls in Himalayan Region, Himachal Pradesh
    • Bamboo Drip Irrigation, Meghalaya
    • Artificial Glaciers, Ladakh

Urban centres should adopt, remodel and implement some of the best water management practices to avoid disaster. Te answer perhaps lies in the tendency of policymakers to discount the future and of their obsession of focussing on the here and now.

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