[Answered] “Strategy for water resource management require new approach and not the continuation of failed policies of the past.” Comment.

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Major issues causing water crisis. Why Water resource management need a new outlook?
Conclusion. Way forward.

According to the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) report released by the Niti Aayog in 2018, 21 major cities (Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and others) are racing to reach zero groundwater levels by 2020, affecting access for 100 million people. Although India has made improvements over the past decades to both the availability and quality of municipal drinking water systems, its large population has stressed planned water resources and rural areas are left out. In addition, rapid growth in India’s urban areas has stretched government solutions, which have been compromised by over-privatisation.

Major Issues leading to water crisis:

  1. Freshwater deficit: India’s water needs are dependent mainly on monsoon. Environmental changes and increasing population combined with lack of overall long-term availability of water resources is a cause of concern.
  2. Unsafe and Poor quality: Regardless of improvements to drinking water, many other water sources are contaminated with both bio and chemical pollutants, and over 21% of the country’s diseases are water-related. Furthermore, only 33% of the country has access to traditional sanitation. This lead to unavailability of clean and drinking water and endanger Indian population health.
  3. Groundwater stress: Many rural communities in India who are situated on the outskirts of urban sprawl also have little choice but to drill wells to access groundwater sources. There is no easy answer for India which must tap into water sources for food and human sustenance, but India’s overall water availability is under enormous stress.
  4. Demographic needs: Children in 100 million homes in the country lack water, and one out of every two children are malnourished. Environmental justice needs to be restored to India so that families can raise their children with dignity, and providing water to communities is one such way to best ensure that chance.
  5. Corruption and lack of planning: India’s water crisis is often attributed to lack of government planning, increased corporate privatisation, industrial and human waste and government corruption. In addition, water scarcity in India is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by year 2050. To that end, global water scarcity is expected to become a leading cause of conflict in the future.

Water resource management need new approach:

  1. Water availability is not only dependent on ecological conditions. Rivers here have been tamed, controlled, and managed in order to exploit them in the service of the economy, the people and the state. But the control and the exploitation, (i.e. the management patterns of these rivers) have created social and economic inequalities, sometimes even dramatic ecological consequences.
  2. Because of the rising tensions at various scales, government institutions should advocate a new water management approach in order to better integrate various national, regional, local stakeholders, as well as users from the agricultural, industrial, and drinking water sectors.
  3. The new approach must focus on the Integrated Water Resource Management, which is closely linked to the river basin. Water flows according to natural characteristics and does not respect administrative boundaries, therefore water should be managed in an integrated manner on scientific basis.
  4. As as most of the water is displaced or dried up instead of used, rain catchment programs must be framed and put in place. Collected water can be immediately used for agriculture, and with improved filtration practices to reduce water-borne pathogens, also quickly available for human consumption.
  5. Instead of relying on quick-fix proposals based on faulty logic, the city and state authorities should focus on addressing what underlies the actual problem. Reservoir depletion in general and a falling water table in particular. There should be government regulation, to curb the amount of groundwater a household can extract. This water should be metered and priced.
  6. Farm ponds are constructed near the farming field. The rain water which runs off the ground are collected by these ponds. These ponds helps agriculture in dry lands.

There is a clear disconnect between water, society and economy. Currently, we are interested in laying large networks, constructing huge storage dams, fetching water from 150 km and above, which involves a huge carbon footprint. We need to promote a decentralised approach, with a key focus on water conservation, source sustainability, storage and reuse wherever possible.

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