A Parched Tiger: India’s Water Crisis

Courtesy of The Financial Times’ Beyond BRICs blog, a report on India’s water crisis:

“India’s water crisis is more serious than its energy crisis,” said Montek Singh Ahluwalia deputy chairman of the goverrnment’s planning commission. “Everyone knows it’s a problem,” he added.

While the government says it has recognised the severity of India’s water shortages and the matter is at the centre of government discussions, targets are the last thing on their mind.

“We are nearing the end of our last five year strategy and are reviewing our policy. So we don’t have any targets as yet,” said Mr Ahluwalia at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum’s Indian Economic Summit which started today.

According to India’s last census in 2001, around 286m  – 28 per cent of the population – live in towns and cities. This is projected to reach around 575m by 2030, which will mean around 40 per cent of India’s total population will be urban. Yet no major cities and towns have a 24 hours a day water supply.

In many areas of India water supply is dwindling quickly mainly due to the mismanagement of resources, structural inefficiencies and ineffective and unclear regulations.

Experts have said that the government must invest more in infrastructure and management. “The water demand (in India) will exceed supply by 40 per cent by 2030 if it’s just a business-as-usual scenario and if the government does not spend adequately on infrastructure,” said Bharat Sharma of the International Water Management Institute in an interview with Reuters. “You have little incentive to use the water efficiently.”

Moreover, industrial and human pollution have further entrenched this water supply crunch, rendering what water is available contaminated and unfit for washing or drinking, the main reason for India’s huge sanitation problem.

Regional variances in the country’s water situation also means that while one third it is drought prone, one quarter of India is accustomed to floods and surface water clogging after a normal monsoon season.

India’s agriculture sector, which uses around 80 per cent of the country’s depleting water resources, has long been dependent on government subsidies to sustain crops. Last summer’s poor monsoon season put farmers, particularly in the northern green belt regions such as Punjab and Haryana, at risk as underground water levels fell.

“We need to think of water, energy and food security in the same breath,” said Arjun Thapan, special senior adviser in infrastructure and water, Asian Development Bank, and chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Water Security, 2010-2011. M Thapan stressed that water may soon turn into a conflict issue and called on private sector investment to help bridge the country’s water gap.

Ajit Gulabchand, chairman and managing Director of the Hindustan Construction Company and a co-chair of the Summit echoed this statement saying that “the private sector needs to understand that they are now expected by society to play a role that goes beyond the role for which their business was created. They have a transformational role to play.”

While India eyes double digit growth it is still lacking in basic amenities for its people.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 15th, 2010 at 9:37 am and is filed under India.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

Comments are closed.

© 2024 Water Politics LLC .  'Water Politics', 'Water. Politics. Life', and 'Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty World' are service marks of Water Politics LLC.