The Parched Tiger: UN Report Predicts Grim Scenario For India

Via the Times of India, an article on a recent UN report looking at water stress around the world:

As the world is already staring at impending water crisis due to climate change, population increase and pollution, a UN report has predicted that as many as 3.4 billion people will be living in “water-scarce” countries by 2025.

It also pointed out that the situation will be deteriorated further in the next 25 years (by 2050), culminating into instances of human conflicts in many parts of the globe.

The report, published on the eve of the World Water Day on Friday, indicated that the Indian sub-continent may face the brunt of the crisis where India would be at the Centre of this conflict due to its unique geographical position in South Asia.

Though the report has not specifically mentioned about the possibility of country-wise conflict, it identified river basins in the region which may pit India against Pakistan, China and Bangladesh over the issue of water sharing by 2050.

The report, which factored in scientific data and findings of various research institutions, said that Asia will be the biggest hotspot for bust-ups over water extraction, where water sources straddle national borders.

It said, “Areas of conflict include the Aral Sea and the Ganges-Brahmaputra River, Indus River and Mekong River basins”.

Obviously, the Ganges-Brahmaputra and Indus River basins are crucial for India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China (upper Brahmaputra) as far as distribution and sharing of water resources among these countries are concerned.

Facts, shared by India’s ministry of water resources, have already painted a grim picture for the country which has 18% of the world’s population with only 4% of the total usable water resources. Official data show that the annual per capita availability of water has already been decreased in the past 10 years (from 1,816 cubic meter in the year 2001 to 1,545 cubic meter in 2011).

As the country is heading for acute shortage when annual per capital availability of water will further reduce to 1,140 cubic meter by the year 2050, experts on the occasion of the World Water Day on Saturday called for urgent action to deal with it.

Environmentalist, Sunita Narain, said the country has to quickly resort to three-pronged strategy to handle the situation. “Hold water where it falls”, she said while emphasizing on rain-water harvesting as the basic and most urgent action.

Enlisting these strategies, Narain, director general of the Delhi-based policy group, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said, “We can deal with the situation by water recharging through decentralized manner across the country, handling water pollution through effective measures and making water conservation a national obsession”.

Many public and private organizations and research institutions, including the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) and International Water Management Institute (IWMI), too came out with many suggestions to save India from impending crisis.

They pitched for better use of technology in agriculture sector which is the biggest user of water followed by domestic and industrial sector. Institutions also called for several major policy decisions including rational water pricing, reducing water footprints and effective national legal framework for water governance.

Key points which may highlight the water availability position:

Global scenario

* More than 40% of the world’s population will be living in areas of “severe” water stress by 2050

* Pressure on fresh water resources will see human conflict in many parts of the world

* Areas of conflict include Ganges-Brahmaputra River, Indus River and Mekong River basins

* 768 million people, at present, lack access to a safe and reliable source of water

* About 20% of the world’s aquifers today are depleted

* Agriculture accounts for more than two-thirds of water use


* India has 18% of the world’s population; It has 4% of water resources of the world

*annual per capita availability of water decreases from 6,042 cubic meter in the year 1947 to 1,545 cubic meter in 2011

* annual per capita availability of water was 1,816 cubic meter in 2001

* annual per capital availability of water will further reduce to 1,340 cubic meter by 2025 and to 1,140 cubic meter by the year 2050

* average annual potential of ‘utilizable’ quantity of water in the country — 1,121 Billion Cubic Meter (BCM)

(surface water – 690 BCM)

(ground water – 431 BCM)

* estimated annual requirement of water by the year 2050 – 1,180 BCM (1 cubic meter = 1000 liters)

* 90% of waste water discharged in rivers does not meet environmental norms

* 65% rainwater runoff goes into the sea, which is a major wastage

* agriculture sector is the biggest users of water followed by domestic sector and industrial sector

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