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The deepening water crisis

The deepening water crisis
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By: Lalit Garg

Due to adverse human behaviour, earth’s temperature is on rise and the resulting climate change has now become a threat to every aspect of human life, as well as to water bodies and rivers.

The dangerous impact of climate change are being felt at alarming levels on total water storage in major reservoirs and river basins, including the Ganga, Indus and Brahmaputra, which could lead to serious water consequences for people.

The latest figures of the Central Water Commission show the seriousness of this increasing water crisis in India. The latest figures show an alarming decline in the levels of reservoirs across the country.

According to the report dated April 25, 2024, the water available in major reservoirs in the country has declined by thirty to thirty-five percent in proportion to their earlier storage capacity, which is a big decline compared to recent years. This points towards a drought-like situation; the root of which is said to be the effect of the El Nino phenomenon and lack of rainfall. Life cannot be imagined without water. Apart from human- beings and animals, water is also essential for all forms of agriculture, vegetation and most industrial production processes.

But today India is standing under the shadow of a serious water crisis. Unplanned industrialization, increasing pollution, shrinking deserts and glaciers, falling water level of rivers, lack of rainfall, environmental destruction, insensitivity towards rampant exploitation and misuse of natural resources are leading India to an impending major water crisis.

Water levels in 150 major reservoirs across India are currently at 31 per cent, with South India being the most affected region, with 42 reservoirs currently at only 17 per cent of the total capacity. This marks the lowest water potential observed in various regions of India. The situation is worrying in other areas too, with reservoir capacity at 34 per cent in the west and 32.5 per cent in the north.

However, the situation in eastern and central India is better; they have 40.6 percent and 40 per cent of the active capacity of their reservoirs respectively. Rainfall last year was deficient, especially in South India. The 2023 monsoon was uneventful as it was an El Nino year, which was also – a climate pattern that typically causes hot and dry conditions in the region. This has created a lot of anxiety.

Currently, irrigation is also being affected, and there are growing concerns about the impact on drinking water availability and hydropower generation across the country. Looking ahead, more heat is expected in the coming months, indicating that a major water crisis is going to emerge in the coming days.

This reduction in water storage has occurred due to lack of adequate rainfall for a long period. Due to which, drought-like and unsafe conditions have arisen in many areas. Due to which various crops are being adversely affected. One reason for this is that even today half of the cultivable land in the country is dependent on monsoon rains. In such a situation, the future of agriculture completely depends on the vagaries of monsoon.

In fact, due to continuously increasing heat the water level is shrinking rapidly. Due to its serious consequences, water shortage has become serious in states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The country’s IT hub Bengaluru is facing a severe water crisis, which is not only affecting agricultural activities, but everyday life is also being badly affected.

In such a situation, to deal with any impending crisis, there is a need to intensify water conservation efforts from homes to all agricultural practices and industrial works. There is also an urgent need for major investment in water infrastructure and management systems to improve water storage and distribution efficiency. Along with this, there is a need to promote traditional techniques of water conservation. Also, there is a need to run public awareness campaigns to motivate the common people to promote judicious use of this valuable resource of nature.

By conserving water and ensuring adequate availability, we can improve the environment and also solve the problem of climate change. You may wonder how much water a human being uses in his lifetime, but does he try to save that much water? Climate change has led to 134 percent increase in flood events since 2000, and 29 percent increase in drought duration.

Water is a basic requirement for the existence of life on earth. Water consumption has increased exponentially with the increase in population, but the amount of clean water on Earth is decreasing. Climate change and rising earth’s temperature have made this problem a serious crisis. Like in many parts of the world, India is also threatened by an impending water crisis. About 18 percent of the global population lives in India, but only four percent of the water resources are available to us. The efforts that have been made since ancient times to deal with the problem of water crisis in India are expected to be adopted on a large scale and to bring about a water conservation revolution.

Rivers, which have been the source of pure water for centuries, are getting polluted, now climate change is having a detrimental effect on them. The water harvesting system is deteriorating, and the groundwater level is continuously depleting. Considering the very low percentage of safe and potable water on earth, water conservation or water save campaigns have become very important for all of us.

To bring more efficiency in saving water, a proper water management system should be promoted by builders in all industrial buildings, apartments, schools, hospitals etc. Atal Bhujal Yojana is running for groundwater management in 8220 gram panchayats of seven states of the country. This is the world’s largest program led by local communities. Also, efforts like tap water, cleaning of rivers, and removal of encroachments are being done under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The main means of saving water here are rivers, ponds and wells. Adopt them, protect them, give them protection, do not abandon them to the desert. People should start collecting rain water at the village level. Rain water can be saved by creating or renovating small or big ponds with proper maintenance. About 70 percent of the earth’s surface is filled with water. But, potable water is only three percent. Out of this, we are actually able to use only one percent of freshwater.

While using water, we do not think at all about saving water, as a result of which a situation of water crisis has arisen in most of the places. Water crises and critical situations have existed from ancient times. For this reason, there has been an ancient tradition of making Nadi, Pond, Johad, Bandha, Sagar, Samand and Sarovar etc. for water conservation in the provinces like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh etc., where nature and culture have been in harmony with one another. The forts of Rajasthan are famous anyway, but their water management is especially worth seeing and is also exemplary. The tradition of water harvesting is linked to the social structure there and due to the religious attitude towards water, natural water sources are worshipped.

(The author is a Journalist and a Columnist)

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