In India, the rate at which groundwater supplies are depleting is shocking. More groundwater is being consumed than the natural processes that replenish them. It’s not surprising, given the population of the country, that we are the largest users of ground water in the world, just behind China. The 2030 Water Resources Group, made up of private companies, argues that the “water gap” (between insufficient supply and excess demand) in Asia will only close once countries limit the water-intensity of their economies.
Main Causes For India’s Water Crisis
- Wasteful water use (mainly agricultural over-exploitation)
- Lack of sustainable water-management policies
- Insufficient public investment
- Massive Rise in Population and increase in population densit
- Climate Change
With the levels of ground water lowering it’s not too long before Hundreds of millions of people will be affected by flooding, droughts, famine, increases in the costs of food and energy, and rising sea levels. Moreover, this water crisis will also have far greater impact on Agriculture, public health and might also directly lead to inter-state wars.
Impact on Agriculture
60% of north India’s irrigation and agriculture is dependent on ground water, and 85% of the drinking water in the area is dependent on its ground water. The World Bank predicts that India only has 20 years before its aquifers will reach “critical condition” – when demand for water will outstrip supply – an outcome that will shatter North India’s food security, economic growth and livelihoods.
Impact On Public Health
India already has very high demands for safe drinking water around the country, and if the ground water levels keep dropping then the problem will become more ominous.The World Health Organization reports that 97 million Indians lack access to safe drinking water, while 21 percent of the country’s communicable diseases are transferred by the use of unclean water.
Threats of Conflict
Analysts are making their fears known regarding the growing competition for rapidly dwindling natural resources that might trigger inter-state or intra-state conflict. China and India continue to draw on water sources that supply the wider region, and a particularly concerning water body in question is the Indus River Valley basin that spans India and Pakistan. There is a fear that cooperation (or lack thereof) over access to the Indus River will lead to disputes as shortages become more real.
The crisis is real and we must act towards arresting the problem before it goes out of hand. For India to be water secure, we would need to ensure long-term access that is affordable, equitable, efficient and sustainable. Major industrial, agricultural and domestic water reform is therefore necessary.