DROUGHT, overuse and intergovernmental disputes over water resources mean that India is undergoing the worst water crisis in its history, according to new research by a government-linked thinktank.
A report published by the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) – chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi – claimed that by 2030 the country’s projected water demand will be double the available supply.
“India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat,” it read. “There is an imminent need to … put in place interventions that make our water use efficient and sustainable.”
Out of India’s 1.3 billion people, some 600 million face “high to extreme water stress” and roughly 200,000 people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. The report said some 20 percent of disease in India is linked to contaminated water, which three-quarters of the country is exposed to.
Droughts, meanwhile, are becoming more frequent, creating problems for India’s rain-dependent farmers.
Interstate disagreements are also on the rise, with seven major disputes currently raging, pointing to the fact that limited frameworks and institutions are in place for national water governance.
The report said there are seven major ongoing disputes over water resources, which highlights the limited framework and institutions for water governance.
“Policies like several states giving free electricity to farmers or giving financial support for groundwater extraction – borewells and tube wells – results in uncontrolled exploitation and wastage of resource,” said director of urban water management at the Centre for Science and Environment Suresh Rohilla as quoted by CNN.
Water shortages would eventually shave some 6 percent off gross domestic product said the report.
“Primarily, water is not valued in India,” said Samrat Basak, director for urban water at the World Resources Institute. “It is very cheap in India. People think it is free.”
Additional reporting from Reuters.