Water Scarcity in India – UPSC GS3

  • NITI Aayog, states that nearly 600 million people are facing “high to extreme water stress“.
  • The yearly per capita availability of water has dipped from 5,178 cubic metres at the beginning of the 1950s to merely 1,441 cubic metres now.
  • This is below the water-stress threshold of 1,700 cubic metres.
  • Economic Survey of 2019 also states that India could be a global hotspot of water insecurity by 2050.
  • About 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water and 3% of it is actually freshwater that is fit for human consumption.
  • Around two-thirds of that is tucked in frozen glaciers and unavailable for our use.
What are the reasons behind water scarcity in India?
  • India receives average annual precipitation of around 120 cm, which is far higher than the global average of about 100 cm.
  • Still, the country faces an acute shortage of water owing to not carefully managing the water resources.
    • Most of the water flows down wastefully to the seas.
    • Only a small fraction of the rainwater is actually conserved in surface water bodies or underground aquifers.
    • Even the accessible water is not used judiciously.
    • Under pricing of water is a major cause. India was earning revenue from canal irrigation before independence. However, now, it has become a liability.
  • Concerns about the utilisation of water resources:
    • India has created an irrigation potential of 112 million hectares, but the gross irrigated area is 93 million hectares.
    • In 1950-51, canal irrigation contributed 40% of net irrigated area, but by 2014-15, the net irrigated area had reduced to 24%.
    • The average efficiency of irrigation projects in India is only 38% against 50%-60% in the case of developed countries.
Solutions for Water Scarcity
  • Education: There are plenty of opportunities out there that people can use in order to learn more about the world around them. By educating those who are not dealing with water scarcity, they can be in a position to help. Those who are dealing with it can get educated on how they can prevent the problem from becoming even worse in the future.
  • Recycle Water: There are plenty of technologies out there that allow you to recycle rainwater and other water that you may be using in your home. Consider learning about how you can recycle water. Not only does it help to prevent scarcity, but it can save you some money as well.
  • Advance Technology Related to Water Conservation: There has been a lot of work in the world of water conservation, but there is also a lot that needs to be done in order to ensure that the rest of the world is able to conserve water. Putting money and effort into conservation could be life-saving.
  • Improve Practices Related to Farming: Farming and irrigation are often a huge culprit when it comes to water scarcity. Because of that, we need to improve practices so that we don’t use as much water and those who are using water are using it to its fullest potential. Technology also needs to advance in this manner.
  • Improve Sewage Systems: Clean drinking water starts with a good sewage system. Without proper sanitation, the water in an area becomes ridden with disease and any number of other problems. By improving the sewage systems in these areas, we can prevent water scarcity from becoming any worse.
  • Support Clean Water Initiatives: There are organizations located all over the world that are looking to bring clean water to areas that don’t have it.
Agriculture as major sources of water exploitation in India:
  • Agriculture uses more than 80% of the water and most of it is used inefficiently because of the over-irrigation of farmlands.
  • According to various estimates, only 30 to 40% of the applied water is actually utilized by crops. The rest either percolates down to deeper layers or evaporates.
  • Also, there are cases of groundwater depletion in states like Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh etc.
  • Liberal subsidies, free supply of power for operating water pumps, are largely responsible for the indiscriminate use of groundwater in these areas.
  • Reforms needed in Agriculture:
    • Revision of water rates: The main objectives of charging an appropriate price for irrigation water are to incentivise its economic use, promote its conservation, and facilitate its equitable distribution. According to studies, even a 10% increase in water-use efficiency in agriculture can save enough water to irrigate an additional 14 million hectares of cropland.
    • Adoption of micro-irrigation systems: This will help to save water around 60 to 70%. Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has found that drip irrigation elevates the water-use efficiency to as high as 85 to 90%. Also, it helps reduce power and fuel consumption and the wastage of applied fertilizers.
    • Government efforts to promote the concept of “more crop per drop” through the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana is a welcome step for the efficient use of water resources.

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