India's Water Woes - Eastern Mirror
Sunday, July 21, 2024

India’s Water Woes

By The Editorial Team Updated: Jul 02, 2024 9:56 pm

Water disputes are not uncommon in India as states vie for greater share of river water amid growing populations, rapid urbanisation and agricultural activities. The long-standing dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over Cauvery water is a classic example. Sadly, the water crisis is only going to get worse due to global warming, extreme weather conditions and several other factors. Bengaluru and Delhi are in news of late for acute water shortage, chiefly caused by inadequate rainfall and depleting underground water levels. In fact, the Delhi government has moved the Supreme Court to cater to the needs of its citizens by directing the release of more water from the Yamuna River, but Himachal Pradesh has refused to release, saying that it has no surplus water. With such disputes likely to increase amid climate change, the government of India should seriously look into the matter and frame a long-term policy to prevent potential conflicts in future and ensure that people have enough water for household use as well as agricultural activities. The central and state governments can also explore other options, like setting up desalination plants, effective rainwater harvesting, treating sewage water, etc., to meet the needs of citizens.

Well, some argue that the water crisis can be largely solved by adopting sustainable agricultural practices. This holds water because agriculture is estimated to account for about 70 per cent of water use globally, while the remaining 30 per cent is for industrial and domestic use. However, it is easier said than done unless a conducive alternative is presented to farmers. The fact is that in India, agriculture is the source of livelihood for millions of people and contributes more than 16 per cent to the country’s GDP. The dependency on agriculture is even greater in states like Nagaland, where about 70 per cent of the population is engaged in the sector. There have been suggestions to give up traditional jhum cultivation, citing decreasing green cover in that state. However, this trend has more to do with urbanisation, timber business and other activities than the agricultural work that has been practiced for centuries. While better agricultural practices can be explored, disrupting the sector without providing a viable substitute will cause further crises, including a dip in crop yields, a decrease in agricultural activities, and poverty. Such a situation should be avoided. Meanwhile, the global warming-induced water crisis is bound to affect farming activities drastically, more profound and quickly than one could imagine. To counter this imminent crisis, it is pertinent to take preventive measures, including water conservation, enhancement of infrastructure like irrigation systems to minimise waste, and implementation of stringent policies to regulate usage and distribution. It is also important to look beyond supply and focus on the demand aspect. For now, building resilience through effective water management practices should be the way forward. This will help solve the water crisis, both for household use and agriculture.

By The Editorial Team Updated: Jul 02, 2024 9:56:22 pm
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