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Making our cities drought-proof

We all know Chennai is surviving on tanker water since ages. But this year is unforgettable in the sense that the city saw 200 days at a stretch without a single drop of rain and is now on the verge of becoming Zero City. It doesn’t mean that other cities in India are better off in terms of water availability. For example, Bangalore which is reeling under acute water shortage is now facing a danger of moratorium on construction of new apartments in the city for the next five years by the state government to tide over the water crisis. Cement manufacturers are seeing demand deceleration in various parts of the country and one of the main reasons for this situation being Cement manufacturers.

21 Indian cities will run out of groundwater by 2020 if corrective steps are not taken immediately. The situation is no better elsewhere either. Droughts are becoming more frequent, creating severe problems for India’s rain-dependent farmers. 600 million people in India face high to extreme water stress in the country. About three-fourth of the households in the country do not have drinking water at their premise. With nearly 70% of water being contaminated, India is placed at 120th amongst 122 countries in the water quality index.

The crisis is only going to get worse. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual 6% loss in the country’s GDP. The total availability of water possible in country is far lower than the projected demand, at 1,137 BCM. Thus, there is an imminent need to deepen our understanding of our water resources and usage and put in place interventions that make our water use efficient and sustainable.

Indeed, if nothing changes, and that too very soon, things will get much worse: because best estimates indicate that India’s water demand will exceed supply by a factor of two by 2030, with severe water scarcity on the horizon for hundreds of millions. A rapidly urbanizing and developing India needs to drought-proof its cities.

The government seems to have reacted very lately to the problem. On 1st July, the government launched Jal Shakti Abhiyan – a campaign for water conservation and water security. The campaign will run through citizen participation during the monsoon season. Whether this program has come a little late in the day? The government has reportedly identified 1592 water stressed blocks in 256 districts. Usually, Monsoon reaches its peak in July and August and is it possible to reach out all these blocks in two months? Work relating to rainwater harvesting, renovation of traditional and other water bodies/tanks, reuse, bore well recharge structures and watershed development should have started at least a few months ago. One may say that the whole nation was busy in general elections then. But water crisis is plaguing the country since last many years.

In all probability, we will be wasting one more year in our fight against water crisis and similar situation will be repeated next year too.

With 800 million people, or 70% of the country’s population, living in rural areas, and about two lakh people in the country dying each year due to a lack of access to safe water, this is one of the most critical service delivery challenges in the world. Unless we are able to bring about much-required improvements in water resource management and conservation in India in a coherent and collaborative manner, the impending crisis may shake the very foundation of the nation.

Our scientists may take us to moon. Our political leaders and economists may make us third largest economy in the world. But all these achievements have no meaning if we don’t have enough water to look after our daily needs. We need to make our nation drought-proof first.

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