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Water scarcity is staring at Indian cities

Water is one of the basic necessities of life and it is increasingly becoming scarce not only in India but all around the world. However, in our country the problem is very severe as India is home to 17% of the world population while it has only 4% world’s freshwater resources.

According to a World Wide Fund (WWF) study, thirty Indian cities, including Jaipur, Amritsar, Kolkata, Mumbai, Kozhikode could dramatically face increased water risks, unless urgent action is taken to mitigate and adapt to climate changes. According to the scenarios in the WWF Water Risk Filter, the 100 cities that are expected to suffer the greatest rise in water risk by 2050 are home to at least 350 million people as well as nationally and globally important economies. Globally, populations in areas of high-water risk could rise from 17% in 2020 to 51% by 2050.

India is in for rapid pace urban development and by 2050 more people will live in Indian cities than in rural India. In other words, future of India, to a great extent, lies in its cities. As India rapidly urbanizes, cities will be at the forefront both for India’s growth and for sustainability. It is strange that most of the cities which get flooded in the Monsoon face severe shortage of water during summer. In other words, solution lies in our problems and we need to turn into mission mode get out this problem which is essentially a man-made one. For cities to break away from the current vicious loop of flooding and water scarcity, nature based solutions like restoration of urban watersheds and wetlands could offer solutions. This is our chance to re-evolve and re-imagine what the future of the cities could be.

Cities across the world have paid a high price in recent years due to worsening water risks. The way we are handling our water resources, India cannot be an exception to the recent experiences we have seen elsewhere in the world.

We use about 27% of water for bathing and toilet use. Approximately, a leaking faucet can waste 4,000 drops of water, which is equal to a litre of water. A flush of the toilet uses six and a half gallons of water. On an average one person wastes about 0-45 litres water per day. To understand it better, it is 30% of water requirement per person per day. 125 million litres of water wasted daily. Much of the problem could be solved by preventing water wastage and enhancing water management efficiency.

While improving urban water infrastructure and cutting water consumption will help reduce water risks, Nature-based Solutions – such as restoring degraded watersheds, reconnecting rivers to their floodplains, and restoring or creating urban wetlands – are critical to avoiding the worst-case scenario and to safeguarding economies and human wellbeing.

The Smart Cities initiative in India could offer an integrated urban water management framework combining urban planning, ecosystem restoration and wetland conservation for building future- ready, water smart and climate resilient cities. Urban watersheds and wetlands are critical for maintaining the water balance of a city, flood cushioning, micro-climate regulation and protecting its biodiversity. The future of our cities and sustainability lies in the efficiency in closing the loop by integrating water supply, demand management.

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