Water Scarcity – A Threat to Humanity
Author: Ritik Saluja, GGSIPU, Delhi.
In its report titled “Water in India: Situation and prospects” UNICEF studied that on average each year 600,000 children under 5 years of age die because of water sanitation related problems. This is just one aspect of how water scarcity can impact our lives.
This is a situation to question ourselves what is the reason for this scarcity. I simple explanation to the question can be that total usage of freshwater is far more than the freshwater recharged over a period of time. This difference between usage and recharge of freshwater is so usage is big that the freshwater reserves are depleting at an alarming rate. This problem has reached the stage where we can call it easily as a crisis.
Some major reasons for water scarcity in India are as follows :
- Inefficient use of water for agriculture: India is among the top growers of agricultural produce in the world and therefore the consumption of water for irrigation is amongst the highest. Traditional techniques of irrigation cause maximum water loss due to evaporation, drainage, percolation, water conveyance, and excess use of groundwater. As more areas come under traditional irrigation techniques, the stress for water available for other purposes will continue.
- Reduction in traditional water recharging areas: Rapid construction is ignoring traditional water bodies that have also acted as groundwater recharging mechanism.
- Sewage and wastewater drainage into traditional water bodies: Government intervention at the source is urgently required if this problem is to be tackled.
- Release of chemicals and effluents into rivers, streams, and ponds: Release of such chemical and effluents make the water unfit for drinking and for household purposes.
- Lack of on-time desilting operations in large water bodies that can enhance water storage capacity during monsoon. It is surprising that the governments at state levels have not taken this up on priority as an annual practice. This act alone can significantly add to the water storage levels.
- Lack of efficient water management and distribution of water between urban consumers, the agriculture sector and industry.
The scarcity of water impact our lives in almost every sphere but the most concerning one is the lack of availability of drinking water. Having access to clean drinking water has been recognized as a fundamental right. Even the UN has included providing access to clean drinking water as one of the important goals.
The solution to the problem lies in making very simple changes.
- The percentage of households which has adopted the rainwater harvesting techniques is very low. This one of the simplest methods to conserve water. Applying these techniques is really cheap. There will be no substantial difficulty that can come up. Thus every household should adopt these techniques.
- Irrigation in the majority of India is done using traditional methods. These traditional methods result in a waste of a lot of groundwater. Irrigation efficiency can be improved by switching from flood irrigation to sprinklers or drips.
- In industries, a huge amount of water is used as a coolant. There are other more efficient coolants are available but they are not used because of comparatively higher prices. Industries should instead of saving money pay attention to the growing concern of water scarcity. Further, in case water has to be used, possible because of various reasons then there should be the reuse of water.
- One another major reason for water scarcity, which usually gets underlined, is the increasing population. Thus spreading awareness about the benefits and needs of family planning can help to control population which in turn can help to come out of the water crisis.
- Law should be made and strictly implemented banning the factories from releasing harmful chemicals in lakes, ponds, etc.
- Provisions should also be made directing people not to waste water. Penalties should be imposed on those who waste water.
There can be a lot of other ways to control water scarcity but these mentioned above are the simplest ones. These changes should be made with utmost urgency.