By T Arjun Vijayaraghavan ~ Balaji Law College, Pune.
Our little blue planet is one of many in the solar system. As far as we know, it is the only planet that has life in it which is mainly due to the existence of water. But what if this water gets depleted and the earth turns into a barren planet? What would the implications of such a scenario be on our existence? An impending water crisis is on the rise, and in some countries, it has already brought out its sinful face. In this article, the author stresses on the need to take water crisis in the country seriously as almost 10% of the water resources are being wasted.
Pollution of Water Resources
India is home to approximately 135.26 crores people as of 2018, and it is on the rise exponentially. India has about 17% of the global population and 20% of the world’s livestock population. In addition to this, it has about 4% of global water resources. The rivers and streams that flow through this great country have nourished a symbol of beauty.
A 2007 study conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board showed that untreated sewage water was the main worry in the pollution of surface and groundwater. The main problem Indian cities face is not just limited to the fact that most of the sewage treatment plants do not work properly but also that there is a dearth in sewage treatment plants in many rural and urban areas.
The river water polluted by the untreated water is normally used for drinking, bathing, and washing clothes. A 1995 report claimed that 114 Indian cities were dumping untreated sewage and partially cremated bodies directly into the Ganga River. Although it was a sign of culture and tradition, it was creating havoc in another direction. Lack of toilets and sanitation facilities causes open defecation in rural and urban areas of India. All of these sum up to the blatant misuse of water and hence causes pollution.
India, A Water Stressed Country
According to the recent data, countries with a per capita water availability of less than 1700 meter cube per year are water-stressed. Hence, India, with per capita water availability at 1545 meter cube, is considered a water-stressed country. India is in dire need of assistance with regards to this and, if we do not act now, everything will be in a dire state. In 2019, The World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas ranked India number 13 out of 189 countries. It was under ‘extremely’ high water stress. So the level of uncertainty in the usage of India’s water supply is astonishing.
On August 15, 2019, the Independence Day address of Narendra Modi featured the topic of water sustainability. He committed 3.5 lakh rupees to Jal- Jeevan mission. He also advised the nation that water scarcity in many cities is a serious issue. People must raise awareness of this issue and inform others of the impending complications if it persists. Many people die without the adequate requirement of water and many by the contamination of it. He also iterated that the people of the country must strive to do four times more to preserve water than anyone has done in these past 70 years.
In 2017, it was reported that over 60 % of Indian irrigation wells have low water levels. It is a fact that groundwater ‘recharges’ during the rains, but as per reports, people have been extracting more water than can be recharged. As a result, many villages and cities suffer from draughts.
In 2018, the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog noted in its report about 70% of India’s freshwater on the ground and, the surface is contaminated. It also noted that over 200,000 Indians die because of contaminated water or due to contamination of water supply. Groundwater depletion not only deals with the loss of water resources but the eventual destruction of the land.
In the year 2019, the Indonesian parliament was presented with an unprecedented request by the nation’s President Joko Widdo. He asked for permission to relocate their capital to the island of Kalimantan. The current capital of Indonesia is sinking 10 inches a year. As per predictions, the city would likely be underwater by the year 2050.
The reason for this is similar to modern cities in India as well. The land is losing its grip and strength due to ‘strenuous’ groundwater extraction. Furthermore, due to this, the buildings are sinking due to the ground not being able to hold the weight. Hence, if this issue persists the world as we know could be consumed by the blue planet.
The Way Forward
On 21st December 2016, the International Decade for Action in its ‘Water for sustainable development’ 2018 -2028 put forth the following objectives
- Sustainable development and the integrated management of water resources for the achievement of social, economic, and environmental objectives.
- The cooperation and partnerships at all levels to achieve internationally accepted water-centric goals and targets.
This initiative was to deal with water-related challenges such as limited access to safe water and sanitation, increasing pressure on water resources and ecosystems, disasters, and an exacerbated risk of droughts and floods. The only solution for the impending doom approaching us is to support water action calls sent out by the United Nations Water Action Decade and Jal Shakti Abhiyan.
Groundwater extraction needs to be done with care and caution. Rainwater harvesting is an option to curb this issue. Several households have installed with rainwater harvesting systems for about 200-300 rupees. The same can be done for economically lower households for free of cost. Defecation and cleaning of clothes must be done in toilets and washrooms in homes and not on the banks of rivers.
Water is a precious element. People of India consider rivers as Goddesses, and it should be treated in that way. Before we lose our homes and our way of life, we must act to face this reality. We must strive to spread awareness of this growing issue and do whatever is possible to curb this.
 Keya Acharya, How India’s cities came to drown in sewage and waste, The Guardian, (Aug 01, 2012).
 National Geographic Society, Water : A Story of Hope, (1995).
 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Report, (2012). https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/monitoring/jmp2012/fast_facts/en/
 ICAR Report, (2014).
 World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, (August 6, 2019). https://www.wri.org/news/2019/08/release-updated-global-water-risk-atlas-reveals-top-water-stressed-countries-and-states
 Business Today, Independence Day: PM Modi announces Jal Jeevan Mission scheme for households,
(August 15, 2019).
 Water and Agriculture in India (GFFA), (2017). https://www.oav.de/fileadmin/user_upload/5_Publikationen/5_Studien/170118_Study_Water_Agriculture_India.pdf
 Composite Water Management Index (CWMI), (2018). https://niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/new_initiatives/presentation-on-CWMI.pdf
 The Hindu, Indonesian President seeks people’s support for new capital, (August 16, 2019).
 Water Action Decade 2018-2028 RIO.