By Prarthana Mitra
The government think tank, NITI Aayog released the results of a study on the state of water consumption and supply in India on Thursday, warning that India is currently facing its worst water crisis in history. It added if comprehensive steps are not taken, the crisis will worsen, as demand for potable water will exceed supply by 2030.
Currently, around 600 million Indians face high to extreme water deficiency, with over 2,00,000 deaths every year due to inadequate access to clean drinking water.
Tantamount to a nation-wide drought by 2030
The study goes on to cite 21 major cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad, that will run out of groundwater in the next couple of years, a shortage that stands to affect 100 million people.
Critical groundwater resources which supplied 40% of India’s water have depleted due to injudicious and “unsustainable” consumption, with 70% of India’s water supply now “contaminated,” the report noted.
Water management rankings
As part of the study, the NITI Aayog also made observations on water management, ranking 24 states on their practices and policies. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh occupied the top spots in the ‘Non-Himalayan States’ category, with Jharkhand, Bihar and Haryana coming last. Himachal Pradesh is facing one of its worst water crises this year, according to the report.
However, the real cause for alarm was that 60% of the states were marked as “low performers” on an index that took into account each state’s agricultural output. Some of these states that are ranked the lowest, like UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana are also home to nearly half of India’s population as well produce the bulk of its agricultural goods.
The index also noted that several of the usually high performing states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana have all faced droughts in recent years. Some Indian states, however, are doing a better job than others in managing their water.
“While Jharkhand and Rajasthan may have scored low, they have made remarkable improvement when compared over two years,” said Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog. Most of these improvements are due to efforts to restore surface water bodies, watershed development activities and improved rural water supply provision.
Aftermath may include famine
If things continue in this manner, without solid measures being implemented both on the individual and administrative level, the country could lose 6% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2050. This would also threaten food security as 80% of water is used in agriculture. “Given the combination of rapidly declining groundwater levels and limited policy action…this is likely to be a significant food security risk for the country,” the report says.
The NITI Aayog is also developing the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) to annually evaluate states water management in the country with the help of 28 different indicators covering various aspects of groundwater, restoration of water bodies, irrigation, farm practices, drinking water, policy and governance.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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