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article imageReport warns 21 Indian cities will run out of water by 2020

By Karen Graham     Jun 17, 2018 in Environment
A new study by the Indian's government's policy think-tank Niti Aayog this week published some alarming statistics, warning that India is facing its worst-ever water crisis, with some 600 million people facing acute water shortage
The Composite Water Resources Management report which compiled data from 24 of India's 29 states warns that about 600 million Indians are facing high to extreme stress over water, and it's only going to get worse.
And because of increasing demand, 21 of India's cities will be out of groundwater by 2020, an alarming situation that also threatens food security, seeing as 80 percent of water is used for agriculture.
What is particularly disheartening is that many cities and towns in India regularly run out of water in the summertime, simply because they lack the proper infrastructure to deliver water to the inside of homes. "Critical groundwater resources, which account for 40 percent of our water supply, are being depleted at unsustainable rates," the report said.
The majority of India's 1.25 billion population lives in the countryside  and winning rural vot...
The majority of India's 1.25 billion population lives in the countryside, and winning rural voters is key to election victory in the world's largest democracy
SAM PANTHAKY, AFP/File
The study stressed the need for the government to take action on restoring water bodies, otherwise, the situation could lead to conflicts within the country. However, India is already plagued with groundwater contaminated with arsenic and fluoride, both posing human health risks.
And to add insult to injury, a study published by Duke University earlier this month found widespread uranium contamination in aquifer-drawn groundwater in 16 Indian states.
India's water problems
The hard fact to digest is that over 200,000 people die every year in India due to a lack of access to safe water. And we are not talking about contamination from arsenic and uranium, although this is a serious issue. Add water contaminated with feces, agricultural chemicals and effluent from factories.
Outlet of a tube well to a temporary reservoir. There were about 5 million wells in 1950-51 and thei...
Outlet of a tube well to a temporary reservoir. There were about 5 million wells in 1950-51 and their number has now increased to about 12 million in India.
Dgrepaec
We can certainly add unwise and uninformed choices, along with a warming climate that has already impacted climate and rain cycles. "Part of this is because of the rising temperature, and the changing rainfall patterns that come with the changing climate," author Mridula Ramesh said.
Al-Jazeera reports that last week, women in Morbi, in the state of Gujarat, smashed and broke water pots in protesting the worsening water shortages.
In Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat, there have been tensions over water allocations for two reservoirs connected to the Narmada river. It has gotten so bad the Gujarat government in March halted irrigation water from the river and appealed to farmers not to plant crops.
Onlookers view the corpses along the banks of the Ganges. Notice the low water level.
Onlookers view the corpses along the banks of the Ganges. Notice the low water level.
YouTube
Tensions have already raised their ugly heads - with eleven states already locked in at least seven major disputes over the sharing of river water. Violent disputes over sharing the Cauvery river's water between the southern Indian states Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have left scores of people dead.
And India is not only plagued with internal water fights — the country has had long-standing disputes with China, Pakistan and Bangladesh over sharing of water from rivers that cross national boundaries.
The crisis will only get worse
As the population continues to grow and more people end up migrating from rural areas to cities and towns, increased stress on already weakened or depleted water supplies will only be made worse. The report estimates that demand for water will be twice as much as the available supply by 2030.
Gujarat has achieved a 100% score in the ‘Rural drinking water’ theme of the Water Index  implyi...
Gujarat has achieved a 100% score in the ‘Rural drinking water’ theme of the Water Index, implying that it provides clean water to all of its 35 million rural residents. .
Niti Aayog report
And while 15 of the 24 states scored better than they did the previous year, leading to one of the report's conclusions that "water management is improving across-the-board," it was the rest of the report that is raising alarm bells.
Uttar Pradesh and Haryana in the north and Bihar and Jharkhand in the east scored the lowest. These states are also home to nearly half of India's population as well as the bulk of its agricultural produce.
The report cites some specific facts about the water crisis going on today in India:
1. 75 percent of households do not have drinking water on premise. 84 percent of rural households do not have piped water access.
2. 70 percent of our water is contaminated; India is currently ranked 120 among 122 countries in the water quality index.
3. 21 cities, including New Delhi, Bengaluru, and Chennai, will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people.
But, the report said, policymakers face a difficult situation because there is not enough data available on how households and industries use and manage water. And to sum it up, the report states "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."
More about India, Water crisis, NITI, Groundwater, urban water resources
 
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