In mid June the Niti Aayog report was published highlighting the water crisis that is now taking place in India. The unique thing about this report is that it’s the first of its kind and took 2 years to complete. It had support from both the public and private sector which was remarkable and resultantly provides one of the clearest pictures of where India is at today in regards to water.
I found the report insightful and despite the fact that it is alarming there was a hint of optimism especially if the report gains political traction on the local, state and national level.
Here are some of the reports highlights which should give you a glimpse into the realities that India now faces with clean water. After reading these if you want to look at the entire report you can click on this link – http://www.niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/document_publication/2018-05-18-Water-Index-Report_vS8-compressed.pdf
- India is undergoing the worst water crisis in its history. Already, more than 600 million people13 are facing acute water shortages. Critical groundwater resources – which account for 40% of our water supply – are being depleted at unsustainable rates.
- Droughts are becoming more frequent, creating severe problems for India’s rain-dependent farmers (~53% of agriculture in India is rainfed17). When water is available, it is likely to be contaminated (up to 70% of our water supply), resulting in nearly 200,000 deaths each year18. Interstate disagreements are on the rise, with seven major disputes currently raging, pointing to the fact that limited frameworks and institutions are in place for national water governance19.
- More worryingly, the low performers on the Water Index are home to ~50% of the country’s population, thereby highlighting the significant water risk faced by the country. The low performers are, worryingly, comprised of the populous northern states of UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana, and others, and are home to over 600 million people36. The poor performance of these states on the Index highlights a significant water management risk for the country going forward. Further, these states also account for 20-30% of India’s agricultural output37. Given the combination of rapidly declining groundwater levels and limited policy action (as indicated by the low Index score), this is also likely to be a significant food security risk for the country going forward.
- These results highlight the growing national crisis of groundwater—54% of India’s groundwater wells are declining in level due to extraction rates exceeding recharge rates and 21 major cities are expected to run out of groundwater as soon as 2020, affecting ~100 million people42. This crisis is further driven by a poorly defined legal framework for groundwater that rests ownership with landowners and leads to unchecked extraction. This crisis is most acute in the Indian agriculture sector, where groundwater accounts for 63% of all irrigation water43.
13Source: World Resource Institute
14 Baseline water stress measures total annual water withdrawals (municipal, industrial, and agricultural) expressed as a percent of the total annual available flow for 2010. Higher values indicate more competition among users.
15Source: WRI Aqueduct; https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/6-3-crore-indians-do-not-have-access-to-clean-drinking-water/storydWIEyP962FnM8Mturbc52N.html; https://en.reset.org/blog/water-borne-diseases-india
16Source: Census 2011
17Source: State of Indian Agriculture, 2015-16
18Source: WHO Global Health Observatory
36Source: 2011 Census of India
37Source: Planning Commission Databook 2014; India Energy Statistics 2015
42 Source: WRI; World Bank (Hindustan Times, The Hindu)
43Source: FAO AQUASTAT database