These famous lines of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ highlight the ironical situation that we all are in. India’s relatively wet climate brings extensive flooding in some areas while people in other regions spend years waiting for rain to come.
Globally, 3.6 billion people live in water stressed regions. This number is expected to reach 5.7 billion by 2050 according to MIT researchers. According to World Resources Institute’s water stress rankings, 17 countries are dealing with acute water crisis and 37 countries face ‘extremely high’ levels of water stress each year, using more than 80% of their available water supply.
In India alone, the situation is so grave that each year about 2 lakh people die due to inaccessibility to safe drinking water. Washingon hands and keeping oneself hydrated has become a luxury in certain regions of the country. It is no longer possible to turn a blind eye to the issue when world statistics on water scarcity continually remind us of the impending global security risk.
Let’s have a look at the Indian states worst affected by water scarcity. If yours isn’t in the list, it might be in a few years later.
Numerous folk songs in Rajasthan frequently outline the toil of hauling water home from wells located kilometers away. India’s largest state, with about 11% of its land, has access to only 2% of national water. More than half of the state is dealing with the crisis and in almost every election a sustainable solution of this issue becomes one of the demands of the voters. Short spell of monsoon coupled with scanty rainfall accelerates groundwater depletion. A study conducted by Central Groundwater Board revealed a decline of 62.70% in groundwater of the state between 2008 and 2018.
People in Bannivillage of Gujarat have no choice left but to consume saline and dirty water from their dug wells in absence of piped water supply. For the past three years, rainfall has been scant in these regions rendering these wells insufficient to meet the requirements of the villagers. The situation of Banni is repeated in several other villages of Gujarat. In more than 500 villages in 14 districts, water is supplied through tankers which often come at an interval of 10-15 days. Moreover, except river Narmada, all other water bodies and dams have negligible water. In the absence of proper measures, the situation of the state is set to get worse.
Punjab has seen lesser and lesser annual rainfall since 1998. The over extraction of groundwater, coupled with faulty cropping practices have the potential to make India’s most agriculturally prosperous state, Punjab, parched. While the problem is dismissed by officials for not being as acute as being projected, the water table continues to dip in Punjab at the rate of 25-30 centimeter per year. Besides, food grain production requires heavy doses of fertilizers that further cause severe damage to the groundwater.
The city of Chennai hit the headlines in 2019 for being one of the first major cities in the world to run out of water. While climate change and extreme weather have played a part, the main causes attributed to the crisis were lack of proper urban development. Not to mention that as the city’s population increased, no efforts were undertaken to reduce the pressure from limited resources and create facilities to meet the growing demands. Chennai serves as an example to other major cities like Mumbai and Delhi of what might go wrong when planning measures aren’t commensurate with growing population pressure.
In the absence of adequate measures, the situation of these states is doomed to get worse. The rest of India is no better than the above-mentioned states. Unless proper measures are undertaken, the regions currently not facing the crisis will one day be in the same position as the above-mentioned states.
According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), at least 30 Indian cities will face a grave risk of water crisis by 2050. The causal factors will range from poor management of available water sources, and water contamination and water pollution to large volumes of wastewater being poured into the rivers without proper treatment. All these factors can be controlled if proper measures are undertaken in the direction of sustainable solution of the issue.