India is suffering the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat, according to the composite water management index released by Niti Aayog. Reflecting on the severity of the issue, the Niti Aayog said, “Currently, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. The crisis is only going to get worse. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual 6 per cent loss in the country’s GDP.”

“Water management is the country’s largest problem at hand. This report has reflected that those states which managed water properly have shown a higher agricultural growth rate. Madhya Pradesh has a 22-23 per cent growth rate, while Gujarat has an 18 per cent growth rate. This means that rural and agricultural economies have developed better, lessening migration and lowering the stress on urban infrastructure.”

The report on the state-wise performance on parameters of water management ranks Gujarat at number one in reference year 2016-2017, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. The worst performing states are Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Jharkhand.

According to the report of the National Commission for Integrated Water Resource Development of MoWR, the water requirement by 2050 in a high-use scenario is likely to be a milder 1,180 BCM, whereas the present-day availability is 695 BCM. The total availability of water possible in the country is still lower than this projected demand, at 1,137 BCM. “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,” the Niti Aayog said.

In terms of incremental change in index (over 2015-16 level), Rajasthan holds number one position in general states and Tripura ranks first amongst the North-Eastern and Himalayan states. The Aayog has proposed to publish these ranks on an annual basis in future, an official statement said.

The index comprises nine broad sectors with 28 different indicators, covering various aspects of ground water, restoration of water bodies, irrigation, farm practices, drinking water, policy and governance. For the purposes of analysis, the reporting states were divided into two special groups – ‘North-Eastern and Himalayan states’ and ‘Other States’, to account for the different hydrological conditions across these groups.