From the Viewsroom

The water emergency

Preeti Mehra | Updated on June 23, 2019 Published on June 23, 2019

Strategies to recycle and reuse water on a giant scale are needed

An impending water crisis on a scale hitherto unrecorded in recent history is predicted by 2020. Unless some miracle happens, it would mean groundwater touching zero by next year in 21 cities nationwide. That such a catastrophe was waiting to happen was known. In fact, this very alarming prognosis was underlined in the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) report released by NITI Aayog in 2018. But it failed to attract the attention it deserved, given the national preoccupation with the recently concluded general elections.

The NITI Aayog report had painted a rather grim scenario. It noted that the crisis next year would impact water access for 100 million people. But we don’t have to wait till next year to see the contours of the catastrophe waiting to happen. Just last month, the Centre issued a drought advisory to Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu, to use water judiciously as storage in dams had depleted. Reports of levels in reservoirs dipping significantly below the 10-year average in all southern and western States was suddenly cause for concern. Add to that the acute water shortage being felt in Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Maharashtra, and it is clear the country is already in the throes of a serious water crisis.

Unfortunately, not enough is being done by way of crisis management in the immediate and in the long term. Neither are people being prepared to confront a situation when a natural resource we took for granted is becoming scarce. Instead, an overdose of nationalism, Hindutva and opposition-bashing is what we are being fed through sections of the print, electronic and social media. Even the announcement by the newly formed water ministry (Jal Shakti) to reach piped water to every household by 2024 seems to be a case of putting the cart before the horse. What is the point in setting up a pipeline infrastructure when there will be no water to distribute? What we need is Central investment in reviving existing water bodies, drawing up strategies to recycle, recharge and reuse water on a giant scale. There is no time to lose.

Published on June 23, 2019
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