Water Crisis: Why has it reached such proportions?

Water Crisis: Why has it reached such proportions?

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The issue:

  • One of the worst water crisis in the recent past
  • Drinking water situation alarming
  • Reservoirs level shrinking
  • In the 91 major reservoirs across India, water levels on an average are at 25pc of its capacity
  • Western States are facing acute drought- marathwada, Latur etc
  • Southern States like Karnataka, Telangana etc have reservoir capacity at 17pc

What are the reasons?

  • A combination of factors apart from inadequate monsoon has led to this crisis
  • Magnitude of Crisis-It is probably the worst since Independence
  • It’s the issue of policy and management
  • Lack of clear policies to allocate water on priorities
  • Maharashtra has 36pc of India’s dams with 15.7pc irrigation, but faces water crisis
  • This shows poor water management

(For ex- using potable water for golf courses, maintaining cricket pitches)

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  • Per capita demand for water is increasing
  • No use of recycled water
  • Inter- state river disputes linger on for years-political premium is higher to continue the cases as the politics trumps timely resource management
  • Shifting weather pattern and intensive cultivation practises
  • Dependence on monsoon is too high
  • No Conservation of water
  • Lot of wastatge
  • contamination of water

(Eg- River yamuna, Ganga)

  • Sectoral approach in water management

(eg- Too many ministries and depts dealing with water)

  • Flawed long term policies – eg: Growing mentha, a water sucking plant in drought prone Bundelkhand region.
  • Agencies like NDMA(National Disaster Management Authority) does not react to processes

(eg-  No role of NDMA in educating people about the impending water stress and droughts)

What are the possible solutions?

  • India’s water lifeline is the ground water.
  • More than 67pc of irrigation is from ground water
  • Therefore, there should be a clear ground water policy
  • wherever Cropping pattern consumes excess water technology can be deployed(Eg -System of rice intensification can use water requirement for paddy-)
  • 4 possible steps to sustain this water lifeline:
  • understand and acknowledge the reality about ground water depletion
  • Protect the ground water recharge systems-wetlands, rivers, local water bodies, forests etc
  • Enhance these resources
  • Regulate the ground water use- it can be done at aquifer level and it should be mapped

Some Challenges :

  • Central Ground Water board is mapping aquifers
  • Shallow aquifers are contaminated due to over exploitation and fertiliser dischrage
  • Now how to extract the deeper aquifer without allowing the polluted shallow aquifer to contaminate the deeper aquifers
  • Prioritization of resources is lacking due to political considerations and vested interests

(For eg: Bharatpur bird sanctuary water was not allowed to let out water for migrating purpose to have enough water for sugar factories owned by locally dominant entrenched interests)

  • All these are avoidable tragedies which can be done with policy advocacy and regulation

How to overcome these challenges?

 Experts say that some of the following inititatives can be taken

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  • Bring out a national level water security legislation
  • More co-ordination between agencies and departments
  • Polluter pays principle and making mismanagement of water cognisable offence
  • Greater awareness and education about judicious use of water through all forms of media,worskhops and other mediums. Further, all the staekholders must be sensitised about this issue
  • use of schemes like MGNREGA for recharging aquifers, water conservation measures along with providing employment for the rural poor


1) India’s Watercrisis: Live Mint 

2)In the Lead up to a summer of disputes: Hindustan Times