Water is often referred to as a synonym for life, as it is vital for survival. Unfortunately, it is also a resource that is getting scarcer by the day across the globe.
As per the World Bank, estimates show that at the current rate of population growth combined with existing water usage patterns and practices, we are likely to experience close to a forty percent (40%) deficit between projected demand and availability of usable water, as early as by 2030. By 2050, feeding nine billion mouths is likely to result in a 60% increase in agricultural production, which might consume 70% of the available water resources, consequently resulting in up to a 15% increase in water withdrawals.
The World Bank also states that, “Estimates indicate that 40% of the world population live in water-scarce areas, and approximately ¼ of world’s GDP is exposed to this challenge. By 2025, about 1.8 billion people will be living in regions or countries with absolute water scarcity.” India is no exception to water scarcity.
The growing uncertainties of climate change have in fact made a bad situation worse, sooner we might encounter unprecedented levels of water scarcity across the country.
The World Bank differentiates “water security” from the concepts of food security or energy security, as the challenges associated with conserving water are not limited to just ensuring adequate resource provision. Proper management of water bodies and risks associated with the same, when mismanaged, are some of the key components of water security.
“Water security is achieved when water’s productive potential is leveraged and its destructive potential is managed,” says the World Bank. It further states that, “Water security suggests a dynamic construct that goes beyond single-issue goals such as water scarcity, pollution or access to water and sanitation, to think more broadly about societies’ expectations, choices and achievements with respect to water management. It is a dynamic policy goal, which changes as societies’ values and economic well-being evolve, and as exposure to and societies’ tolerance of water-related risks change.”
Water security is a significant, escalating challenge for many countries, including India, and effective water management strategies are being increasingly touted as the means to achieve the end goal of water security.
Availability and equitable distribution of water are constrained by several aspects, namely a rapidly growing population and urbanization thereof, climatic and non-climatic uncertainties, etc. Attaining water security in this backdrop is complicated. Hence, proper planning and water resources management need to concentrate on building capacity, adaptability, and resilience in the face of these hardships.
According to the World Bank, “chronic water scarcity, hydrological uncertainty and extreme weather events (floods and droughts) are perceived as some of the biggest threats to global prosperity and stability. Acknowledgment of the role that water scarcity and drought are playing in aggravating fragility and conflict is increasing.”
India is no exception to this. Especially in the summers, like most tropical countries, vast portions of the country receive little rainfall and experience high temperatures. Since agriculture is still the main consumer of water resources, not just in India but worldwide, preparing for the summers by treating and storing water throughout the other seasons has become a necessity.
Some water management strategies have been successfully adopted by several Indian villages already.
Back in 2009, Chellapur, about 150 kilometres from Hyderabad, was severely affected by a dry spell, but the nearby areas of Mahbubnagar and Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh were largely unaffected. The World Bank backed a pilot project in the area, in association with the Andhra Pradesh Drought Adaptation Initiative (APDAI), which saw the villagers in Mahbubnagar & Anantapur get together to pool in groundwater and share the same with the villagers in Chellapur. Borewells were connected through underground pipelines spanning close to 2 kilometres, and those who did not own borewells were also allowed to use this community-shared water.
Several villages in Panchgani, Maharashtra, benefited from a movement that started in 2010 for the revival of several springs identified as important water sources. As pumping water from dams was not viable due to the geographic location and prohibitive costs, villages in the area successfully managed their water requirements through borewells and these revived natural springs.
In 2015, the borewells of Sandharsi, Patiala, Punjab, failed drastically – constant use of groundwater had resulted in severe depletion of water levels, and good quality water was available only below 1000 feet or more. To combat this, the villagers came together and built ponds within their farmlands. This served two purposes. During dry spells, water from these ponds was used for irrigation, and during monsoons, the ponds resisted floods by collecting and storing the excess water.
The biggest challenge faced by the water management and administration authorities in India is the significant investment required in setting up the initiatives across the rural areas. The second hurdle is the availability and utilization of electricity.
However, the World Bank, the Government of India (GOI), and the various state governments have embarked upon several ambitious projects to streamline water management in rural India.
It requires Implementation.
Over the last twenty years, the World Bank has partnered with the GOI and seven states to implement a total of nine RWSS projects in India, in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Punjab, and Andhra Pradesh. The projects, valued at more than USD 1.4 billion, are expected to benefit about 24 million rural population across more than 15,000 villages.
The National Rural Drinking Water Program (NRDWP) guidelines of the GOI emphasize the involvement of the local government and communities in the planning, implementation, and management of drinking water supply schemes, along with capacity building and M&E systems.
The Ministry of Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation had also shared a long-term strategic plan (2011-2022) for ensuring drinking water security to all rural households. The plan aims to cover 90% of households with piped water and at least 80% of households with tap connections by 2022.
The Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) and the Nirmal Gram Puraskar (an incentive award for villages where no open defecation takes place) are both effective steps by the GOI.
But the most significant of these initiatives perhaps is the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act). About 75 percent of the MGNREGA funds have been reported to be utilised for water conservation efforts, complementing the Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) launched in 2019 for rainwater harvesting, river rejuvenation leading to safe drinking water supply, and sanitation.
While conventional wastewater treatment facilities are costly to build, consume electricity, and need advanced technical support for functioning, other highly recommended sustainable treatment methods like constructed wetlands, waste stabilisation ponds, and up-flow anaerobic sludge blanket and soil aquifer treatment work brilliantly for developing countries like India. A constructed wetland has been successfully implemented in Kothapally, Telangana. The East Kolkata wetlands are a prime example of how useful waste stabilisation ponds can be. As long as special care is taken to prevent flooding during the monsoon season, both these options can be safely replicated.
Pluvial flooding or urban flooding is nothing but waterlogging during the monsoons. Preventing this by improving the interconnectivity of nearby water bodies can result in better rainwater harvesting for dry spells.
Not all initiatives have to be taken by the government, though. Companies like Rite Water Solutions (RWS) and private citizens can also come forward to share the burden. Some initiatives like Water ATM System, Solar Water Purification System, and Solar Energy Based Water Distribution Schemes by Rite Water Solutions aim to overcome the hurdles of a heavy initial investment and electricity consumption that are required to provide clean water to the rural population. At RWS, our aim is a successful implementation of effective water management strategies across rural India, ensuring water security for all.
Rite Water Solutions is a water disinfection company that solely focuses on providing effective and affordable water disinfection and purification solutions to the rural and urban populations of the country.
Rite Water Solutions (India) Pvt. Ltd. is an ISO 9001:2015 certified organization with a mission of providing pure drinking water solutions. We are experts in providing water solutions and improvement in water quality in rural and urban areas. Our main objective is to bring cost-effective and sustainable solutions to provide safe drinking water to settlements that are suffering from biological and chemical contamination of available surface/groundwater sources.
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