India faces worst long-term water crisis in history, says government think tank

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Photo courtesy: Asian Development Bank

India faces the worst long-term water crisis in its history as demand outstrips supply and millions of lives and livelihoods could be at risk, said a think tank chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in its White Paper.

By 2030, water demand is projected to be double the supply, implying severe scarcity for hundreds of millions of people. The shortage will eventually shave around 6 percent off gross domestic product, the report said.

“India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat. 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% loss in the country’s GDP,” the report states.

About 200,000 Indians die every year due to inadequate access to safe water, the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog said, citing data by independent agencies.

“Critical groundwater resources that account for 40 percent of India’s water supply are being depleted at unsustainable rates,” the report said, calling for an immediate push towards sustainable management of water resources.

The think tank said it has developed a Composite Water Management Index with nine areas of assessment to help state governments manage water resources.

Interstate disagreements are on the rise, with seven major disputes currently raging, pointing to the fact that limited frameworks and institutions are in place for national water governance.

The report said there are seven major ongoing disputes over water resources, involving 11 states, which highlights the limited framework and institutions for water governance. Nearly 163 million of India’s population of 1.3 billion lack access to clean water close to home, the most of any country, according to a 2018 report by Britain-based charity WaterAid.

Water management is often currently viewed as a zero-sum game by states due to limited frameworks for inter-state and national management. These issues can be addressed by boosting cooperation at a federal and inter-state level, said the report.

A copy of the report is available at http://pibphoto.nic.in/documents/rlink/2018/jun/p201861401.pdf

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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