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Make every drop count

india Updated: Jun 15, 2012 23:02 IST

You can call it a summer ritual. Every year, without fail, there are reports in the media on India's water scarcity and spats between states over the control of this precious resource. This year too, it's the same story. On Thursday, Delhi claimed that Haryana is "arbitrarily and drastically" curtailing the supply of untreated water to its two water treatment plants. Haryana denied the charge. However, Delhi is not the only metro that faces a water crisis, most metros face the same crunch. And the going is sure to get tougher in the future: according to a World Bank report, by 2020, most major Indian cities will run dry. Such warnings are not new for India; they have been coming for some time now: way back in 1992, a UN report had warned the country that "there will be constant competition over water, between farming families and urban dwellers, environmental conservationists and industrialists, minorities living off natural resources and entrepreneurs seeking to commodify the resources base for commercial gain". As things stand today, India is not water scarce, it is slowly sinking into water stress. This is leading to conflicts since 90% of the country's territory is served by inter-state rivers.

India's climate is not dry, nor is it lacking in rivers and grou-ndwater. Basically, India's water scarcity is a manmade problem thanks to poor management, vague laws, corruption and human and industrial pollution. A growing economy and a large agricultural sector have also put pressure on the water resources. Then there is the threat of climate change: erratic and unpredictable weather could significantly diminish the supply of water coming from rainfall and glaciers. As the demand for water goes up, India would face a slew of subsequent problems, such as food shortages, intra-state, and international conflict. According to a study done by the US-based Arlington Institute, migration and urbanisation would also lead to further shortage because people in the cities lead water-intensive lives than those who live in rural areas thanks to the amenities of urban life such as flush toilets and washing machines.

The only way to reverse this trend is to learn from India's traditional water harvesting methods, manage water better and install water harvesting systems in offices and homes. But sadly that is not happening. According to a report, only one councillor of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi out of 272 used the allocated money (R5 crore) on installation of water harvesting systems! Every year, the city gets 900 billion litres of rainfall and if the water harvesting systems are in place this year, we can easily conserve 300 billion litres. Along with these steps, it also needs to treat human, agricultural, and industrial waste effectively, and regulate how much water can be drawn out of the ground.