Use less, conserve more, a water crisis is upon us all, says expert Kalpana Viswanath
Our country is staring at the looming water crisis. Recent studies have shown that groundwater is drying up in many cities across the country. The current water crisis in Chennai has been grabbing headlines. The same report also stated that 40% of the country’s population will have no drinking water by 2030. According to the report, India ranks 120th among 122 countries in terms of the water quality index. These doomsday scenarios are frighteningly real, and 14 states, including Haryana, had a very low score on water management practices. Currently, nearly 50% of the country is grappling with drought like conditions.
Experts have made many suggestions, including strict monitoring of groundwater levels and adoption of micro irrigation techniques. The most important change we can make is to focus on rainwater harvesting.
Currently, India captures only 8% of its rainfall, which is among the lowest in the world. Treatment of wastewater is another major area where the country needs to greatly improve.
In Gurugram, many sectors and areas have been struggling to get water. In fact, residents of DLF Phase 2 even went on a protest strike last month. Other areas that have been suffering include DLF phases 1 and 3, Sector 27 and Sector 43. Like most other Indian cities, the groundwater is drying up due to rampant extraction of groundwater.
In January 2018, the city of Cape Town in South Africa went through a severe water crisis. The city of four million residents was told that they were three months away from running out of municipal water.
The Cape Town crisis was termed Day Zero. Through a slew of measures — using buckets instead of showers, not watering lawns and swimming pools, the city reducing the water pressure and many other efforts by residents — a 30% reduction in the usage of water was effected. Cape Town was able to avert Day Zero and with a little help from Mother Nature, the region received average rain after four years. But a Day Zero is a possibility in many Indian cities.
This crisis also highlighted the inequality in water consumption in our cities. The poor living in low income settlements in Cape Town are constantly facing Day Zero and are used to living with much less water. Similarly, in our cities, in low income areas, people still stand in line for a bucket of water, whereas many others have the luxury of a running shower.
There are many steps that the government and the water ministry need to take, but it is also upon each one of us to begin to recognise that if the groundwater dries up, all of us will face the consequences. We can all use less water and should do it right away. We can begin by having very short showers, or even better get back to bucket baths. We should make use of water wasted during the reverse osmosis process of water purification. All flush systems should have the half flush option. Our Indian style toilets use much less water. If we start thinking about conservation, we will find that there are many little things that we can do, and all that add up to making a difference.
The studies have shown that we are not very far from a Day Zero in many of our cities. The government and all citizens need to treat this as a crisis and not wait till it becomes too late.