Till drops do us apart
The concern for this resource may be growing but how judiciously we make decisions about the same would be a factor worth taking note of.
Flaunting success about getting access to water on a continued basis may not be a theme confined to cities with strong infrastructure back-up. On the radar there are small towns as well whose planners have had the temerity to redefine their idea of existence. Thanks to innovative planning a semblance of order has been brought to civic facilities. Be it the ones in Nepal or Sri Lanka or a mofussil town in Rajasthan or the interiors of Andhra, the search for water and its optimal use has had a fair proportion of success.
Let's face it. Leaking pipes, outdated irrigation system and the sheer audacity with which groundwater is used may seem like a script that goes on and on in a developing nation. Adding to the dicomfiture is the report that says that by 2025 one-third of the world's population won't have access to any form of water, with water sources drying up fast. But, on the other side of the fence there is a state that knows how to do business against odds. Unmindful of such emerging scenario, Israel has gone about its task with a commitment and a strategy that few can find fault with.
No Free Lunches
Free from compulsions of appeasing certain sections of society, Israel has a firm pricing structure in place that makes each individual to pay (no denying the fact that people will consume water judiciously if they are charged). Compare this to the position in India and we are witness to a host of programmes that not only encourages policy of subsidisation but also leaves enough room for irregularities to creep in as far as water management is concerned.
Two impressions in contrast and yet we have no inhibitions to accept that all is not lost on this front. Adding to the list of semi-arid areas like Rajasthan and Saurashtra facing severe water crisis is the prospect of Gangetic and Western plains doing no better in the times to come may not be far-fetched one. A rough estimate puts a shortfall of 25 per cent in the Gangetic and western plains as far as water availability is concerned. But this doesn't convey the entire picture as one statistics puts the water availability per head in our country to be even better than the countries in New Zealand, Singapore and Belgium. With availability per head in our country being 1947 cubic metres and for these nations varying from 532 cum to 1228 cum, there is something to write home about.
From 200 to 11,000mm
In a nation as varied as ours, the occurrence of rainfall is as dramatic as the quantum - from a mere 200 mm in Rajasthan to 11,000 mm in Cherrapunji. To tide over the crisis, arising out of the fact that we are largely dependent on monsoons, the states have tried to look for solutions in areas like water conservation, water harvesting, recirculation and reducing waste in distribution. But then how much has been done to address each one of them may again be a picture of contrast. Can the situation be rectified in the rural areas by dissuading farmers from going for water-guzzling crops and if farmers pursue this line of action much of the pressure on groundwater could be checked. Incidentally, water table is supposed to fall in areas where consumption of water is higher than the rainfall.
•Water availability per head in some cities of our country is the lowest is the common refrain doing the rounds.
•The policy of subsidisation (for power and water) increases the effectiveness of farmers to deliver better results in cropping pattern.
•There is a huge groundwater reserve, which won't dry up in the near future.
Gangetic and western plains are not going to face scarcity in future vis-a-vis semi-arid areas.
•It is, in fact, highest among nations; even better by European standards (many Indian cities produce more than the European average of 140 litres/capita/day).
•Besides this measure being a big drain on the exchequer, it makes farmers a dependent lot and dissuades them to branch out and experiment with the new.
•Already alarming signs are emerging and people have been told to use it judiciously lest they are left with fewer drops.
•A rough estimate puts a shortfall of 25 per cent even in these territories.