India’s impending water crisis -2020 – A cursory look at NITI Aayog study

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.
 This was noted by none other than the NITI AAYOG of India.
What does NITI Aayog say on Water crisis in India ?
Below are more bits from their extensive report published recently. Every word is taken from that report.
  • 70% of our  water is contaminated;  India is currently  ranked  120 among 122 countries in the water quality index.
  • 40 % of the population will have no access to drinking water by 2030.
    21 cities, including New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people.
  • More worryingly, the low performers on the Water Index are home to ~50% of the country’s population, thereby highlighting the significant water risk faced by the country.
  • The low performers are, worryingly, comprised of the populous northern states of UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana, and others, and are home to over 600 million people.
  • Maharashtra has the highest number of large dams in the country (2,354), but only 18% of the state is irrigated, indicating a wide gap between irrigation potential created and irrigation potential actually utilized.
  • While  urban  water  access  is  high  on  average,  significant  gaps remain  across  the  country, and  waste water treatment remains stuck at the national average of ~33%.
  • Almost  none  of  the  states  have  built  the  infrastructure  required  to  recharge  groundwater  in  over exploited and critical units, thereby highlighting a key constraint in the recharging process.
  • 52% of India’s agricultural area remains dependent on rainfall; the future expansion of irrigation needs to  be  focused  on  last mile  efficiency.
  • Going forward, states need to increase investments in waste water treatment to both meet the growing demand  due  to  rapid  urbanization  and  enable  reuse  of  water.
  • On average,~40% of the urban households in the country pay for water, but this value varies widely across  states.In  eight  out  of  22  of  the  reporting  NonHimalayan  states,  more  than  50%  of  urban households  pay  for  the  water  supply.  However,  in  several  populous  states  such  as  UP  and  Bihar,  a negligible proportion of households pay for water. Similar variation takes place across North-Eastern and Himalayan states as well, ranging from 90% in Uttarakhand to 0% in Assam.


Some successful happenings :

Gujarat’s  rural  water  supply  programme,  led  by  the  state’s  Water  and  Sanitation  Management Organisation  (WASMO),  aims  to  supply  the  village  community  with  adequate,  regular  and  safe  water through   household- level   tap   water   connectivity,   including   households   of people from   backward communities.
Gujarat has achieved a 100% score in the ‘Rural drinking water’ of the Water Index, implying that it provides clean water to all of its ~35 million rural residents.

Madhya Pradesh’s ‘Bhagirath Krishak Abhiyan’ began in 2006 in the Dewas district through the efforts of a  local  IAS  officer  and  is  focused  on  the  restoration  of  farm
ponds  to  boost  irrigation  potential.  The programme  has  resulted  in  the  construction  of  thousands  of  farm  ponds  to  boost  irrigation  potential,
through the efforts of local farmers, government officers, and financial institutions such as NABARD.

Andhra Pradesh’s online water dashboard :For groundwater, this means that all units have been mapped and recharge infrastructure created where required, and levels are being monitored in real-time, with interventions such as a ban on extraction being implemented as per need .This  data  and  monitoring  system  has  helped  Andhra  Pradesh  achieve an 80% score on the ‘Source augmentation (Groundwater)’ of the Index,the  highest  in  the  country.  The  state  has  mapped 100% of its critical and over-exploited units and constructed recharge infrastructure across 96% of these, in addition to having created a regulatory framework for managing groundwater.

What Govts should do :

Governments  need  to allow  local  bodies  to  implement, maintain,  and  price  local  drinking  water  supply.  This  ensures  a  strong  incentive  structure
where the people most affected by the supply are the ones responsible for its maintenance and sustainability.

States need to create robust water data systems with real-time  monitoring  capabilities  to  ensure  that  the  data  can  be  used  to target  policy interventions and enable innovation in the broader water ecosystem.

Community efforts for the creation of water conservation   infrastructure   need   to   be   supported   through   the   provision  of   adequate financing; banks such as NABARD and RRBs are well placed to lend for these efforts given their past association with farmers.

Coming to Telugu states,
Andhra Pradesh:

Water index score has decreased a bit from 68.5 to 66.0
Things going well :
Groundwater restoration: All over-exploited wells in the state have been mapped and have recharging data.
Participatory irrigation : 70 % of irrigated area is maintained by WUA’s .
Data: The state has setup a state of the art , online public platform for water data , including GIS mapping and daily updates.

Things to improve :
Drinking water in rural areas : More than a third of rural habitats do not have full access to drinking water.
waste water treatment : the state treats only 26% of its urban waste water due to low installed capacity.
Urban water pricing : More than 50% of urban households are charged nothing for water , leading to overuse.

Telangana :

Water Index score has improved from 45.2 to 49.8
Things going well:
Surface and groundwater restoration :The state has restored 70% of the irrigation potential of identified bodies and 90% of critical wells have improved.
Urban water: 80% of urban households have access, with 75% of them charged for the supply.

Things to improve :
on-farm use :The state has not begun the process of power feeder segregation , is one of the few states to not charge for borewell electricity,and has negligible micro-irrigation coverage.
Rural drinking water : Only 55% of rural habitations have been fully covered, and there has been no improvement in water quality.

Link to NITI Aayog report :

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