India’s growing water crisis


    In News 

    Recently ,it has been observed that Rural-urban water disputes are very likely to occur as scarcity grows, exacerbated by climate change

    Major Points 

    • UNESCO report : The UNESCO United Nations World Water Development Report of 2022 has encapsulated global concern over the sharp rise in freshwater withdrawal from streams, lakes, aquifers and human-made reservoirs, impending water stress and also water scarcity being experienced in different parts of the world. 
    • FAO: The new Water Report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) sounded a note of caution about this silent crisis of a global dimension, with millions of people being deprived of water to live and to sustain their livelihood.
    •  Water Scarcity Clock :the Water Scarcity Clock, an interactive webtool, shows that over two billion people live in countries now experiencing high water stress; the numbers will continue to increase. 

    Indian Scenario 

    •  India has only four per cent of the world’s freshwater resources. 
    • The Global Drought Risk and Water Stress map (2019) shows that major parts of India, particularly west, central and parts of peninsular India are highly water stressed and experience water scarcity. 
    • A NITI Aayog report, ‘Composite Water Management Index’ (2018) has sounded a note of caution about the worst water crisis in the country, with more than 600 million people facing acute water shortages. 

    Causes : 

    • Changing weather patterns and recurring droughts, coupled with increasing pressure on groundwater resources due to over-reliance has made India one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. 


    •  Sectoral and regional competition: The typical response of the areas where water shortage or scarcity is high includes transfer of water from the hinterlands/upper catchments or drawing it from stored surface water bodies or aquifers. 
      • This triggers sectoral and regional competition; rural-urban transfer of water is one such issue of global concern.
    • Issue of water transfer:A UN report on ‘Transboundary Waters Systems – Status and Trend’ (2016) identified risks associated with water transfer in three categories of biophysical, socio-economic and governance. 
      • South Asia, including India, falls in the category of high biophysical and the highest socio-economic risks.
    • Urban water use : According to Census 2011, the urban population in India accounted for 34% of total population distributed in 7,935 towns of all classes.
      •  Water use in the urban sector has increased as more and more people shift to urban areas, and per capita use of water in these centres rises, which will continue to grow with improved standards of living.
        • City water supply is now a subject of inter-basin and inter-State transfers of water.
    • Dependence on groundwater: It continues particularly in the peri-urban areas in almost all large cities that have switched to surface water sources. While surface water transfer from rural to urban areas is visible and can be computed.
    • Disputes  :Whatever be the source, surface or groundwater, cities largely depend on rural areas for raw water supply, which has the potential to ignite the rural-urban dispute. 
    • At present, the rural-urban transfer of water is a lose-lose situation in India as water is transported at the expense of rural areas and the agricultural sector; in cities, most of this water is in the form of grey water with little recovery or reuse, eventually contributing to water pollution. 
    • Burden on women : Fetching water in India has been perceived as a women’s job for centuries, especially in the rural areas. As groundwater resources come under increasing pressure due to over-reliance and unsustainable consumption, wells, ponds and tanks dry up. This has escalated the water crisis and placed an even greater burden of accessing water on women.

    Steps Taken so far 

    • National Water Policy: National Water Policy (2012):It  has been formulated by the Department of Water Resources, RD & GR, inter-alia advocates rainwater harvesting and conservation of water and highlights the need for augmenting the availability of water through direct use of rainfall. 
    • Groundwater legislation: The Ministry has circulated a Model Bill to all the States/UTs to enable them to enact suitable groundwater legislation for the regulation of its development, which also includes the provision of rainwater harvesting. So far, 19 States/UTs have adopted and implemented groundwater legislation.
    • Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA): It has been constituted under Section 3 (3) of the “Environment (Protection) Act, 1986” for the purpose of regulation and control of groundwater development and management in the Country.
    • Master Plan for Artificial Recharge to Groundwater- 2020: It has been prepared by CGWB in consultation with States/UTs which is a macro-level plan indicating various structures for the different terrain conditions of the country including estimated cost. 
    • National water Awards: The Department of Water Resources, RD& GR has instituted National Water awards to incentivize good practices in water conservation and groundwater recharge.
    • Mass awareness programmes: Training, Seminars, Workshops, Exhibitions, Trade Fares and Painting Competitions etc. are conducted from time to time each year under the Information, Education & Communication (IEC) Scheme of DoWR, RD & GR in various parts of the Country to promote rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge to groundwater.
    • Mission Water Conservation: The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare has developed an actionable framework for Natural Resources Management (NRM), titled ‘Mission Water Conservation” to ensure gainful utilization of funds. 
    • Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY): It is an Rs.6000 crore scheme with World Bank funding, for sustainable management of groundwater with community participation is being taken up in the identified over-exploited and water-stressed areas fall in the States of Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.


    •  A system perspective and catchment scale-based approach are necessary to link reallocation of water with wider discussions on development, infrastructure investment, fostering an rural-urban partnership and adopting an integrated approach in water management.
    • Institutional strengthening can offer entry points and provide opportunities to build flexibility into water resource allocation at a regional level, enabling adjustments in rapidly urbanising regions.
    •  In India’s 75th anniversary of Independence, it is time to examine the state of its water resources and ensure that the development process is not in jeopardy.
    • Water management must go hand-in-hand with vegetation planning to improve the ability of soils to hold water, even in times of intense and prolonged heat.
    • There is a need to work not just on storing water in millions of structures, but also plan for reducing losses due to evaporation.

    Mains Practice Question 

    [Q]Water scarcity is a major inhibitor to growth.Comment