Shimla battles worst water crisis in decades

June 25, 2018 05:57 PM

Punjab News Express/Y.S. RANA
SHIMLA: Shimla in Himachal Pradesh famous tourist spot experienced the worst water crisis in its history. As the city received nearly 60 per cent less water daily since May 18 last and the crisis could hit the state’s economy by 7.2 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP). The crisis is writings on wall and the need of the hour is to see the writing. Not just Himachal Pradesh many Indian states are facing acute water shortage due to many reasons.
A new report of the NITI Aayog—a government think-tank—reported that 21 cities will run out of ground water 2020 affecting 100 million people; 40 per cent of country’s population will have no access to drinking water by 2030 warns the report. It highlighted the need for urgent and improved management of water resources not to make future tense.
Many reports have indicated depletion of ground water across the country. It is depleted at 10 to 25 mm per year between 2002 and 2016. On the other average rainfall declined from 1050mm during summer cropping of 1970 to less than 1000 mm in 2015. Similarly in the winter cropping average rainfall declined from 150 mm in 1970 to 100 mm in 2015.There is also increase in dry days from 40 per cent to 45 per cent in 2015.
In May water levels in major Indian reservoirs were 10 per cent lower than normal at this time of the year. The index evaluates states on nine broad sectors and 28 indicators including groundwater, irrigation, farm practices and drinking water. It is also found that groundwater augmentation can significantly improve with strengthening of groundwater regulations and strict implementation on the ground. The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has a network of 22,339 groundwater observation wells across the country to monitor and manage water resources.
The report also states that 14 of the 24 states analysed scored below 50 per on water management and have been classified as “low performers.” These states are concentrated across populous agricultural belts of north and east India. Gujarat performed best with a score of 76 per cent followed by Madhya Pradesh (69 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (68 per cent).Punjab scored 53 per cent; Haryana 38 per cent and Himachal Pradesh 53 per cent .
In such a scenario, country’s food security faces significant risks as low performers on the water index account for 20-30 per cent of India’s agriculture output and are home to over 600 million people. “Rapid urban growth, increasing population and a changing climate has made it difficult for many states to meet the water demands of the common man,” said Ritesh Arya, a renowned Geologist of International fame.
Monsoon rain has been below average in five of the past six years to 2018 and pre-monsoon has seen 11 per cent less rainfall in 2018 than the average which resulted in severe drought and water shortages in major part of the country.
The country which is usually endowed with good monsoons, it is a shame that we are unable to harvest water that is made available to us and end up with crisis situation, both in managing heavy rainfall and water scarce conditions alike, said Aarti Khosla, director, Climate Trends. Climate change has a multiplier effect and is likely to worsen in the coming years. The increasing and devastating human cost, combined with economic loss across agriculture and industry sectors caused by water shortage, could worsen if we do not manage water resources well, warned Khosla.
Water shortage will cause 6 per cent in its gross domestic product by 2050 warns the report. While nearly 70 per cent of water contaminated, how we can over come the water scarcity problem is a big question. Water shortage has another worry to tackle. It can fuel inter-state and international conflicts in India.
India holds about 4 per cent of global freshwater and 16 per cent of its population. Water intensive agricultural practices and growing water demand for industrial, energy production and domestic purposes are significantly stressing country’s limited water resource, said Smrat Basak, an expert on water related issues. It is also suggested to adopt expedited micro-irrigation techniques can significantly improve on-farm water use. India has the potential to bring nearly half of its net cultivated area—140 million hectares—under micro irrigation. But so far only 7.73 million hectares- drip irrigation covers 3.37 million hectares and sprinkler irrigation covers 4.36 million hectares as against the estimated potential of 69.5 million hectares has been covered under micro irrigation. Research shows that sprinkler irrigation can use 30 to 40 per cent less water while drip can use about 40 to 60 per cent less water compared to flood irrigation methods.
Though most of the states did well on infrastructure-heavy themes of major and medium irrigation and watershed development and have also enacted policies in line with the recommendations on the ‘policy and governance’ theme yet these were lagging on the critical themes of ‘source augmentation’ (groundwater), sustainable on-farm water use practices and rural drinking water.
This underperformance in water conservation poses significant water and food security risks for the country. The need of the hour is to strongly promote water management and conservation measures such as reusing treated wastewater, rainwater harvesting, monitoring water in-flow through real time gauging and moving towards honest pricing. Otherwise, the situation is likely to worsen as the demand for water will exceed the supply by 2050. Growing water crisis will hit country’s food security also. It’s a wake up call for governments as well as the people of this country.

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