Opinion Op Ed 13 Mar 2016 Warning: Dry days ah ...

Warning: Dry days ahead

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Mar 13, 2016, 2:44 am IST
Updated Mar 13, 2016, 2:44 am IST
The amount of water remaining in major reservoirs is lower than last year.
Though the monsoon has been erratic, experts say that the increasing population is the primary cause of the water crisis.
 Though the monsoon has been erratic, experts say that the increasing population is the primary cause of the water crisis.

India may face a major water crisis this summer as most major reservoirs have less than 30 per cent storage left as of February 25. According to the data published by the Ministry of Water Resources, the water storage in 91 Major Reservoirs of the Country on February 25 this year was 32 per cent of their total capacity. Experts have warned that people in some parts of the country will struggle to get even drinking water.

The crisis is likely to affect the Western and Southern regions of the country most. The Western Region that includes Maharashtra and Gujarat has 27 reservoirs under CWC monitoring having total live storage capacity of 27.07 Billion Cubic Metres (BCM). “The total live storage available in these reservoirs is 7.84 BCM which is 29 per cent of total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 48 per cent and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 53 per cent of live storage capacity of these reservoirs. Thus, storage during current year is less than the storage of last year and is also less than the average storage of last ten years during the corresponding period,” said a statement from the ministry.

 

Similar is the story in the Southern Region — Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, AP&TG (Two combined projects in both states) Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu — that has 12 reservoirs under CWC monitoring having total live storage capacity of 42.30 BCM. The total live storage available in these reservoirs is 16.91 BCM which is 40 per cent of total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 49 per cent, revealed the ministry data. The average storage on February 25 of last ten years in this region was 37 per cent.

 

Though the monsoon, which has been the major source of water for India, has been erratic, the experts feel that the increasing population is the primary reasons behind the water crisis. Per capita availability of fresh water has declined from 3,000 cubic metres to 1,123 cubic metres over the past 50 years.

Madhav Chitale, Stockholm Water Prize Laureate and former chairman of Central Water Commission, said, “The quantity of rainfall or number of rain days are not reduced. The only change is that the frequency of rainfall is disturbed due to global warming and changes in the atmosphere. Rapid increase in population is the biggest reason behind the water scarcity. The demand has increased manifold.”

 

Himanshu Thakkar, who is the coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) said that like last year this year has also been a drought year so far with deficit rainfall in some areas. Besides, he said, winters have been warm and dry. “Apart from these factors the pollution load has also added to the woes. It is needless to say that our demands are increasing,” he said.”

Mr Chitale pointed out that even in agriculture, a flawed crop pattern is aggravating the problem. He said that farmers want to shift to cash crops like sugarcane and even government policies encourage sugarcane. However, the amount of water used for cultivating sugarcane on a hectare of land is enough for 15-16 hectares for other crops. “Unfortunately all policies that are implemented are in favour of sugarcane industries across the country. On one hand people are not getting drinking water and on the other hand, sugar mills are crushing the cane and sugarcane crops are getting water supply,” he said.

 

He also advocated the need to build more dams to store the water received from rains. According to him, 80 percent of rain water flows into the sea during rainy season. “It is a long term solution. Each and every drop of rain water should be stocked either by dams, water conservation or in wells,” he said.

Efforts to do improve irrigation have been stymied by corruption. In Maharashtra, the Economic Survey of 2012 revealed that though Rs 70,000 crore had been spent on various irrigation projects in a decade, the state’s irrigation potential had increased only 0.1%. With accountability still not fixed for the massive waste, money and water continue to go down the drain.

 

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