India is undergoing the worst water crisis in its history, according to a report by the government think-tank, NITI Aayog.
India’s water demand is estimated to double the supply by 2030 and around 21 cities in India including Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai will run out of groundwater if no preventive actions are taken, the report added.
Already, more than 600 million people are facing acute water shortages and about 200,000 Indians die every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
With droughts becoming more frequent in India, it's creating severe problems for farmers as 53% of India’s agriculture is still rain-fed.
Even the groundwater resources in India, which account for 40% of the water supply, are at an alarming stage and are being depleted at unsustainable rates.
And when water is available, it's likely to be contaminated. According to the report, up to 70% of our water supply in India is contaminated.At the same time, disputes between states are on the rise. Currently, seven such arguments are underway, the report highlights.
The NITI Aayog has developed a Composite Water Management Index for 24 Indian states, which assess and ranks states’ composite performance on water resource management on nine parameters covering resource augmentation, supply infrastructure, demand management, watershed development, water supply and sanitation in rural and urban areas, and policy and water governance.
The State of States
Among the states, Gujarat tops the ranking followed by Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh.
Other than these three states, there are seven states which are classified as medium performers (with a water composite index score in 50-65 range).
However, the majority of the states analysed in this report are low performers, with a score below 50.
Interestingly, several of the high and medium performer states - Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana are the water scarce states. These are states that have suffered from severe droughts in recent years.
"The action taken by these states and their subsequent good performance on the Index, are likely driven by necessity in the face of looming water shortages. This correlation shows, positively, that corrective action is starting in at least some of the areas that need it the most,” the report highlights.
The Trouble With The East
The north-eastern and Himalayan states are among the worst performers according to the report.
States like Meghalaya, Uttarakhand, Nagaland and Assam have the lowest scores out of all states.
“This is possibly due to a combination of high water availability, which reduces the imminence for water management and policy action, and the limited availability of monetary resources for investment-heavy programmes such as micro-irrigation,” the report said.
However, there are some outliers such as Tripura and Himachal Pradesh with an index score above 50.
According to the report, the states have performed well mostly due to supply-side management (irrigation and watershed development) and water-supply provision (rural and urban) measures taken by them.
Food Security Risk
The low performer states on the Water Index are home to 50% of the country’s population. It includes populous northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana.
Moreover, these states also account for 20-30% of India’s agricultural output.
“Given the combination of rapidly declining groundwater levels and limited policy action (as indicated by the low index score), this is also likely to be a significant food security risk for the country going forward,” the report added.
Out of 24 states analysed in the report, 15 states have improved their scores in 2016-17 as compared to the previous fiscal.
Rajasthan, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Sikkim have shown tremendous improvement in their index scores over last year. Rajasthan has improved scores across all the nine parameters.
“Rajasthan has also received a $100 million loan from the New Development Bank (NDB) in 2018 to improve the Indira Gandhi Canal system, water body restoration expected to be critical activities in the proposed plan, the report said.
On the other hand, nine states have experienced a decline in scores.
According to the report, these declines have been concentrated in groundwater augmentation, irrigation and rural drinking water.
Uttarakhand was the major loser, with a 10 point decline primarily driven by fall in the reach and quality of provision of rural and urban drinking water.
Other states such as Odisha and Tamil Nadu have seen scores decline.While Odisha also missed its canal lining targets and Tamil Nadu has not been able to utilise the potential of its irrigation assets to the fullest.