It's Not Just the Weather: Behind India's Water Crisis
Source: Photo Credit: Flickr (World Bank/Curt Carnemark)

What problem do India’s cities and villages, farmers and industries, all have in common? Water, according to a recent article in The Economic Times.  

The article notes that India's supply remains very constrained. The World Resources Insitute (WRI) estimates that in 15 years, national supplies of water will fall 50% below demand. The authors note that "While agriculture accounts for around three quarters of all water used in India, rapid urbanization and heavy demand from commercial and industrial users have placed undue stress on already fragile resources. According to the Ministry of Water Resources, industrial demand is expected to rise four-fold by 2030 to 196 billion kilo litres.”

The article blames a lack of regulations during the course of India’s rapid urbanization and inefficient water use in agriculture. Pollution has become a widespread problem and S Janakarajan (president of the South Asia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies (SaciWATERS)) notes that WRI's estimate of a 50% water supply deficit was based on the assumption of “clean, protected and unpolluted" water so is likely to be much higher. With thousands of industries contaminating water with their dumping practices, lack of regulations to protect water sources impacted by land development (wetlands are particularly critical to filtering and replenishing groundwater supplies), and widespread overdrilling for groundwater, a 15 year timeline could be overly optimistic.

In the meantime, farmers are watching their water tables dry up, and generations of Indians are suffering debilitating effects from prolonged consumption of unsafe levels of flouride and other chemicals released into their limited water by borewell drilling.  Decreasing water resources and widespread consumption of unsafe water do not only impact India’s households and businesses, but the financial market at large.  The article notes that on June 2, when the Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences forecast a poor monsoon, stock market indices dropped for two days (a reduction of $23 billion).  

Currently, over 600 million Indians are facing a threatened water supply while some of the largest corporate users of water are calling for guaranteed supplies, especially as PM Narendra Modi promotes his "Make in India" initiative.  Corporations such as a PepsiCo, Sabmiller, and Monsanto are being called to increase efficiencies in water use and have initiated programs.  However, it remains to be seen if the results of these efforts will alleviate a portion of the water stress that India will undoubtedly face.

BY: Rachel Kohn, IFPRI




Photo credit:Photo Credit: Flickr (World Bank/Curt Carnemark)