Model Question and Answers for APSC | India’s water resources have witnessed rapid depletion due to a mix of economic, geographic, and political factors. Explain and discuss its implications.
Ans : India has only about 4 %of the world’s renewable water resources but is home to nearly 18% of the world’s population. Further, the increasing demand from a growing population, coupled with the economic activity, adds pressure on already stressed water resources. The per capita annual water availability has reduced from 1816 cubic metres in 2001 to 1544 cubic metres in 2011
Factors responsible for Water depletion:
India uses almost twice the amount of water to grow crops as compared to China and the United States.
India uses more groundwater than any other country in the world due to rapid urbanization.
Proliferation of industries, such as soft drinks, which exploit water resources without replenishing them further adds to the woes.
The Majority of the population is dependent on a few major river systems, especially the Ganges and its tributaries, for its water supply
The exponential population growth has depleted these water resources more than others.
Global warming has altered the rainfall pattern in India. This also has implications for water availability.
Construction of dams & hydroelectric projects, and water diversion for irrigation have systematically depleted water resources.
Power subsidies for agriculture have played a major role in the decline of groundwater levels in India.
Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for sugarcane, wheat and rice creates highly skewed incentive structures in favour of these water-intensive crops, especially in water-scarce regions like Punjab, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
India lacks a comprehensive water policy with proper guidelines for the usage of surface water and groundwater by different sectors and different states.
Implications of water depletion:
In 2019, about 50 % of India grappled with droughtlike conditions. The situation was compounded by a weak monsoon. It severely hampered agricultural production.
Water crisis: According to the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) of NITI Aayog, 21 major cities will reach zero groundwater levels by 2020, affecting access for 100 million people.
Desertification: Nearly 30% of India’s land area has been degraded through deforestation, overcultivation, soil erosion and depletion of wetlands.
Inter-state conflicts: India has witnessed interstate conflicts, such as Karnataka–Tamil Nadu or Haryana–Punjab due to dwindling water resources.
Diseases: Scarcity of water forces households to use non-potable water. It has severe health implications. According to the World Bank, 21% of communicable diseases in the country are related to unsafe water.
Power production: India’s capacity to generate electricity is severely hampered because 40% of thermal power plants are located in areas where water scarcity is high.
In light of this, the government has formed a new Jal Shakti Ministry to streamline and consolidate the governance structure of water management in India. However, there is an urgent need to change the cropping pattern in India and ensure crop diversification. Further, innovative farming practices like precision farming and zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) could be employed for efficient water utilisation.