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India has a population of 16 percent of the world’s population, but just 4% of the world’s freshwater resources. India is water-stressed due to changing weather patterns and recurrent droughts.

According to the latest data from the Central Ground Water Board, as many as 256 of 700 districts have reported ‘critical’ or ‘over-exploited’ groundwater levels (2017).

As the water table has dropped, getting water in these places has become more difficult.

Overview of India’s Water Crisis:

Low Water Collection Rate:

  • India obtains 3,000 billion cubic metres of water each year from rainfall and other sources such as glaciers; only 8% of this is collected.

Over-extraction and dependency on groundwater:

  • India fills groundwater aquifers at a pace of 458 billion cubic metres per year, while extracting roughly 650 billion cubic metres of water from the soil.
  • Agriculture consumes 89 percent of India’s water resources, with 65 percent of it coming from underground.
  • As a result, conserving groundwater is one of India’s most pressing issues.

Water Stress:

  • According to an NITI Aayog research, almost 820 million people in India’s 12 major river basins are currently under significant water stress.
  • Water quality is a qualitative issue that adds to the lack of water supply problem.
  • Fluoride and arsenic have poisoned groundwater in one-third of India’s 600 districts.
  • According to the State of India’s Environment report, 2019, the number of excessively polluting enterprises increased by 136 percent between 2011 and 2018.
  • India has been attempting to improve water availability for a long time. The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) guidelines, which were announced in 2019, offer homes with tap water connections, which holds hope for the country’s women.
  • JJM emphasises the importance of include women in the scheme’s leadership, particularly at the village level.
  • Another alternative is to use incentives to encourage water conservation in rural areas in water-stressed areas. For example, if a certain level of groundwater is maintained, higher MSP can be offered to the farmers in that region.

Improving Water Use Efficiency:

  • Water use efficiency in agriculture may be improved by educating farmers and supplying them with technologies such as water resistant crops on the ground.
  • Rainwater collection and check dams are examples of in-situ water conservation practises that should be continued.

Water Management:

  • There is a need to plan and build around water management for the time being. Water management should also be at the forefront of activities in the agriculture sector and for environmental betterment.
  • The proper management of water will lead to the proper management of land, health, and education.
  • Various datasets, including demography, socio-cultural, economic, and other factors, must be merged with spatial and non-spatial data related to water, such as soil moisture, yearly rainfall, rivers, aquifer, groundwater levels, and water quality.

Sharing of Best Practices:

  • There is a wealth of information available that stakeholders can use to avoid reinventing the wheel.
  • The Ministry of Jal Shakti can build and manage a central repository of such a knowledge base in the form of a Knowledge Portal that includes case studies, best practises, tools, information on data sources, and so on.

Conclusion:

The government must address both the supply and demand sides of water management, and everyone in society, including the central government, state governments (water is a state topic), residents, NGOs, and businesses, must work together to address the country’s water crisis.

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