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Sustainable Water Solutions Amid India’s Increasing Water Stress


India is facing increasing water stress, leading to a rise in quick-fix solutions by non-profits and civil society organizations. While these solutions may provide immediate relief, it is crucial to assess their long-term sustainability. Careful examination and adoption of strategies that can withstand future challenges are necessary.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Quick-fix Water Solutions and Their Limitations
  2. Evaluation of Quick-fix Water Solutions Initiatives
  3. Challenges in Quick-Fix Solutions in Water Management
  4. Government Initiatives to Tackle India’s Water Crisis

Quick-fix Water Solutions and Their Limitations

River Widening, Deepening, and Straightening:

  • Modification of natural watercourses to increase water-carrying capacity.
  • Provides short-term relief but may not solve larger water management issues.

Water Harvesting Competitions:

  • Encouraging communities to harvest rainwater and adopt water-saving practices.
  • Limited impact without comprehensive water management strategies.

Tree Planting Along Riverbanks:

  • Stabilizes soil and prevents erosion.
  • May not fully address larger water management issues.

Rapid Construction of Water Facilities:

  • Quick establishment of water facilities like sewage treatment plants and water grids.
  • Requires sustainable management to combat depletion.

Groundwater Recharge:

  • Injecting water into underground aquifers to replenish groundwater levels.
  • Requires careful monitoring and management to be effective in the long term.


  • Converting seawater into freshwater to meet coastal water needs.
  • Energy-intensive and expensive, making it less viable in some areas.

Evaluation of Quick-fix Water Solutions Initiatives

Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan:

  • Maharashtra government’s initiative (2014) aimed at achieving a drought-free state by 2019 through various measures like river widening, deepening, and straightening, check dams, and desilting.
  • Criticisms: Considered unscientific and ecologically damaging, leading to erosion, loss of biodiversity, and increased flood risk.

Water Cups:

  • A competition initiated by a non-profit organization in 2016 to incentivize water harvesting in Maharashtra villages for drought-proofing.
  • Criticisms: Questioned for overlooking water quality, groundwater impact, social equity, and maintenance mechanisms, raising doubts about its validity and long-term sustainability.

Challenges in Quick-Fix Solutions in Water Management:

Ecological Damage:

  • Rapid interventions like river widening and deepening can lead to ecological damage.
  • Erosion, sedimentation, and loss of biodiversity can result from hasty projects.

Lack of Stakeholder Consultation:

  • Quick-fix approaches may lack adequate participation and consultation with stakeholders.
  • Neglecting the social dimension can lead to resistance and conflicts.

Influence of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Funding:

  • Relying on CSR funding can limit decision-making freedom.
  • Prioritization of projects influenced by donor interests rather than community needs.

Overlooking Groundwater Management:

  • Focus on surface water solutions may overlook the critical role of groundwater.
  • Groundwater recharge and management are crucial for sustainable water supply.

Misalignment with Community and Environmental Interests:

  • Some state projects may not align with community and environmental interests.
  • Examples include riverfront development, centralized sewage treatment, and massive water grids.

Techno-Managerial Approach:

  • A shift in mindset from in-depth analysis and understanding to a “techno-managerial approach.”
  • This can lead to overlooking important socio-economic and ecological aspects related to water management.

Government Initiatives to Tackle India’s Water Crisis:

Atal Bhujal Yojana:

  • Targets water-stressed areas in several states for sustainable groundwater management.
  • Involves local communities and scientific methods to manage groundwater demand.

Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA):

  • Regulates and controls groundwater usage by industries, mining, and infrastructure projects.
  • Issues No Objection Certificates (NOCs) in line with guidelines to ensure responsible water usage.

National Aquifer Mapping Program (NAQUIM):

  • Implemented by the Central Ground Water Board to map aquifers across the country.
  • Provides data and management plans to States/UTs for informed interventions.

Master Plan for Artificial Recharge to Groundwater- 2020:

  • Prepared in collaboration with States/UTs for rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge structures.
  • Aims to harness 185 billion Cubic Meters of water, promoting water conservation and recharge.

-Source: Down To Earth

July 2024