[Burning Issue] Water Crisis

India faces worst water crisis: NITI Aayog


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  1. The NITI Aayog released the results of a study warning that India is facing its ‘worst’ water crisis in history and that demand for potable water will outstrip supply by 2030 if steps are not taken.
  2. Nearly 600 million Indians faced high to extreme water stress and about 2,00,000 people died every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
  3. Twenty-one cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people, the study noted.
  4. If matters are to continue, there will be a 6% loss in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2050, the report says.

Ranking the States

  1. The NITI Aayog’s observations are part of a study that ranked 24 States on how well they managed their water.
  2. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh took the top three spots, in that order, and Jharkhand, Bihar and Haryana came in last in the ‘Non-Himalayan States’ category.
  3. Himachal Pradesh — which is facing one of its worst water crises this year — led a separate 8-member list of States clubbed together as ‘North-Eastern and Himalayan.
  4. These two categories were made to account for different hydrological conditions across the two groups.

Low performers

  1. About 60% of the States were marked as “low performers” and this was cause for “alarm,” according to the report.
  2. Many of the States that performed badly on the index — Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh — which accounted for 20-30% of India’s agricultural output.

Conservation counts, not Scarcity

  1. The index noted, several of the high and medium performers — Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana — irrespective of droughts in recent years.
  2. Therefore, a lack of water was not necessary grounds for States not initiating action on conservation.
  3. Most of the gains registered by the States were due to their restoration of surface water bodies, watershed development activities and rural water supply provision

Reasons for scarcity

Lack of pricing of water: There has been an effort to develop sustainable water supplies in India in recent years with water conservation legislation existing in 80 per cent of the country.

However, poor data management and an abject failure to properly price water have prevented the country from making any significant progress.

Drought in better performing states: In what could serve as encouragement to step up the pursuit of policies to better conserve water, several water-scarce states are the best at managing the resource. Some of the best performers in the national composite water index – Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana – are states that have suffered from severe droughts in recent years.

Populist policy: “Policies like several states giving free electricity to farmers or giving financial support for groundwater extraction – borewells and tubewells – results in uncontrolled exploitation and wastage of resource.

Failure of drip irrigation: Drip irrigation, a method that means farmers use drastically less fertiliser and diesel, has failed to become popular and its implementation is expensive for most people with state governments providing limited support.

Erratic monsoon and climate change:


  1. Climate change is a real global challenge today that is altering the water cycle in the worst way possible.
  2. Increased temperature, droughts, river drying and insufficient monsoon to replenish the groundwater has become one of the greatest cause of water scarcity in India.

Poor planning and Leakage:

  1. This is one of the greatest reason for the Shimla water crisis happening now as some reports state that around 20–25% of water is wasted due to the leakage in the pipelines.
  2. Delhi wastes around 40% of its water by leakage problems.
  3. India wastes considerably a lot of water as leakage in pumping and distribution.
  4. When water is becoming such a scarce resource, wasting it by sheer negligence in the maintenance of pipelines indeed a big offence.

Improper wastewater treatment:

  1. In India, there is no policy support for recycling and reuse of the industrial wastewater contrary to other countries that have proper guidelines on wastewater management. Israel uses about 86% of its treated waste water in agriculture.
  2. 70% of urban sewage in India is untreated and is disposed of directly to the water bodies that creates quite a lot of health and environmental concerns.
  3. The National Water Mission aims at increasing the water use efficiency by 20%, but still this is much less than the developed countries of the world.

The Way Forward

  1. India’s traditional irrigation method involves more water consumption. Drip irrigation which is already in practice in India needs to be practised efficiently across the country which will reduce the water usage in agriculture. A lot of revolutionary methods has to be implemented in Indian agriculture to overcome the water crisis.
  2. Wastewater recycle to save our water bodies: As we know, most of our water bodies are polluted because of wastewater released by textile and industries which in turn got mixed up and resulted in polluting the water bodies. Like Israel, India should also take necessary steps to recycle the wastewater and reuse for agriculture and industrial activities.
  3. Extracting water from air and fog are the futuristic technologies: Indian government should invest in these technologies which can be implemented in suitable areas. For eg: extracting water from fog can be done in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Assam etc.
  4. Desalination: We have seen states like Tamil Nadu, worst hit by drought during this summer. Many parts of TN has sea and setting up desalination plants like Israel’s solar-powered desalination plants will help in overcoming the water crisis.
  5. To prevent leakage, a Proper team with skilled workers should be assigned the job of maintenance and repair of the pipelines. Smart metering and leakage detection system should be designed to check the water wastage in the transmission.

Other steps needed

  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Restoring and maintaining our water bodies
  • Growing trees
  • Mandatory Water recycling in all the apartments, industries and textiles.
  • Reusing the wastewater from RO. During the RO purification process, nearly 70% of water gets wasted. We can store and reuse it.
  • Creating social awareness among the people about the effective use of water.
  • Revolutionize the agriculture practice.


  1. According to NITI Aayog, India is facing her worst water crisis. Elaborate. What steps can be taken to avert a catastrophe?
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