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People around the world are now fighting for a FREE, God-given resource - WATER
Freshwater is fast becoming more valuable than gold. Various parts of the world are experiencing growing water-related conflicts and tension, particularly developing countries in the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America. The two countries likely to be the most affected in the coming years are India and China. Freshwater shortages in countries are impacting economies, food supplies, agricultural output, electricity availability, animal sustenance, and human migration. Water wars are on the rise, pitching countries against each other, interstate conflict within a country, rural versus urban areas, and the poor against the rich.
So why a water shortage? Here are some facts -
70% of the earth is covered by water. Of this, only 2.5% is fresh drinkable water, most of which is not accessible in the form of glaciers and ice fields
Just 0.007% of the earth’s water is accessible for drinking, and to be shared by over 7 billion of the earth’s population
Available fresh water is disproportionately distributed in countries around the world
Global warming and changing climate patterns are affecting rainfall in various parts of the world, further exacerbating water availability and groundwater levels
Over 1 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water, and another 2.5 billion live in regions that are water-stressed
Fresh water availability is expected to get worse. The UN estimates that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in water-stressed regions by the year 2025.
Water Tensions in India
Two South Indian States are now at odds over inter-state Cauvery River water. The turbulence, unrest, and violence in the two States over the past weeks has resulted in losses of about Rs 40,000 crores ($6 billion). The squabble over inter-state river water is also occurring in other Indian States - Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, etc.......the list goes on.
Water shortage is having serious consequences in rural India. There is not enough water to irrigate crops, forcing farmers to harvest just one crop a year during the monsoon season. This is having serious financial consequences on the farmers and their families, resulting in thousands of farmer suicides. Rural India is facing numerous hardships. As wells and other water sources in villages dry up, there is insufficient water for bathing, washing clothes, cooking, and feeding livestock. Even clean drinking water is an issue, causing severe health problems.
The freshwater crisis has forced tens of thousands of families to leave rural India and relocate to urban areas. This has resulted in rampant slum development. It is estimated that about 15-20% of Bangalore’s population of 10 million live in slums. Urban areas also have water issues, which is primarily impacting the poor and those living in slums. Government water supply is available for limited time during the day and home dwellers use water storage tanks to overcome this limited water supply. In slums however, there is no piped water nor storage tanks, forcing slum dwellers to stand in long lines to avail of water from public faucets. Private water tankers frequent slum areas on a daily basis and provide fresh water - but at a price. The water tankers are operated by the water mafia, who fill the tankers with government water and distribute it within the city at hefty prices. Yet again, slum dwellers bear the brunt of this injustice.
Our water problems are here to stay. Tensions will continue to rise as water wars are fought for this dwindling precious resource. As economic development continues and urban populations grow, the demand for water continues unabated. The city water system cannot keep up with the growth. Those that can afford to, drill borewells, greatly depleting the groundwater supply. The major beneficiary in this situation is the water mafia, which redistributes government water at higher prices, and controls our most valuable resource - WATER.
The current water crisis has caused a lot of tension in India. It is only going to get worse in the coming years. How do we emerge from this enigma? The Indian government, business and civic communities, must work together to find a solution to this water shortage, through strong water-management and conservation strategies. The depletion of freshwater in India has reached critical levels. The sooner we wake up to this nightmare, the better.
Author: David Faria, PhD, MBA