Mahesh Tejwani, the president of Vivekanand Education Society, talks about the challenges India is facing with water and how this is affecting the economy.
What are some of the factors behind the water problems that India is facing?
With the country facing two years of weak monsoon rains, water tables across the country have been severely depleted and a lack of replenishing initiatives at the government and private sector level to suitably boost water reserves have led to severe stress situations. Factors responsible for water problems include the lack of holistic planning accorded to water conservation issues. A shortfall in properly trained water technology professionals equipped with the requisite scientific knowledge is a critical anomaly which has led to poor analysis of water issues and finding solutions to them. At the grass-roots level, there is a growing tendency to waste water, not giving a thought to storage issues and shortage problems. Neglect of city piping systems often leads to corrosion of pipelines, resulting in bursting of pipelines and huge wastage of the precious commodity. A lack of policy-based initiatives to find artificial water sources in the face of rapid depletion of natural water sources is also making the Indian water crisis a dismal reality.
What implications do the water issues have for the country’s economic growth prospects?
A coordinated water policy and synergy between different stakeholders is the need of the hour to find sustainable solution to the water problem. With the increasing dumping of effluents in river basins by companies, water tables are getting rapidly polluted. This, in turn, means that highly contaminated water is being used for growing crops, compromising the health of citizens and putting a severe strain on the health budget of the country. With crops failing on basic safety standards, exports of agricultural items are likely to take a hit with countries blacklisting purchases. With the severe depletion in water tables, industries like coal, which require vast amounts of water, will be hugely affected. This can have a cascading effect on the electricity generation capacities of power companies and negatively effect the energy situation of the country.
What needs to be done to solve India’s water problems?
Urban housing societies and educational institutions should increasingly resort to water harvesting techniques. Water conservation initiatives must be given increased priority at all levels of the administration. There must be increased sharing of water resources between states to tide over potential water crises. Modern, cost-effective infrastructure must be utilised for storage and transport of water leading to less wastage and optimum utilisation. Water resources data should be digitised so that an accurate documentation and data of water assets can be maintained. From preschool years, a judicious approach to water use should be inculcated in children.
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