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The water crisis in India
A man-made water crisis is affecting India. Even the World Bank report on India shows that in 1997, the available underground water was 600 cubic kilometres per annum, but by 2050 demand would have far exceeded supply.

IN INDIA, more than 90 per cent of the groundwater is consumed for agriculture. Of this a large percentage of water is used on that land which requires constant irrigation. According to the Ministry of Water Resources, industrial water use in India stands at about 50 billion cubic meters or nearly 6 per cent of total freshwater abstraction. This demand is expected to increase dramatically in the next decade, given the enormous forecasts of 9 per cent growth for 2007 alone. This water is also primarily drawn from the land. However, we Indians are not still ready to accept the reality of depleting groundwater reserves. This condition has caused a major water crisis.

A water crisis is a situation when the supply of water is less than the demand. This term basically refers to the world’s water resources relative to human demand. The earth has a finite supply of fresh water. Sometimes people consider the ocean as a source of fresh water. But it is not true as the ocean water is saline and heavy expenditure is required to convert this saline water to potable water.

According to the UNICEF report on water, there will be constant competition over water, between urban dwellers, farmers and industrialists. Even the World Bank report shows alarming results. These reports show that in 1997, the available underground water was approximately 600 cubic kilometres per annum and the demand was also almost equal to the availability. But by 2050 the level of ground water will be below 100 cubic kilometres per annum mark and the demand will rise to 1200 cubic kilometres per annum.

Further, in the same year, the level of surface water was approximately 300 cubic kilometres per annum which would fall to 50 cubic kilometres per annum by 2050. In 2006 between the domestic, agricultural, and industrial sectors, India used approximately 829 billion cubic meters of water every year, which is approximately the size of Lake Erie. By 2050 demand is expected to double and consequently exceed the 1.4 trillion cubic meters of supply.

This crisis is not just the disturbance in the demand and supply curve but is also about mismanagement of water resources. India’s water crisis is a man-made problem. One of the major problems is water pollution. New Delhi alone produces 3.6 million cubic meters of sewage every day, but due to poor management less than half is effectively treated. The remaining untreated waste is dumped into the Yamuna River. Thus a combination of sewage disposal, industrial effluents, and chemicals from farm runoffs, arsenic and fluoride has rendered India’s rivers unfit for drinking, irrigation, and even industrial purposes. Also, the over-usage of ground water due to the unavailability of sufficient water for irrigation has led to a tremendous decrease in the level of ground water. Also, due to global warming, rainfalls have become erratic and unpredictable because of which the agricultural sector has been affected seriously.

We need to take rational steps to manage water in India before it becomes an international crisis, as this will affect the nation's economy and will also lead to various water-borne diseases. There would also be a sharp decline in agricultural production, which will negate all of the previous efforts at food security. India will become a net importer of grain, which will have a huge effect on global food prices, as well as the global supply of food. A rise in food prices will aggravate poverty because people will have to spend larger portions of their income on food.

In addition to devastating the agricultural sector of India’s economy, the water crisis will have a big effect on India’s industrial sector, possibly stagnating many industries. India has the power to avoid this dark future if people take action immediately: start conserving water, begin to harvest rainwater, treat human, agricultural, and industrial waste effectively, and regulate how much water can be drawn out of the ground.

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