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India’s Water Policy Needs a Paradigm Shift

India is not a water-deficient country. Its water endowment is abundant. Yet, it is confronted with a very severe water crisis, largely man-made and a result of ineffective policies pursued by successive governments.

Water is the overarching national problem of India today. According to a NITI Aayog study, the demand for potable water will outstrip supply by 2030, while a 2018 World Bank report says that more than 600 million people have faced moderate to extreme water-stress. About two lakh Indians die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. Twenty-one cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad, will run out of groundwater by 2020. The Composite Water Management Index developed by the NITI Aayog shows that 70% of the water resources are polluted due to dumping of untreated waste water and sewage in rivers. The Central Pollution Control Board says that even the Ganga river water is unfit not only for drinking but also for bathing! In short, India is confronted with a very severe water crisis, largely man-made and as a result of ineffective policies pursued by the successive governments.

For addressing the whole gamut of water issues, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has created a ministry called Jal Shakti. However, urban water supply and watershed development are not within the jurisdiction of this ministry. The conspicuous lacuna in this high-profile drill is that there is no well-defined policy perspective to guide this new entity. As such, the integrated and holistic approach mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Mann Ki Baat seems to be merely loud thinking. The prevalent techno-engineering pathway of impounding water in the large surface storage and creating the grid will now have a massive component of the pipe network. The name of the game is greed!

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Updated On : 27th Sep, 2019

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