Friday, June 2, 2023

Perennial crisis

Ahead of the ongoing United Nations (UN) 2023 Water Conference in New York, USA, this year’s edition of the UN World Water Development Report was launched ~ with primary focus on the two themes of partnerships and cooperation. In the tradition of its previous publications, the report came bearing stark warnings. Between two and three billion people worldwide currently experience water scarcity and this scarcity is expected to worsen in the coming decades, particularly in cities, if international cooperation in this area is not strengthened, it warned. The World Water Report highlighted that approximately 26% of the world’s population does not have access to safe drinking water, and 46% lack access to safely managed sanitation. Thus, on this World Water Day (March 22), the United Nations has issued a call for increased international cooperation on how water is used and managed. This is the only way to avoid a global water crisis in the coming decades, according to the UN. While the UN World Water Development Report 2023 painted a stark picture of the huge gap that needs to be filled to meet UN goals to ensure all people have access to clean water and sanitation by 2030, water scarcity continues to be a pressing issue in India, which is home to around 1.3 billion people. The country faces several water-related challenges, including scarcity, pollution and inadequate access to safe drinking water. According to a 2019 report by NITI Ayog, the country has 17% of the world’s population but just 4% of freshwater resources. Again, a report by highlighted that 6% of Indians (91 million people) lack access to safe drinking water, and 746 million people do not have proper sanitation facilities. As is the case everywhere else, water is critical for sustainable development in India, including agriculture, industry, energy, and human health. India is one of the world’s most water-stressed countries, with a limited supply of freshwater resources to meet the growing demands of the population. The country is also facing significant water pollution problems, with many of its rivers and lakes contaminated with industrial effluents, untreated sewage and agricultural run-off. Climate change is affecting the water cycle in India, leading to changes in precipitation patterns, melting of glaciers, and increased water scarcity in some areas. It is one of the primary causes of water scarcity in India. Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns have led to reduced water availability in many parts of the country. Mitigation strategies for this include the development of sustainable water management practices that conserve water resources and enhance their availability. Moreover, the rapid growth of the population in India has put a tremendous strain on the country’s water resources. The increasing demand for water from the growing population has resulted in the depletion of groundwater reserves and the drying up of surface water sources. To mitigate this, India needs to focus on population control measures and promoting sustainable water use practices. Inefficient use of water resources is another major cause of water scarcity in India. This includes practices such as wasteful irrigation techniques, inefficient water distribution systems and the overuse of water in industries. Mitigation strategies for this include the adoption of efficient irrigation techniques, upgrading water infrastructure and promoting water conservation practices in industries. Pollution of water sources is a significant problem in India, particularly in urban areas. The discharge of untreated industrial waste and sewage into water bodies has contaminated many of India’s rivers and lakes. Even on a local level, in Nagaland, we are no strangers to water crises. Almost all hilly parts of our State suffer from water scarcity, especially during the dry, windy months. Despite tall claims of improved water supply made through Government data, the reality in terms of common people’s experience continues to veer more towards hardships and sufferings. Doubtless, there were the usual messages and tweets from our politicians ~ it’s after all World Water Day. But where, we wonder, are the strategies to mitigate a problem that has been tormenting our people annually for decades.