NEW DELHI: With demand outstripping supply of water, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is waking up to the possibility of water scarcity triggering social unrest in the country and leading to water wars between states.
“The growing scarcity of water is manifesting itself in the form of acute problems at the local level which may take the shape of social unrest,” says a draft appraisal of the 12th five-year plan submitted to PMO in the first week of this month.
The document points out that per capita availability of water has been steadily declining since 1951 due to population growth and depletion of water sources. India is classified as a ‘water-stressed’ country with per capita water availability at just 1,544 cubic metres as per the 2011 census.
“There are conflicts among water users at the village, district, state and national levels. There are also competing demands for drinking, agriculture and industry and for sustaining the ecosystem.
The effect of climate change on water resources may aggravate the scarcity,” the document says. Analysts say issues like pollution of fresh water sources, low water-use efficiency, recurring floods and droughts and non-maintenance of water infrastructure are major worries.
India has only four per cent of the world’s water resources, and there are limits to the utilizable quantity of water owing to its uneven distribution in time and space.It is estimated that the demand and availability gap could grow by 250 billion cubic metres by 2050 and put India in the list of top 10 water-stressed countries in the world. As of 2011, India was ranked 30 among 186 countries with the least available water per capita.
What can the government do?
At the policy level, the government is working on participatory ground water management, water sector reforms, recycling of water and enforcing pollution control laws to ensure good water governance.
The document says water governance needs to be pursued vigorously to meet the challenges, and a special purpose vehicle (SPV) may be set up to implement the aquifer mapping and management scheme.