Indian Express Editorial Summary

Editorial Topic : Drying Up

 GS-1, GS-2 Mains Exam : Water, Goverance

Revision Notes


Question : Critically examine the effectiveness of existing water-sharing agreements between Indian states. What are the major challenges and potential solutions?

India faces a looming water crisis, exacerbated by intense heat waves due to climate change. Reduced river flows and falling water tables paint a grim picture, putting policymakers and citizens in a difficult bind.

Heatwaves and Water Scarcity Across India:

  • Bengaluru: Already facing water shortage, drought conditions worsen the situation.
  • Delhi: Scorching temperatures and water scarcity reignite disputes over Yamuna water allocation.
  • Delhi-Haryana Water Dispute: The Supreme Court order for water release from Himachal Pradesh to alleviate Delhi’s woes is contested by Haryana, accusing them of non-compliance.

Policy Level Lacunas:

  • While the government prioritizes providing tap connections, aquifer health remains neglected.
  • Traditionally, India focuses on supply-side solutions like water body inventories to prevent encroachment.
  • Lack of coordination between departments managing surface water, groundwater, irrigation, and drinking water creates problems.
  • Existing water-sharing agreements between states crumble during shortages.
  • Rainwater harvesting plans remain unimplemented despite erratic weather patterns.

A Step in the Right Direction:

  • Initiatives like the Sahi Fasal Campaign, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, and Atal Bhujal Yojana promote efficient water use in agriculture.
  • Optimizing irrigation is crucial, but demand-side management requires analyzing household and industrial water use patterns.
  • Data on per capita water availability for different users is lacking.
  • Knee-jerk reactions like fines for water wastage during emergencies are less effective than incentivizing conservation, reuse, and recycling.

Tackling Water Scarcity in Indian Cities:

Plugging the Leaks and Harvesting the Rains:

  • Infrastructure Upgrade: A significant portion of water, estimated at 20-30% in some cities, is lost through dilapidated pipes. Upgrading pipelines and implementing leak detection technologies are essential first steps. Additionally, exploring trenchless pipe repair methods can minimize disruption during maintenance.
  • Rainwater Harvesting: By capturing rainwater in rooftop tanks, apartments, and commercial buildings, cities can create a reliable secondary water source for purposes like flushing toilets and watering gardens. Government incentives and subsidies can encourage widespread adoption.
  • Wastewater Treatment: Significant volumes of wastewater are currently discharged untreated, polluting freshwater sources. Investing in advanced wastewater treatment plants can provide high-quality recycled water for irrigation, reducing pressure on freshwater reserves.

Conservation and Efficiency:

  • Public Awareness Campaigns: Educating citizens through targeted campaigns on water conservation practices like fixing leaky faucets, taking shorter showers, and using water-efficient appliances can significantly reduce overall demand. This can involve involving schools, community organizations, and social media influencers.
  • Tariff Reforms: Implementing tiered water pricing structures discourages excessive water use. Higher rates for exceeding a certain limit can incentivize conservation, particularly among high-water-consuming households and industries. However, ensuring equitable access for low-income communities is crucial.
  • Promoting Water-Saving Technologies: Encouraging the use of water-efficient toilets, low-flow showerheads, and washing machines can significantly reduce household water consumption. Government rebates and subsidies can make these technologies more affordable.

Finding New Sources:

  • Desalination: While energy-intensive, desalination plants can provide a viable source of freshwater in coastal cities. However, the environmental impact of brine discharge and the high energy consumption need to be carefully considered. Exploring renewable energy sources to power desalination plants can be a potential solution.
  • Interlinking Rivers: Transferring water from surplus river basins to deficit regions can be a solution, but environmental and social impacts need thorough evaluation. The potential for disrupting ecosystems and displacing communities needs to be addressed.

Governance and Institutions:

  • Improved Water Governance: Effective water management requires robust institutions with clear policies, transparent decision-making processes, and strong enforcement mechanisms. This includes involving communities in water management plans and fostering a culture of water conservation.
  • Conflict Resolution: Developing clear water-sharing agreements and dispute resolution mechanisms between states can prevent conflicts like the one between Delhi and Haryana. Establishing independent water tribunals can help resolve disputes efficiently and fairly.

Technological Advancements:

  • Smart Water Management Systems: Implementing real-time monitoring systems with leak detection capabilities can optimize water distribution and minimize waste. This allows for prompt identification and repair of leaks, preventing significant water loss.
  • Drought-Resistant Crops: Promoting drought-resistant crops in urban agriculture can significantly reduce water demand for landscaping and green spaces. Research into developing new drought-resistant varieties suitable for urban environments is crucial.

By implementing a comprehensive strategy that combines these approaches, Indian cities can move towards a more sustainable water future. This will require a collaborative effort between government agencies, citizens, businesses, and research institutions. Public-private partnerships can play a key role in financing and implementing water conservation and treatment projects.


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