Growing water shortages carry economic risks that are as damaging as political corruption.
Water is the most critical of all natural resources on which modern economies depend. Water scarcity and rapid economic advance cannot go hand-in-hand and interestingly, water cannot be secured through international trade deals to keep economic machines humming. A rapidly growing economy and a large agricultural sector stretch India’s supply of water even thinner. Meanwhile, mismanagement of water resources, over-pumping, pollution and Climate change are expected to exacerbate the problem by diminishing the supply of water. As demand for potable water starts to outstrip supply by increasing amounts in coming years, India will face a slew of subsequent problems, such as food shortages, intrastate, and international conflict.
If water geopolitics were to spur interstate tensions through reduced water flows to neighbouring countries, the Indian renaissance could stall in the face of inter-riparian conflicts. India is already strangled by treaties with Pakistan and Bangladesh to share river water and gets almost one third of all its yearly water supplies from Tibet. But Beijing rejects the very concept of water-sharing and is building large dams on rivers flowing to other nations, with little regard for downriver interests. This may have huge economic implication as dependency of water may shift the domestic and international trade power in food, electricity, growth over the years.
Due to the amenities of typical urban life and rising migration towards urban coupled with high population growth the problem keeps hovering. Irrigated agriculture has been fundamental to economic development, but unfortunately caused groundwater depletion which may threaten the Food Security mission leading India to high import of foods In addition, there is no getting away from the urgent need to ensure that what comes out of the ground does not exceed the amount that seeps in. That is an indisputable natural law. The availability of canal water led farmers to adopt highly profitable, but extremely water intensive crops, such as sugar cane, deepening the problem further. Though industries have helped economic development, pollutions of water are not taken care of properly intensified by contaminants in underground water like fluorides, nitrates, arsenic etc. Over 21% of transmissible diseases in India that related to unsafe water increasing health expenditure, which is the inevitable outcome of excess withdrawal and the dumping of untreated industrial and human waste. Only 18% of Rainfall falling in river is utilized due to lack of storage and crumbling infrastructure. As the climate warms, the glaciers, which regulate the water supply major rivers like Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, are believed to be retreating at a rate of about 33-49ft each year increasing economic cost of livelihood and in turn more subsidy to poor. Due to political and regional as well as interstate conflicts, it has now become virtually impossible to build a large dam, blighting the promise of hydropower.
Without expanding its irrigated land and adopting new plant varieties and farming techniques, India is likely to become a net food importer in the coming years — a development that will roil the already-tight international food markets. More fundamentally, the growing water shortages threaten to slow economic growth and fuel social tensions, unless the government fixes its disjointed policy approach and develops a long-term vision on managing water resources, improves Existing legal frameworks and groundwater. The tragedy of India’s water scarcity is that the crisis could have been largely avoided with better water management practices as it is purely man made. There has been a distinct lack of attention to water legislation, water conservation, efficiency in water use, water recycling, and infrastructure.
Month: Current Affairs - July, 2012