Economy India
Special Story

Climate Change and the Sustainability of Water Resources in India

Md Qaiser Alam

In the sphere of growing demand for water due to a rapid rise in population, urbanization and industrialization, numerous challenges are emerging such as reduction in per capita water availability, poor quality of water, water pollution and depleting ground water level along with the declining surface water resources. The climate change is also adversely affecting the availability and distribution of water resources. WHO reports that world is moving towards water scarcity with even poor and low quality of water. Millennium Development Goals of UN (2000), also led emphasis to make efforts for the provision of clean and safe drinking to the growing population. At the global level, out of the total 1600 million cubic km water. In India, 4000 cubic km water is available through precipitation in the country in which nearly 1869 cubic km water is available through surface water and replenishable ground water sources. At the world level, 2.5 percent of the fresh water is available which lies deep and frozen in Antarctica and Greenland. India is having around 0.26 percent of fresh water although it is having 4 percent of the world water resources. In India, 43.5 percent of drinking water requirement is being fulfilled by tap water, 42 percent by handpump/tubewell sources, 11 percent by well and 3.5 percent by other sources. India growing demand for water will make it vulnerable and by 2050 it will become the highest water-demanding country with a daily demand of 2413 billion litres per capita at the global level. In 1951, India's water per capita availability was 5177 cm per year which decreased to 1820 cm in 2001. India's water per capita availability will be 1341 cm per year in 2025 and 1140 cm per year in 2050

(NCIWRD). feature of Uttar Pradesh which pushed many regions in the state into dry and rain-fed zones. The state of Uttar Pradesh is the largest extractor of groundwater, accounting

for 18.4 percent of the country's groundwater and 5.4 percent of the world's groundwater resources. The per capita groundwater extraction in U.P is 225.0 cm per capita which are more than the national average of 182.9 cm per capita and the world average of 125.9 cm per capita.

The country is although having good surface water availability but having an uneven spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall along with severe problem in some regions while drought in some other regions. The growing population, urbanization, deforestation and rising environmental degradation along with diverse needs of water has actually aggravated theproblem of both the ground and surface water resources in the country. The changing climatic conditions has not only resulted in the water scarcity but also resulted in the poor quality of water which has bad impact on agricultural production and human health. Furthermore, the

changing climatic conditions have not only resulted in the declining water availability but also resulted in a rise in the spatial temperature, variability in the rainfall and environmental pollution which is a matter of great concern. It is projected that by the year 1950, except three water basins namely Brahamani-Bitarani, Mahandi and Narmada all the remaining water basins will experience a severe water scarce situation.

The climate change has not only resulted in the severe water crisis, soil moisture erosion, erratic rain, uncertain rain and water evaporation but put a threat on the sustainability of

water resources. This raises the concern that how a danger on the sustainability of water resources will meet the water demands of farming community, drinking water, livestock demand for water and other growing requirements of water in the country in a changing climatic conditions scenario. It further raises the question that how the growing scarcity of water will meet the growing demand of agriculture, clean drinking water in the delaying nature of monsoon and uneven distribution of rain fall and rising temperature.

Surface Water Availability

India is although having 4 percent of the world water resources but have 2.4 percent of world area and 17 percent of world populations. Surface water is available through rivers, lakes,ponds and tanks. In India out of 10360 rivers around 1869 cubic km water is available. It is estimated that due to the numerous reasons namely topographical, hydrological and other

problems 690 cubic km (32 percent) water is utilised. In the river, availability of rivers also depends upon the river’s catchment areas and the precipitation of water in such area that too have spatial variations during the monsoon season. Ganga, Brahamputra, Barak and Indus have a large catchment area and also have water from precipitation. Over the years, due to a change in the climatic conditions, rise in temperature, spatial variation of rain and multiple use of water has put hindrances in the flow of water.

Ground Water Availability

It is estimated that 432 cubic km water resources are available in the country. It meets 60 percent of the irrigation needs and 85 percent of the drinking needs of the rural population

and around 40 percent of the urban drinking needs. This large-scale use of ground water resources has led to the depletion in the ground water level along with deterioration in the quality of the ground water. This is due to the over-exploitation of groundwater for

agriculture, industrial and drinking purposes, change in the cropping pattern, low and spatial variation in rainfall, subsidized electricity, sewage and waste disposal and urbanization has

resulted in both the extraction of water and a decline in the natural recharge to the ground water acquifers. The extraction of the ground water is very high in the states of Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan whereas it is moderate in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tripura and

Haryana whereas low in the states of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Kerala etc.

Implications of Water Resources

The vast use of both the surface and ground water has not only led to the growing erosion of surface water but it has also led to a decline in the ground water resources in the country. The over exploitation and contamination of both the water resources are going on the large scale.The multiple uses of water resources, multiple cropping patterns, deforestation, urbanisation,much use of ground water for agriculture, industry and drinking water has much aggravated

the resources. India’s majority of the population are dependent on the agricultural sector which accounts for more than 85 percent utilisation of the both the surface and ground water

resources in the country. It is expected that this may further increase with an increase in the population and growing demand for agricultural produce in the country. At the same time

industrial sector accounts for 2 percent of the surface water resources and 5 percent of the ground water resources. The per capita availability of water resources is decreasing day by day especially due to an increase in the population. The increasing water and land pollutiondue to industrial wastes and domestic wastes, it is further limiting the availability of water

resources.

NITI Ayog has provided an estimation that around 60 crores peoples in the country are facingthe acute shortage of water and around 2 lakh people die due to the unavailability of clean drinking water. It has been further estimated by the NITI Ayog that by the year 2030 water requirements will be doubled in the country and if it is not tackled than it will reduce the GDP growth by 6 percent (NITI Ayog, 2022).

The large-scale use of groundwater resources has led to the depletion in the groundwater level and deterioration in the quality of the groundwater resources. This may be accorded to

the over-exploitation of groundwater for agriculture, industrial and drinking purposes, change in the cropping pattern, low and spatial variation in rainfall, subsidized electricity, sewage

and waste disposal, urbanization and a decline in the natural recharge to the groundwater aquifers. The groundwater extraction is very high in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, and

Rajasthan, whereas it is moderate in Gujarat, Bihar, Tripura and Haryana, whereas low in the states of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Kerala etc. Various studies have observed that if the overexploitation of water will not be managed, it will put a serious threat to the sustainability of water resources.

Conclusions and Suggestions

India is registering a vast increase in the multiple use of water consumption. The gap between  water demand and its availability is narrowing very fast. The climate change has not only

resulted in the extreme floods but as well in the severe drought situations. There is a need to study about the impact of climate change on water availability and its sustainability along

with spatial variation in rains, acid rain and uncertain rain etc. There is a further need to strengthen the studies on the promotion and management of water resources in the country.

There is a further need to study the possible water requirements for agriculture, industry and domestic uses. There are further needs to design such policies which can control the floods,

water pollution, proper drainage system, water storages, ground water recharge. There is a further need to ensure the sustainability of water resources as per the future growing demands through the effective water management models.

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