The water crisis in India is one of the major issues tormenting developing nation, as still millions of people in the country do not have access to safe drinking water and clear water for sanitation purpose. The development and over-population has created a lot of stress on water resources in the country, especially in the states like Maharashtra and Rajasthan. These states are worst affected states in term of drought, as natural condition along with man-made calamities have had a significant impact on the water resources within Rajasthan and Maharashtra. While Rajasthan’s situation is a perennial problem due to the geography of the state but Maharashtra’s water scarcity problem is a direct result of the mismanagement and climate change, that adversely affected the north-western, western and eastern regions of the state in recent years. According to reports, if Rajasthan’s water crisis isn’t dealt in time-bound effective manner, there are chances that the water resources in the state would deplete to a point from where it’ll difficult for governments to provide people with sufficient water resources to maintain their day-to-day routines.
Rajasthan’s water scarcity
Water scarcity has been ever present in the state of Rajasthan, the semi-arid condition, as well as the heavy metallurgical elements present in the water, makes it really difficult for the people to have access to safe water for their daily household needs. Surface water is liable for the sizeable amount of water source available in the state but contrastingly, groundwater is the major source of water being utilized in the state. The groundwater is over-exploited as most of the places in Rajasthan do not have direct access to safe surface water sources, while on the other hand the greater dependence on groundwater has affected the aquifers. The growing water crisis in Rajasthan is a direct result of three factors, namely: I) Drought prone, (ii) Scanty and inconsistent rainfall, and (iii) minimal sources of surface waters such as river basins. These factors lead to a stress on the groundwater, as aquifers are pushed beyond their limits and cannot get sufficient time and resources to recharge, as they are a renewable source of water. Every four out of five years there’s a drought in Rajasthan, while the region receives minimal rainfall in terms of national average.
The steadily increasing population will increase the load on water resources, currently Rajasthan has the lowest per capita availability of water with 807 m3 per person water is available to each person in the state, this is set to further decrease to 457 m3 by 2045. Such a decline can push the state from a zone of scarcity to absolute scarcity if stringent actions and measures aren’t taken by the government. The water quality of Rajasthan is deplorable, as the water contains 51% fluoride and is 42% saline, more than 70% of the state’s population in Rajasthan is affected by the same. The state’s government is partly responsible, as the governments have time and again have been unable to manage the water issue in the state even after sanctioning huge budgetary allocations, the lack of proper infrastructure in terms of dams, lakes, and barrages has also adversely affected the crisis.
A man-made calamity in Maharashtra
Maharashtra has been dealing with water crisis for quite some time, and it is almost strange in nature for the state that is rich in natural resources and minerals, with it’s strategic geographical location, although water-related problems aren’t something new for the state. The last few decades have seen regions of Maharashtra suffering from severe and frequent droughts, that have adversely affected the farming community within the states. Loss of crop and growing debt has forced many farmers to resort to suicide as means to liberate themselves from this never-ending misery. The regions of Marathwada and Vidarbha of Maharashtra are worst affected in terms of drought, as the water crisis is increasing in the region due to erratic rainfall in the last few years.
Rainfall alone is not the problem in Maharashtra, mismanagement of water and more importantly age-old problem of unusual cropping pattern adds up to the already increasing crisis. Sugarcane which is an important cash crop for the state has been increasing significantly since the last 40-odd years, as most of the sugar mills are owned by politicians, while the area of sugarcane has seen a six-fold rise compared to 1.78 times throughout the country between 1971-72 and 2011-12. Although sugarcane production which hardly covers 3.5% of the state’s total cropped area but it consumes almost around 60% of state’s irrigation water. Water production in Uttar Pradesh is 106% more efficient than Maharashtra in terms of water productivity, as Maharashtra consumes more than 1000 litres of water in addition compared to UP’s water consumption for the production of 1kg sugar. Around 70 percent of the land in Maharashtra is either hot semi-arid or arid and largely dependent monsoon season to irrigate their crops. Lack of rainfall has added to the misery and severely affected the irrigation projects in the state, making the situation of the people dependent on agriculture even more difficult, as time and again state governments have failed to implement proper crop management and irrigation systems within Maharashtra. Several areas in Maharashtra have been adversely affected due to such mismanagement of water resources in the state.
The Way Forward
The water crisis is not only pertinent in Rajasthan and Maharashtra but it can also be seen in almost half the states of the country. The perennial rivers in India are also unable to cope with the increasing pollution and overpopulation, affecting the riverine system throughout the country. By signing the Paris Agreement, the government of India has taken the best step forward to lead the country into the path of sustainable development, a path that is certainly going to help the country to have a safe and healthy environment, not only for the present generation but also for generations to come. Development of new age India has definitely been costlier than expected as water-a life-saving component is fast depleting, the state governments need to work in cooperation with the Central government to take effective steps to curb the water crisis in India.