All India Radio (AIR) IAS UPSC – World Water Day

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  • May 2, 2019
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World Water Day


Search 22nd March, 2019 Current Affairs here: http://www.newsonair.com/Main_Audio_Bulletins_Search.aspx


General Studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

General Studies 3:

  • Conservation, Environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
  • Water Pollution, Wastewater management

Theme: Leaving no one behind; This is an adaptation of the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: as sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit.

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030. By definition, this means leaving no one behind.

What is the problem?

Today, billions of people are still living without safe water – their households, schools, workplaces, farms and factories struggling to survive and thrive. Marginalized groups – women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, disabled people and many others – are often overlooked, and sometimes face discrimination, as they try to access and manage the safe water they need.

What does ‘safe water’ mean?

‘Safe water’ is shorthand for a ‘safely managed drinking water service’: water that is accessible on the premises, available when needed, and free from contamination. Access to water underpins public health and is therefore critical to sustainable development and a stable and prosperous world. We cannot move forward as a global society while so many people are living without safe water.

Human right to water?

In 2010, the UN recognized “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”

The human right to water entitles everyone, without discrimination, to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use; which includes water for drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, and personal and household hygiene.

Why are people being left behind without safe water?

People are left behind without safe water for many different reasons. The following are some of the ‘grounds for discrimination’ that cause certain people to be particularly disadvantaged when it comes to accessing water:

  • Sex and gender
  • Race, ethnicity, religion, birth, caste, language, and nationality
  • Disability, age and health status
  • Property, tenure, residence, economic and social status
  • Other factors, such as environmental degradation, climate change, population growth, conflict, forced displacement and migration flows can also disproportionately affect marginalized groups through impacts on water.

In India

India is suffering from ‘the worst water crisis’ in its history with about 60 crore people facing high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people dying every year due to inadequate access to safe water, NITI Aayog said in a report on Thursday. The report, titled ‘Composite Water Management Index’ further said the crisis is only going to get worse.

  • 600 million people in India face high to extreme water stress in the country.
  • About three-fourth of the households in the country do not have drinking water at their premise.
  • With nearly 70% of water being contaminated, India is placed at 120th amongst 122 countries in the water quality index.
  • 75% of households do not have drinking water on premise.
  • 84% rural households do not have piped water access.

Major Issue: Data and centre-state and inter-state cooperation are some of the key levers that can help address the crisis. Data systems related to water in the country are limited in their coverage, robustness, and efficiency.

  • Limited coverage: Detailed data is not available for several critical sectors such as for domestic and industrial use, for which data is only available at the aggregate level and lacks the level of detail required to inform policies and allocations.
  • Unreliable data: The data that is available can often be of inferior quality, inconsistent, and unreliable due to the use of outdated methodologies in data collection. For example, estimates on groundwater are mostly based on observation data from 55,000 wells, while there are 12 million wells in the country.
  • Limited coordination and sharing: Data in the water sectors exists in silos, with very little inter-state or centre-state sharing, thereby reducing efficiencies.

How will climate change hit supply?

While growth in urban population is leading to increased water demand, climate change will make supply more variable. In some places, it will lead to a reduction of availability. In future, one in six large cities is likely to be at the risk of water deficit.

Increased demand for urban water supply will put pressure on groundwater resources. We investigated urban groundwater stress by calculating the urban groundwater footprint of regional aquifers. Climate change and socio-economic factors like urbanisation will lead to an increasing urban groundwater footprint. Historically, many cities in less developed countries had systems that were inadequate to provide 24X7 water access to its people, a goal that will become even harder to reach in the future.

Solutions: Need to make “every drop count”

  1. Expanding water supply
  2. Increasing storage

This will ensure that cities survive under drought. This can be done by

  • Long-distance water transfers, but can also come from groundwater or desalination.
  • When cities appropriate more water, they impact the freshwater ecosystem. Sometimes urban water usage is more than in agriculture. Society should make more efficient use of water. Putting in place an efficient piped supply system has to be top on the agenda of policymakers and planners.
  • Steps must be taken to make farmers efficient in use of irrigation water. Water reuse is an option too.
  • Both in urban and rural areas, digging of rainwater harvesting pits must be made mandatory for all types of buildings.

Nature-based solutions can address overall water scarcity through “supply-side management,” and are recognised as the main solution to achieving sustainable water for agriculture.

  • Environmentally-friendly agricultural systems like those which use practices such as conservation tillage, crop diversification, legume intensification and biological pest control work as well as intensive, high-input systems.
  • The environmental co-benefits of nature-based solutions to increasing sustainable agricultural production are substantial as there are decreased pressures on land conversion and reduced pollution, erosion and water requirements.
  • Constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment can also be a cost-effective, nature-based solution that provides effluent of adequate quality for several non-potable uses (irrigation) and additional benefits that include energy production.
  • Watershed management is another nature-based solution that is seen not only as a complement to build or “grey” infrastructure but also one that could also spur local economic development, job creation, biodiversity protection and climate resilience.

Three areas that need urgent measures are

    • Efficiency in Agriculture: The agricultural sector consumes over 85 per cent of the available water today in India, and there is enormous scope to save water here through improved efficiency.
      • Shifting cropping pattern from water-intensive to less water consuming crops can save significant amount of water.
      • Micro-irrigation method (drip and sprinkler) of rice cultivation promises to enhance water use efficiency with increased crop productivity.
      • Rainwater harvesting is one of the cheapest and easiest ways of augmenting water stock.
      • Investing and promoting water-recycling technologies and storm water capturing schemes should also be given utmost emphasis.
      • The proposed water conservation fee on groundwater extraction is definitely a right step in the direction of regulating water use.
    • Strict pollution control enforcement:
      • User-centric approach to water management, especially in agriculture
      • Decentralisation of irrigation commands, offering higher financial flows to well-performing States through a National Irrigation Management Fund
      • Steady urbanisation calls for a new management paradigm – augmenting sources of clean drinking water supply and treatment technologies that will encourage reuse.
  • Rethink water management
    • Creative and imaginative governance in the form of building larger storage dams which can store excess water in lesser time is the need of the hour.
    • People should be sensitised about the judicious use of water and educated about water-retention dams and other conventional structures such as eari, bawli, talab, anict, dam etc. to store water.
    • The old practice of rainwater harvesting should also be popularised. Tamil Nadu has made mandatory installation of water harvesting structures in every house and this must be replicated in other States as well.
    • Investing and promoting water-recycling, storm-water capturing technologies and micro-irrigation techniques in crop cultivation can also solve the problem of water scarcity.
    • The cost effective method of reviving the traditional small water bodies under the age old practice of Kudimaramath should be given top priority.

The Way Forward:

  • The corrective measures that we need to take are not only in the areas of storage, but also in efficiency in managing supply, demand and use.
  • Conscious efforts need to be made at the household level and by communities, institutions and local bodies to supplement the efforts of governments and non-governmental bodies in promoting water conservation.
  • Sustained measures should be taken to prevent pollution of water bodies, contamination of groundwater and ensure proper treatment of domestic and industrial waste water.
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle must be the watchwords if we have to handover a liveable planet to the future generations.


Water is a State subject.

‘Composite Water Management Index’:

This index is an attempt to budge States and UTs towards efficient and optimal utilization of water and recycling thereof with a sense of urgency.The Index and this associated report are expected to:

  • Establish a clear baseline and benchmark for state-level performance on key water indicators
  • Uncover and explain how states have progressed on water issues over time, including identifying high-performers and under-performers, thereby inculcating a culture of constructive competition among states
  • Identify areas for deeper engagement and investment on the part of the states.

The Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) is a major step towards creating a culture of databased decision-making for water in India, which can encourage ‘competitive and cooperative federalism’ in the country’s water governance and management.

Must Read: Link 1

Connecting the Dots:

  1. Why has water become a stressed resource in many parts of the world? Analyse.
  2. To solve the growing water crisis, the solution that is proposed and pushed by world bodies such as WTO and IMF through international agreements is privatisation of water. Do you think India should also privatise its water? Critically analyse.
  3. Many parts of the country are facing severe water crisis and drought conditions. There are many traditional water harvesting and conservation practices in various parts of India which can be employed locally to fight the ongoing crisis. Can you identify few such practices? Also mention the states where they are more prevalant.
  4. Addressing the deepening drought, agrarian distress and water-management are critical not just for our governments to survive but for us to survive our governments. Comment.

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