Monsoon has yet to arrive but people are eagerly waiting for rains this time, as water levels at 91 major reservoirs nationwide are the lowest in a decade. Water levels at Indian reservoirs are 71 per cent. However, the average storage of water over the last decade is 74 per cent according to the CWC data.
The 91 major reservoirs contain 157.8 billion cubic metres (BCM) of water; the capacity of these reservoirs is 250 BCM. Another 400 BCM water is available for irrigation in India through groundwater, according to the answer given by the government in the Lok Sabha (the Lower House of Parliament) in July 2015.
If there were going to be any war in future then it will be fought for water. Corporate companies of water business, wineries, big hotels and rich people of this country never suffer such catastrophes. It’s always the common man who suffers. In Latur, there were brutal fights over water and the Maharashtra government had to impose section 144 of CrPC in the city, then the helpless people started co-operating. Latur has been facing a severe water shortage this year. Section 144 prohibits unlawful assembly of five or more persons at a place.
The acute water shortage in several parts of India has moved on, after denuding farmland and sparking a drinking water crisis. About 500 km from Mumbai, Latur district is the epicenter of the drought in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra. People are getting water supply once in 20 days and taking a bath even once a week is a luxury. Forget about washing clothes or maintaining hygiene. On rare days, they use half a bucket of water to take bath and then use that (remaining) water to wash clothes or clean homes. The last drop from that is used to water plants if that is possible, otherwise most of the plants go dry. Those having pets or cattle suffered even more. Adjusting with limited water or no water lead to human survival crises.
The convoys of water tankers were getting water for Latur (from nearby sources) with an armed policeman on guard is a sight to behold. Maharashtra government enlisted Indian Railways to supply water by trains to parched Latur. The first of the two trains reached the place, after steam cleaning, to transport 27 million litres of water every day to Latur. In response to a demand from the Rajasthan government, Indian Railways has also been sending potable water to parched areas in Ajmer since January.
Maharashtra and nine other states, including Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, declared a drought in 2015, the second year of a deficit south-west monsoon in India. This has led to depleting water levels in reservoirs.
Data from the ministry of water resources show that in end March, water levels in 91 major reservoirs in the country was at just 25% of capacity—30% lower than last year, and 25% less than the average storage in a decade.
The situation is acute in the western parts of the country. Water stored in reservoirs in Maharashtra and Gujarat was at 21% of their capacity, compared to the usual decadal average of 44%. In southern India, covering drought-hit states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, water levels were at 17% of reservoir capacity, compared to decadal average storage levels of 29% of capacity.
India has failed to recognize that groundwater resources form the lifeline of water supply in villages, cities and for farming and there is little effort to enhance recharge and harvest rainwater. In July last year, the situation was clear as six states faced deficit rains. Both the centre and state government have failed to reduce non-essential water use and prioritize drinking water for humans and livestock. Now when nothing is going right, the Maharashtra government is planning to appoint an experts’ committee to suggest measures to solve Mumbai’s water woes, they will come up with some measures to counter water issues.
The BMC (civic body) supplies 960-975 million litres daily (MLD) of water to the island city’s 31 lakh population, 920-930 MLD to eastern suburbs’ 30 lakh population, while the area from Goregaon to Dahisar, with a population of 30 lakh, gets only 620 MLD of water. This is an injustice to the suburban region. The government should appoint a committee to study feasibility of equal, population-based distribution. Moreover, 27 per cent of water is lost to leakages or theft, BMC was trying to reduce them by adopting various measures like replacement of old distribution lines, but so far nothing has been done.
I hope that this country won’t witness civil war over water. If that situation persists then water industries and mafias will sell every drop of it.
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