It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a fast-growing economy in possession of a large workforce must be in want of abundant and clean drinking water. It is plain that water is one of the most essential resources that are required by mankind cutting across state and national borders; it is equally pertinent to mention that scarcity of water for multifarious purposes has emerged to be one of the most pressing concerns for all countries.
India’s Tryst with Water
India is home to a sixth of the world’s population, but has access to only about 4% to the potable water resources on the planet. In a recent report, NitiAyog estimated that around 2 lakh Indians die every year due to polluted water. In addition, India stands to lose over 6% of its GDP due to the said reason.
It is pertinent to note that like most problems ailing our nation, availability of water too is subject to regional variations. In its report, the Government has stated that different states in the country are positioned differently in terms of water resources and steps taken to conserve the resource. According to the report, states such as Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra etc. were at a higher risk of developing an acute shortage of water, while Himalayan states like Uttrakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh were better placed.
The Report also lauded efforts made by states such as Gujarat to effectively tackle this problem, and posited that a robust cooperation between the centre-state and state-state was the key to mitigating the risks posed by a rising demand and falling supply of clean water.
Economic Risks and Social Catastrophe
The Government has estimated that the Indian economy stands to lose more than 6% due to water shortages in the country.India cannot afford to be losing out and must do whatever is required to effectively tackle the said water crisis and bring millions of her people out of poverty.
The object of this article is to suggest measures that can be successfully undertaken by India in its fight against water shortages. It is pertinent to mention that only the best practices that are possible in India and economically feasible have been highlighted.
As cliché as it might sound, but rainwater harvesting is and will remain one of the primary solutions to the water crisis, not just in India but in any part of the world. Rooftop rainwater harvesting is a common but effective method of putting rainwater to various household uses. In houses, huge amount of water gets consumed in toilet flushes. If one reuses and recycles water from the kitchen and a washing machine, it can be used for washrooms. The water used to wash vegetables can also be used for watering plants. According to WHO standards, one person needs 135 litres a day, so, an average household might approximately need 400-500 litres. But in India, we have houses that consume about 2,000 to 3,000 litres of water daily.
A rainwater harvesting system can be set up in any household, thanks to its cheap and inexpensive nature. The storage tanks are the most expensive. They might cost around Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 60,000. If one already has a sump installed in his/her house, by spending around Rs. 15000 on pipes and filters, one’s rainwater harvesting system will be up and running. Plus, this system can also be used in large apartment complexes to regulate the high volume flow of water.
Most places in India get a good amount of rainfall. One can harvest rainwater everywhere. Where there is a lot of rain, one can make smaller sumps. Where it rains less, one can have bigger storage tanks, so that one can save every drop. Harvesting rainwater can also replenish and recharge borewells.
Dyeing textiles is a water intensive process that generates highly polluted water that must be subject to costly treatment process before being discharged into water bodies. A new commercial scale dyeing technology for dyeing synthetic fabric, DyeOx has been implemented in Taiwan that utlizies Carbon Dioxide (CO2), instead of water in the dyeing process. The factory in question produced 920,000 kg of fabric per annum, and led to a reduction of 8,256,000 litres of water used.
In a quest for improved irrigation practices, three farms in Milan installed a drip irrigation system coupled with soil moisture monitoring as part of the AquaTEK™ programme. This system enables farmers to irrigate only when required, without stressing crops by supplying too much or too little water.
The Water Utilities Department of the City of Roseville decided to implement an online platform to enhance its engagement with its residential customers. The object was to provide personalized information regarding their water use, to instill the importance of water and to improve water efficiency through a social norms based program.
The Segura River is about 350 km long and flows from West to East discharging into the Mediterranean on Spain’s East Coast. It passes through the region of Murcia, which despite having a population of over 2 milion, has the lowest rainfall in the European region. It is obvious that it faces an acute shortage of water. The water available is of very poor quality. This project, implemented over a 10-year period, improves available resource through the capture and treatment of urban and industrial wastewater flows and returning them for direct or indirect re-use in irrigation. A key element to the project’s success was the enaction of policy and legislation that enforces the “Polluter Pays” principle, enabling waste water treatment and recovery to be operated on a cost recovery basis. It required the construction of 97 advanced wastewater treatment plants, 350 km of pipage and the introduction of a robust system to monitor industrial waste discharge. At a cost of USD 917 million (75-80% of which was received from European funds), it achieved 100 million m3/year of waste water return flows that were previously unusable. It was also able to make a connection to 99% of urban areas to sewers and substantially increase the rivers’ quality for the people of Murcia and beyond.
SOLUTIONS TO INDIA’S WATER CRISIS
Proper Utilisation of Existing Assets
Capitalizing on existing assets holds prime importance to solve the water conundrum. The basic and primary objective of any water operator, especially in India, must be to optimize the existing infrastructure. Existing infrastructure includes water treatment plants, water networks and reservoirs. The basic goal which this solution sought to achieve was to supply water to a larger population while using the same capacities i.e. utilizing the existing assets rather than investing and waiting for new infrastructures to come up.
For example, since 2006 in Karnataka, as part of a performance contract with the cities of Hubli-Dharwad, Gulbarga and Belgaum and in partnership with the World Bank, it became possible to provide a continuous water supply to 180,000 people who previously, at best, received water for only a few hours a week.
Affordable Connections and Services
In the current Indian setup, Public-Private Partnerships have been the master of the roster for quite a significant amount of time. The public sector is responsible for retaining the ownership of the assets and also has the sole authority for setting the tariffs. Our nation needs to adopt such a system in which the costs of individual connections are affordable and that the tariffs are not humungous in nature for the poorest strata of the society.
In the towns of Hubli-Dharwad, Belgaum and Gulbarga, working with the municipal corporations and the World Bank, a solution was devised that ensured charges for individual connection to the water network were affordable for all.
Providing Local Customer Services
Local customer services is one area which is often ignored by the water operators. But, they fail to realise that proper customer services hold utmost importance for consumer satisfaction and consumer satisfaction holds utmost importance in solving the water crisis. Hence, it is the duty of every water distributor to target the needs of the users and provide the most sought-after customer services.
For example, in the city of Nagpur (Maharashtra), a new unit was created within the Customer Services Department of Orange City Water (the joint venture company between Veolia and Vishvaraj Environment Ltd.) named the Social Welfare Team.
Hence, it is apposite to conclude that the world is standing at a crossroads in its struggle for conserving water. It is time that all nations, cutting across boundaries do their part and help preserve this resource; this will be in furtherance of the cause of our nation, and the yet larger cause of mankind.
About the author
(RIGHT IMG)Aditya Mathur is a student of Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Punjab. He is pursuing an undergraduate degree of B.A. LL.B. (Hons.). Aditya has a keen interest in Constitutional Law, International Law, Insolvency Law and Competition Law. He has a knack of staying updated with the issues plaguing the modern world and researching on the same.
(LEFT IMG) Agam Bansal is a student of Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Punjab. He is pursuing an undergraduate degree of B.A. LL.B. (Hons.), and is currently in the 2nd year. Agam has a keen interest in Criminal Law, Consumer Protection Laws, and International Law. He is also keen on gaining knowledge concerning Mediation and Arbitration. He has participated in various national moot court competitions and authored multiple research works in prestigious journals. He has a knack of staying updated with the issues plaguing the modern world and researching on the same.