India in grip of severe water crisis; government mulls making demand management a priority:

India is in the grip of a water crisis that has been years in the making even as temperatures shoot up to a scorching 46 degrees Celsius.

With the situation expected to deteriorate further, the government is planning to make demand management a priority by funding drip irrigation for farmers, penalising overexploitation of groundwater and enacting a model water law, an official said, adding that at this level of shortage, China had declared a crisis. “Water crisis is indeed looming large at us” water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation secretary Shashi Shekhar told ET.

“If we go by figures, in 2000, we started with 2,000 cubic metres water per person per year. Today, we have reached about 1,500 m3 and in next 15 years it will go to 1,100 m3. At 1,500 cubic metres per person per year itself it is called a crisis. China has declared it a crisis at 1,500 m3/person per year. We are likely to go below that.”

Measures to mitigate scarcity head the government’s agenda as two failed monsoons have left many parts of the country parched and very little water left in reservoirs.

Shekhar said the crisis has been in the making for many years as traditional ponds and water bodies have not been maintained while industrial demand along with water-intensive agriculture had ravaged groundwater reserves.

In Maharashtra, one of the worst-affected states, water is being transported by train to parched areas, and a debate is raging over using it for irrigating sugarcane or in processes such as making beermaking rather than saving what’s left for drinking purposes. A maximum temperature of 46 degrees Celsius was recorded at Titlagarh in Odisha, with the India Meteorological Department forecasting heatwave conditions persisting over the next week or so. read more

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