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Water Shortage Problems in India - Analysed


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'Water Warriors of India - Initiative Towards Pure and Ample water'

Essay on Topic 1: How do you contribute to solving community problems? 'Water Warriors of India - Initiative towards Pure and Ample water'

No water or contaminated water is commonplace news in the national or regional dailies of India. Such incidents are termed by newspapers as mismanagement of the government, bureaucrats calls it unfortunate incidents and the governing authorities term it as accident. Whatever the term used it's the shame to the whole mankind that even being in 21st century, with such high development of technology some of our fellow beings living in certain sections of the society has a threat to ill health and in some cases succumb their lives to shackles of death because of water which itself is the originator of life. Now, the questions to be asked are:- Are these water problems beyond hope? No. Can we have ample and pure water? Yes. Such incidents occur throughout India. Year after year, whether or not the monsoon is officially declared "good", whether or not there is an "official" drought.

Can all of India solve its water (and water-related) problems? Yes.


Self help is the best help, each and every being of the community has to take a step to solve its own problem and the best step to solve water problem is to catch and store water where it falls through 'Rain water harvesting.' Rain will usher local food security, from rain will come biomass-wealth that will eradicate ecological poverty. From rain will come social harmony. Rainwater harvesting is what India can choose, and the youth consortium which will bring paradigm shift in this process will be 'Water Warriors of India'

It's an irony that India being surrounded by water bodies on three sides, house of 13 major rivers, largest river island (Majuli), highest rainfall ( Mausingram) and many other facts which reflects India's dominance in water resources, yet we face shortages every year.

Consider this - the per capita water availability in India was 3450 cu m in 1952. It stands at 1800 cu m now and by estimates by 2025 it will fall to 1200 - 1500 cu m per person. Even though the rate of urbanization in India is among the lowest in the world, the nation has more than 250 million city-dwellers. Experts predict that this number will rise even further, and by 2020, about 50 per cent of India's population will be living in cities. This is going to put further pressure on the already strained centralized water supply systems of urban areas. The urban water supply and sanitation sector in the country is suffering from inadequate levels of service, an increasing demand-supply gap, poor sanitary conditions and deteriorating financial and technical performance.

Supply of water is highly erratic and unreliable. Transmission and distribution networks are old and poorly maintained, and generally of a poor quality. Consequently physical losses are typically high, ranging from 25 to over 50 per cent. Low pressures and intermittent supplies allow back siphoning, which results in contamination of water in the distribution network. Water is typically available for only 2-8 hours a day in most Indian cities. The situation is even worse in summer when water is available only for a few minutes, sometimes not at all. Looking at the condition at metro cities of India: Mumbai's demand for water is expected to rise to 7,970 MLD (million litres daily) by 2011, current supply is 3100 MLD which already constitutes a substantial shortfall as the city receives only 2,500 MLD, the balance lost on account of leakages and pilferage. In the capital itself Delhi the supply of water is around 650 million gallons of water per day against the demand of 750 million.

According to a World Bank study, of the 27 Asian cities with populations of over 1,000,000, Chennai and Delhi are ranked as the worst performing metropolitan cities in terms of hours of water availability per day, while Mumbai is ranked as second worst performer and Calcutta fourth worst

All these was regarding the shortage of water but the analysis remains incomplete if we don't emphasize on the quality of water available for drinking. Whether the water is potable? The fact is that it is deteriorating fast. As early as in 1982 it was reported that 70 per cent of all available water in India was polluted. The situation is much worse today. There are daily news reports on prime dailies showing the pictures of the contaminated water available in various localities of the city for drinking. The colour of the contaminated water supplied to these areas is worse to urine. Over extraction of ground water has led to salt water intrusion into coastal aquifers. It has also resulted in problems of excessive fluoride, iron, arsenic and salinity in water affecting about 44 million people in India. Ground water is facing an equally serious threat from contamination by industrial effluent as well as pesticides and fertilizer from farm run-offs. Sanitation and water management should be looked at simultaneously. Too often attention is focused on drinking water supply, leaving sanitation and wastewater treatment for later. However, for every 100 litres of water going into a house about 90 litres will have to leave the plot again. Unless priority is given quickly to creating an infrastructure to assure availability of water, there may be no water to meet the agricultural, domestic and industrial needs of a population that has tripled in 50 years to more than a billion.

Water management in terms of availability and most importantly quality is therefore major challenge not only for town planners, state and central governments but being citizen of the world's largest democracy it's our supreme duty to overcome the hurdles regarding the water management and water warriors will take initiative in gratifying this duty.

Water supply is an 'institutional process' and an institutional framework for effective water supply and sanitation has to comply with the functions of policy, regulation and sector organization, management of quality, infrastructure and on-site sanitation. So we discuss about the major issues and their solution concerning institutional options in water problem and sanitation in Indian community, analysis can be further extended to other developing countries:

First issue: Water supply should treat to all sections of society, but poor people are neglected Institutions in developing countries dealing with water and sanitation issues have rarely been designed to cater for large numbers of poor people.

At the level of operations, public utilities are often constrained by bureaucratic requirements. For instance there is often considerable inflexibility in the management of human resources within public utilities. Given the complexity of the problem in many countries there are a number of separate agencies responsible for wastewater and sanitation, particular in the case of public sector provision. For this, the role of Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as ours, particularly in low cost sanitation, community participation and creating public awareness has to be very positive. In cities, community toilets has to be constructed and managed mainly by NGOs or private firms, based on the 'user pays' principle or as a charity. We will be active in raising awareness concerning health, hygiene, slum development, solid waste collection and disposal issue and equitable distribution of facilities. The challenge remains to increase the impact of these initiatives by multiplying them on a larger scale or mainstreaming the approach in the leading institutions for water and sanitation in India.

Second issue: Should privatization of water be done and confusion regarding the delegation of roles between public and private sector?

An important issue according to this is the division of responsibilities between the government and the private sector. Ideally the government would set the framework, but there is often market failure. Then governments get involved and find it difficult to pull out. Also the type and scale of technology is important and has consequences for the management and financing. The larger the scale, the bigger the financial implications. In that case governments will also be more inclined to involve the private sector. But majority of the public opinion favors water as a common resource while showing reservation about policy that seeks to make water a commodity of the state. Water policies adopted by states like Maharashtra and Rajasthan are being opposed by several groups including the environmentalists. A largely felt perception held by the people is that governments in India are buckling under pressure from the World Bank. These policies, it is felt, help declare water as a state property, which later facilitates its conversion into private property. But is the privatization of water the only viably efficient solution to our shoddy management of water resources?

The division between the public and private sector requires answering the question which tasks each one is fulfilling? To ensure effective provision of sanitation services it is imperative to have a good understanding of the roles and responsibilities of every entity (be it public or private) and the technologies used to perform its task. The emergence of the private sector and the users themselves as alternative providers leads to a formulation of a large number of institutional modes for the provision of services with private sector involvement. These modes vary from simple service contract to complete divestiture to the private sector, and a large variety of models for user involvement as owners or in the management. On the other hand we as participants of the youth movement in water through our ways of harvesting water along with water activists, environmentalist and policy makers will work to provide alternatives to water policies so that the government and people are made aware that there are ways other than privatization to manage the country's water resources.

Third issue: Willingness to pay or to contribute for water supply and sanitation is minimal.

Effective demand for water and sanitation is often weak if measured by the willingness to pay or contribute to for example the installation of sanitary services. Public demand in context of making payments for water supply and sanitation services systems is low in spite of the high social cost assigned to the polluted sites. The public sector has also become increasingly aware of the high political risk of a significant raise in basic rates for providing these services. Key constituting elements of such systems are appropriate policies, laws and regulations, institutions, technologies and cost recovery systems. There is a need to look for appropriate technological solutions and to involve the people at the preparation and implementation stage. In general the public is interested in getting sanitation facilities, but not very much concerned about the treatment of wastewater or the necessary off plot sanitation facilities. This usually means a limited willingness to pay and a negative attitude towards involving private parties. Water warriors in its programme will organize campaign stressing on bringing water democracy by ensuring that every drop is conserved, harvested and shared by the people. <continued>

Contributing Writer Amrit Deorah, a student of Economics Honours, Sri Venkateswara Collge, Delhi University


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