Everyday we use and need it. Nobody can do without it. Though many forget how precious it is.
The issue of water scarcity was first raised in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. Since then, each year, March 22 is observed across the world to shine the spotlight on different water-related issues.
Last year in south Africa it was a serious matter, the wealthy people also feeling what it was not having enough water.
Population growth, drought and climate change are among the key causes of the water crisis, according to a report from Groundup, a joint project of Community Media Trust and the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Social Science Research, who stated that since 1995 the South Africa’s second largest city of Cape Town its population has grown 79 percent, from about 2.4 million to an expected 4.3 million in 2018. Over the same period dam storage has increased by only 15 percent.
The Berg River Dam, which began storing water in 2007, has been Cape Town’s only significant addition to water storage infrastructure since 1995. Its 130,000 megalitre capacity is over 14 percent of the 898,000 megalitres that can be held in Cape Town’s large dams. Had it not been for good water consumption management by the City, the 2018 crisis could have hit much earlier. Also other urban centres in Africa, last year were facing or were on the brink of a similar crisis.
Beyond natural causes and consumption levels, experts say that water waste, poor water conservation policies and lack of political goodwill are some of the main reasons behind the water crisis afflicting most major cities.
South Africa, for example, is losing 37 percent of its water supply through leaks across its many cities, according to a 2017 Green Cape market intelligence report.
“The main cause of water crises in urban centres, and in almost every place, is poor water management,”
said Steven Downey, Global Water Partnership Head of Communications.
The real threat of water scarcity is hitting millions of people worldwide.
A glance at the World Bank’s statistics reveals the magnitude of the problem: 163 million Indians lack access to safe drinking water; 210 m have no access to improved sanitation; 21 percent of communicable diseases are linked to unsafe water and 500 children under age five die from diarrhoea each day in India.
In 2016, a whopping 300 districts (or nearly half of India’s 640 districts) were under the spell of an acute drinking water shortage across India. The government then had to operate special trains at great expense just to carry water to the affected places.
Surface water isn’t the only source reaching a breaking point in India. The country’s freshwater is also under great stress. This is largely because State policies have failed to check groundwater development. With continued neglect and bureaucratic mismanagement and indifference, the problem has intensified.
Grassroots efforts like those led by Rajendra Singh, who won the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize, presented annually by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), in 2015, have had a positive effect. His pioneering work in rural development and water conservation, starting in the 1980s, brought some 8,600 rainwater storage tanks, known as johads, to 1,058 villages spread over 6,500 sq km in nine districts of Rajasthan. Five seasonal rivers in the state which had nearly dried up have since become perennial.
But adverse fallouts from water shortage aren’t just limited to people. They impact the Indian economy too.
“As an agrarian economy, India relies heavily on agriculture. There is aggressive irrigation in rural areas where agriculture provides the livelihood for over 600 million Indians, However, technological advances in agriculture haven’t kept pace with the population explosion,”
explains economist Probir Choudhury of Reliance Capital.
As a result, he says, even as much of the world has adopted lesser water-intensive crops and sophisticated agricultural techniques, India still uses conventional systems and water-intensive crops. An excessive reliance on monsoons further leads to crop failures and farmer suicides.
The country’s industrialization has brought its own set of woes, say market analysts. Contamination of fresh water sources by industrial waste has sullied the waters of all major rivers. Over 90 percent of the waste water discharged into rivers, lakes, and ponds is untreated that leads to further contamination of fresh water sources.
Massive investments in wind energy and solar energy, along with rejection of fossil fuel facilities in water-stressed places, are also being vigorously pursued in India, which has a target for 40 percent of its power to come from renewables by 2030 under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, creating opportunities to minimize its water scarcity.
India has shown us that swift progress is possible. Since 2000, India has reached over 300 million people with clean water close to home; that is nearly the entire population of the United States.
In Mali and Niger, land-locked nations exposed to drought and flooding in the barren lands of the Sahel, the gap in access to water between rich and poor is vast. In Niger, ranked second least-developed nation in the world in 2016 by the UN, 72% of the wealthiest people have access to water, compared to only 41% of the poorest. While neighbouring Mali made significant progress and secured access for 93% of the rich, only less than half of the country’s poorest can say the same.