India’s water crisis could worsen situation - GulfToday

India’s water crisis could worsen situation


People fill bottles with water from a municipal truck ahead of World Water Day, in Bengaluru. Reuters

Meena Janardhan

About 160 million of India’s 1.3 billion people do not have access to clean water. One can only hope fervently that the coronavirus outbreak does not move into community spread in India – the dreaded stage in our battle against the pandemic. For people across India who face clean water access issues, this could mean a gargantuan battle as they would find it nearly impossible to maintain the required hygiene standards.

Against the backdrop of the call for highest levels of hygiene across the world,  World Water Day  (WWD) was celebrated on March 22, 2020 This draws our attention to the theme this year – water and climate change – and how the two are inextricably linked. The WWD website highlights that adapting to the water effects of climate change will protect health and save lives. Using water more efficiently will reduce greenhouse gases. We cannot afford to wait. Everyone has a role to play.

But today, the focus is also on washing hands. Experts say keeping hands clean is one of the easiest and best ways to prevent transmission of the new coronavirus, in addition to social distancing. They also point out that the availability of water is crucial in our war against the virus. Access to clean water and its sustainable use is a humungous obstacle that governments, especially in India, will have to overcome.

We need at least 1.5-2 litres per 20-second wash to rid ourselves of any virus contamination. Washing hands frequently would mean we need between 15-20 litres of water per person; a household of five would need 100 litres only for hand washing.

Washing your hands for 20seconds does not mean you need to have the tap running for 20 seconds! So as we make sure we take care of ourselves, we also need to make sure we take care of our rapidly depleting natural resources.

The WWD website states, usually, this day is a time to meet face-to-face and discuss how to tackle the global crisis in water and sanitation. With the new coronavirus outbreak many plans had to be changed for World Water Day events and messages.

Calling for ‘All Hands on World Water Day’, the website stresses the need for hand hygiene is essential to containing the spread of COVID-19 and many other infectious diseases. In some parts of the world there is little or no awareness of good hygiene practices and their role in reducing the spread of disease. However, it is often the case that even when people do have knowledge of good hygiene behaviour, they lack the soap, safe water and washing facilities they need to make positive changes to protect themselves and their community. This #WorldWaterDay, it’s time to show our best hand hygiene moments to fight #COVID19.

However, we also need to pay heed to the water warnings as well. The United Nations has warned that two-thirds of the world will experience a severe shortage of drinking water by 2025.

India is the biggest extractor of its groundwater, for 80% of the population’s needs. India contains 4% of the earth’s water resources in a mere 2.4% of the planet’s land area. It is expected that by 2050, 75% of the population in India will be living in cities. Therefore, solving water problems specific to metropolitan areas is crucial.

A World Bank survey reported that India had drilled 30 million tube wells in just five decades to irrigate 35 million hectares. Regulating groundwater extraction, recharging our aquifers, reusing treated water and rainwater harvesting are all critical for our water security. Recent NASA data shows India among the hotspots where overuse of water resources has led to a decline in available freshwater.

Bengaluru, Bhopal as well as Gujarat’s Dholavira and Madhya Pradesh’s Dhubela are among the cities and towns in India with some of the most interesting urban projects that manage, protect and conserve water supply, according to a report from the World University of Design (WUD). But the report also points out that by 2025, two thirds of the world’s population may face a water crisis and by 2030, water supply may be outstripped by 40 per cent, as has already been the case observed in various cities of India.

Globally, South Africa’s Cape Town, Mozambique’s Beira, and Peru’s Lima are the leading cities that have adopted design as a strategic element in innovation processes to solve the water crisis looming at large, according to the report titled “Cities with the Best Water Designs”.

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