India staring down the barrel of a major water crisis
Shimla and Bengaluru are two very disparate cities. One is a quaint hill station that acts as a summer retreat for most Indians while the other is a bustling IT hub, which makes it a popular destination for most of the corporates in India.
 
Both are poles apart and, quite aptly, situated in opposite ends of the country. The only sliver of commonality between the two cities is the unfortunate water crisis that is currently afflicting daily life in both regions. Shimla ran out of water towards the end of May this year while earlier Bengaluru was listed as one the cities in the world that were most likely to suffer a similar fate. 
 
Recently, the NITI Aayog released a report that highlighted the gravity of India's water situation. The country is facing its worst water crisis in history and if no action is taken to address this, the demand for water would far outstrip its supply by 2030. In fact, even by 2020, it is expected that 21 Indian cities will run out of groundwater. The pitiful scenes of Cape Town residents lining up for their daily quota of water dreading the day when the city turns off its taps could soon be seen closer home. 
 
According to government data released last year, the annual per capita availability of water fell from 1,820 cubic meters in 2001 to 1,545 cubic meters in 2011, which may further fall to 1,341 cubic meters in 2025. Annual per capita water availability below 1,700 cubic meters is considered to be a water stressed situation.
 
The crisis is mainly being brought about by three specific factors: climate change, pollution and poor farming practices. Exceptionally hot summers and shortened winters are resulting in retreating Himalayan glaciers, which feed most of India's northern rivers. The erratic monsoons are further worsening the situation throughout the country. This has led to an escalation in river disputes among states. At least six states are in constant conflict over the Yamuna in the north, the Narmada in the midwest and the Kaveri in the south. 
 
Water pollution is another source of the crisis. All waterbodies in India within or near populated areas are contaminated with organic and hazardous pollutants. Bengaluru's Bellandur Lake is a case in point. The water body is so toxic that methane fires regularly break out on its surface. Due to such pollution levels, not a single Indian city can provide clean tap water throughout the day. Even the groundwater situation is dismal. A lack of proper wastewater treatment that is spewed from domestic and industrial sources has led to progressive contamination of groundwater posing health risks to those who depend upon it for their daily use.
 
Another factor which can be said to one of the major reasons for the increasing stress on water tables is the prevalence of poor farming practices across India. By some estimates, Indian agriculture accounts for about 90 percent of the country's annual domestic water consumption. Due to a lack of reliable irrigation sources, farmers usually depend on underground sources of water. Over the last three decades, there has been an explosive growth of private tube-well construction across Indian farms. Since farmers are provided with free electricity, it often leads to excessive pumping. 
 
Between 2004 and 2011, the groundwater usage escalated from 58 percent to 62 percent and the trends have not changed since. In fact, India now uses more groundwater than China and the US combines. Consequently, the country has witnessed a sharp drop in its water table levels.
 
India can do little about climate change in the short-term, but a lot can be done for the latter aspects. NITI's efforts to build a Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) is a commendable step towards data-based policy making. The index aims to benchmark state-level performances based on water indicators against a clear baseline. However, it needs to be ensured that findings of these performance indicators percolate into actionable policy at the ground level. 
 
Also, issues like pollution and exploitative farming practices need to be addressed on a national scale. The central government could look at Israel and Singapore for possible solutions. Israel is a largely arid region that has developed a model for sustainable water consumption. The country has a state-of-the-art centralised water management system with desalination plants that allows the use of waste water for farming. Israeli farms also use drip irrigation that involves dripping water right into the roots of the crops instead of flooding entire fields, which is a common practice in India. Likewise, Singapore also boasts of an efficient water treatment system along with huge reservoirs and catchment areas that cover almost two-thirds of the city-state's surface area and collect natural water. 
 
It is promising to see the government taking proactive steps to stem the problem before it becomes unmanageable. Hopefully, a shift in water management will become visible at the ground level. Any laxity will have disastrous consequences as the issue will have an impact on every aspect of the economy, especially agriculture, which still employs almost half the country's population. 
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
 

 

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COMMENTS

Silloo Marker

4 months ago

Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science, New Delhi, has often stressed the need to conserve water, to take steps to reduce pollution of water sources and to reduce the dependence on groundwater. The scientific studies conducted by her organisation and others seem to have fallen on deaf ears. If the government is now waking up to the urgency of the water crisis, it is high time.

However, we still hear of industries pouring waste water full of chemicals into rivers and city sewers leading directly into the sea. Laws do exist to penalise those carrying on these harmful practices but don't seem to affect the guilty. There is not enough done by the pollution board inspectors due to different reasons, honest and dishonest. The result once again is good laws undermined by non application. Water is so important to all that this scenario has to change.

Sanjeev Singhal

4 months ago

Wasting water is criminal. This is a real threat and has to be tackled now before it goes out of hand. While we can do little about climatic changes (the solutions would be very long term involving the entire world), but we should something about the way we use and store water. More and more of the monsoon rain should be channelled into underground reservoirs to up the water table. the usage practices should be made efficient.

Five killed as rains clobber Maharashtra, road, rail traffic hit
Torrential rains clobbered large areas of Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra seriously hitting road traffic and rail operations, claiming at least five lives in rain-related incidents, officials said here on Monday.
 
Mumbai's lifeline, the suburban locals on Western Railway (WR) and Central Railway (CR) were running between 15-30 minutes late on account of waterlogging on the railway tracks and periphery of several stations like Sion, Chinchpokli and Matunga, inconveniencing office-goers due to overnight rains that lashed the city.
 
On the WR, the downpour had dislocated train movement due to heavy rains in south Gujarat and north-west Maharashtra, but services were restored (after nearly 90 minutes) with severe speed restrictions by 9.10 a.m. on Monday.
 
WR General Manager A.K. Gupta left for the affected track sites between Bhilad-Sanjan (south Gujarat), even as several mail and express trains bound for Mumbai and from Mumbai to various destinations like Gujarat and Delhi, were delayed at various points en route.
 
The Mumbai morning peak road traffic was badly hit as waterlogging was reported in some parts of the Eastern and Western Express Highways (EEH-WEH), main and arterial roads and many low-lying areas of the city and suburbs and traffic to and from adjoining Thane, Palghar and Raigad districts.
 
There was flooding in several areas like Chunabhatti, Wadala, Dadar, Malad, Kurla, Gamdevi, Santacruc-Chembur Link Road and other places hitting traffic movement severely and delaying school buses transporting kids to their schools.
 
A portion of the wall of an under-construction highrise at Lords Estate in Antop Hill trapping many residents and damaging over a dozen private cars parked in a neighbouring society premises.
 
The Mumbai Fire Brigade, NDRF and other emergency services have launched relief operations but there are no reports of any casualties.
 
According to IMD, till 8.30 am in the past 24 hours, Mumbai suburbs received a 231.5 mm and the city got 100 mm rains, with predictions of more heavy rains over the next two days.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
 

 

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ED seeks fugitive offender tag for Mallya
 The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday moved a special court to declare the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines' chief Vijay Mallya a "fugitive economic offender" and confiscate all his properties.
 
The financial probe agency said that it has filed an application before a court in Mumbai to declare Mallya, a fugitive economic offender under the newly-promulgated Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance.
 
The agency also sought court orders for confiscating all the properties of Mallya worth Rs 12,500 crore, which includes immovable properties as well as movable properties in form of shares. 
 
Mallya is the first person under which action is proposed under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance. The agency officials said that the fugitive diamond jeweller Nirav Modi, who is wanted by the investigating agencies in India in the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case would be the second person to be declared as a fugitive economic offender under the new law. 
 
The government has approved the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, 2018 on April 21 in a bid to bring back defaulters of huge bank loans who escape abroad, and also provide for attachment and confiscation of the properties of the economic offenders.
 
The Ordinance makes provisions for a 'Special Court' under the PML to declare a person as a Fugitive Economic Offender, or a a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution. 
 
Last week, the agency has filed two chargesheets against Mallya, Kingfisher Airlines Ltd (KAL), UBHL and others under Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
 
Following the chargesheets, the court issued fresh non-bailable warrant Mallya in both the cases. 
 
According to the ED chargesheet, the investigation revealed a criminal conspiracy since inception for obtaining or sanctioning of bank loan to KAL in gross violations of established or prescribed procedures with no intention for repayment of loan. 
 
The agency alleged that instances were noticed wherein, Mallya was alienating his assets by disposing of the properties held in the name of the companies which were indirectly controlled by him and also was getting funds outside India by way of having a deal with Diageo Plc. 
 
"These details were intentionally withheld from the banks and later on, alienated some of the assets and tried to obfuscate the banks from enforcement of guarantees submitted by them. All these fraudulent activities were undertaken beginning with availment of loan," it said. 
 
The agency alleged: "There was a conspiracy amongst Mallya and the officials of KAL and others to project and get accepted the brand value as a collateral security in spite of the same being a hypothetical asset and suffering from deficiencies and also deliberately avoided in submitting the valuation report of another brand valuer."
 
"KAL had offered as a collateral towards security, negative lien on fleet of hire purchase or finance lease aircraft against the loans availed from the banks despite being well aware that the said security was only a symbolic security in nature and was grossly inadequate to cover the exposure of the banks," it said. 
 
The agency also said that efforts were made to locate and make Mallya to join the investigation, but he "deliberately and intentionally avoided to appear on the stipulated dates by giving one pretext or the other". 
 
In its chargesheet the agency also alleged that several instances of siphoning and diversion of funds by KAL at the behest and for the benefit of Mallya. 
 
"The loan amounts were siphoned off and diverted overseas in the guise of lease rental payments for aircrafts, payments towards his sister companies by mis-representing the banks for making payments towards ground handling of the airlines, excess invoicing of the lease rentals, utilizing of loan amounts towards payments for personal benefits such as corporate jet, diversion of funds to IPL franchise owned by Mallya etc." it said.
 
On ED's request, Mallya's passport was revoked in April 2016 and the agency so far has attached his properties worth Rs 9,890 crore. 
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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