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Over the past 60 years, the annual per capita water availability in India has fallen 70% to 1544 cubic meter from 5177 cubic meter in 1951 and is expected to further fall to 1,140 cubic meter in 2050
The alarm on the continued availability of sufficient water to all consumers in India, both corporate and domestic, over the years has sounded. The per capita water availability in India, which is currently at 1,544 cubic meters in 2011 vis-à-vis the international benchmark 1,700 cubic meters, is projected to further shrink to 1,140 cubic meters by 2050, said CRISIL in a research report.
India’s population has increased from 361 million in 1951 to 1.21 billion in 2011. The number of cities with population of over 1 million has increased from 12 in 1981 and 23 in 1991 to 35 in 2001. Therefore, the per capita availability of water in the country as a whole has plummeted from 5,177 cubic meter per annum in 1951 to 1,544 cubic meter per annum in 2011, a drastic reduction of 70% in 60 years. With the per capita availability of water falling below 1,700 cubic meters, India has already acquired the unfortunate status of a ‘water-stressed’ nation. The situation is expected to deteriorate further as per capita water availability is expected to decline further to 1,342 and 1,140 cubic meters per annum by 2025 and 2050, respectively, the report said.
Water is a resource that Indians have been able to take for granted until now. But that is no longer the case. Water, which is an integral part of the production process in many industries, has emerged as an issue that could have serious consequences for direct operations of a company, and its supply chains, brand reputation, and therefore, on growth opportunities and profit.
According to the report, growing scarcity and pollution of water, coupled with challenges arising out of climate change could pose serious risks to industrial and business operations in India. Given the likely impact of these risks on companies' financial performance, SEBI has made it mandatory for top 100 listed companies in terms of market capitalisation to submit Business Responsibility Reports (BRR), as a part of their annual reports. So far, only 39 Indian companies have released sustainability reports in adherence to the global reporting initiative.
Mukesh Agarwal, senior director, CRISIL Research, said, "Most companies continue to have a cavalier approach towards use of water and waste water discharge and consequently, have been forced to face physical, regulatory and reputational damages. This has often led to significant impact on the financial performance, and in select cases, companies have even had to shift or shut down their business operations. Indian companies must therefore manage their water usage and discharge in a responsible and sustainable manner."
Statistics from the report indicates that India has already acquired the status of a water-stressed nation. CRISIL Research conducted a comprehensive assessment of water disclosure practices of 500 publicly held companies in India. The study revealed that in 2010, only 30% of companies reported that they have company-level water policy for prudent management of water usage. Similarly, 22% of companies reported that they have policies to manage wastewater discharge. Only 3.3% of companies disclosed information on total quantity of water used and merely 1.5% reported the source from where water used is drawn. The study pointed out that sectors such as energy, materials and utilities are more proactive in disclosing information on wastewater discharge.
"Every company must adopt a comprehensive strategy to reduce water-related business risks as part of its overall risk management practices. Monitoring of water usage/waste water discharge, through proper accounting and reporting to the stakeholders/general public, must form the core of such a strategy and would be central to sustainable growth," said Sunil Sinha, head and senior economist, CRISIL.
CRISIL said water stewardship demonstrated by few Indian companies like ITC and Tata Motors need to be emulated by others to contain water related business risks. ITC trains and empowers farmers in watershed management. ITC has assisted farming communities in 22 districts across 7 states of India.
Tata Motors' first step was to create a perennial source of water by constructing a 350-metre-long stone dam to contain rainwater that came in through the natural watercourses within the perimeter. Building just one lake was not enough, so Tata Motors built more and today, there are six ponds and lakes, which are fed by rainwater and treated effluence of the factory. These lakes have become an extension of the effluent treatment plants (ETP), with the treated wastewater being retained by two ponds and two lakes, while allowing the excess to overflow from one water body to the next. As a result of this progressive biological oxidation, the quality of the treated effluence is far superior to the quality of the receiving water body into which it flows. The once arid scrubland with cupfuls of quickly evaporating rainwater has now become home to broods of birds and aquatic creatures, the report said.
For four times the distance and costs less than one-fifth and the fact that there are other amenities the government/municipality needs to finance, it is quite straight forward answer to the question “Is Metro Rail not the answer for India’s urban transportation
“India is urbanizing rapidly”, a phrase we have been hearing for some time. What does that mean in reality? It means people with low levels of civic amenities they were accustomed to in rural settings have to cope up with overloaded higher level civic amenities in urban settings. Although there are several kinds of civic amenities and services that provide better quality of life in rural settings from fulfilment of basic necessities, the aspirations of human intellect and avenues to reach them is available in urban setting. Urban setting also ensures certainty of livelihood for which people move over to urban areas from rural settings.
India has two cities with population more than 10 million (one crore) now termed as mega cities. In fact we must talk of urban agglomerates (UAs) and we have in India three UAs. There are four other UAs with population more than 4 million (40 lakh) called metro cities. Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad are all 40 lakh plus cities, with Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata termed as mega cities. Pune is on the verge of becoming a metro city. There are several cities, almost touching 35 in number, which are a million plus. There are six UAs holding between 2 million and 4 million people.
Although travel for socializing and entertainment do exist, daily travelling or commuting to work and livelihood forms the main travel load in our cities. With physical spread along with growth in population in these cities, average travel distances do keep increasing. Commensurate with earnings of citizens of a particular city, there is a land use pattern that evolves organically to enable poorer sections to walk or cycle to work and the not-so-poor to take to motorized two wheelers (M2Ws) or public transport. Only the affluent own and use motor cars. Ordinarily, the million plus cities have 20% to 30% of its population using bicycles. M2W user and motor car user proportion is also not very small in these four million less cities because these cities do not have any public transport worth the name, or not at all, and the distances travelled daily are not unaffordable.
Liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation since 1992, no doubt has resulted in growing gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita incomes, but so has inflation in recent years not remained low either.
With growing urban sprawl, it may appear that the average travel distances would keep increasing. But the reality is non-availability of affordable housing to poorer sections of society whereby the growth of slums have taken place. Mumbai’s slum population hovers around 55% and Bengaluru’s is growing from 8% in 2001 census to about 30% in 2011 census. Transportation, too, needs to be affordable financially as well as from travel time point of view.
The ideal situation is mixed land use, but keeping hazardous and polluting industries and activities segregated from residential and commercial areas. Residential areas, too, must have adequate proportion of accommodation for the poor who serve the affluent in different ways. Most situations of Indian cities have this characteristic. This makes reasonably short average travel distances for commuting.
Take the case of Mumbai where 57% of its population lives within 3 km from their place of work; 69% within 5 km; 81% within 10 km and 89% within 15 km. There is another statistics that matches with this. 44% of people in Mumbai go to work by foot, without using any motorised or non-motorised modes. 3.1% using bicycles out number 2.8% using motor cars. 22% use the suburban railway and 16% use the road public transport. About 3.5% use the intermediate transport such as auto-rickshaws and taxis, leaving 8.5% who use motorised two wheelers.
All over India, the population of M2Ws is increasing at a phenomenal rate due to its operating competitiveness from economy and convenience point of view in comparison to the road public transport. With growing income levels and inadequate public transport, even the motor car population and usage is on the rapid rise mode.
To counter the trend as this growth of personal vehicle usage will lead to considerable air and noise pollution, the National Urban Transport Policy gives directive to improve public transport. But the aspirations of people are whetted by sleek marketing and attractive financial packages for motorised vehicles. Similarly, the aspirations of cities have been raised to wanting to proudly boast of having a Metro Rail and Monorail. Are such whetting good for the cities is the question. Let us look at the Metro Rail.
With about 20% of Metro lines underground, the average cost of Metro per kilometre is being stated to be Rs250 crore while it works out to more than Rs400 cr/km in Mumbai. If we consider that every 40 million plus city in India is having an aspiration of having a Metro Rail, that each city is about 25 x 25 kilometre, each of these metro cities will have about 50 km of Metro Rail. This would mean total length of Metro Rail will come to about 50 x 4 = 200 km. At an average cost of Rs250 cr/km, the total sum these four metro cities will come to Rs50,000 crore. Nearly 350 km of Delhi Metro, 150 km of Mumbai Metro and 300 km of Metro Rail in Mumbai Metropolitan region and similarly 150 km in Kolkata will bring the investment to the tune of Rs3,25,000 crore.
Unfortunately, for the Metro Rail line to be able to attract commuters commensurate with its carrying capacity, especially to be utilized to justify such high investment, one will have to provide a network of feeder road public transport services or intermediate public transport services and car parking spaces. If that be the case, what tangible benefits would the Metro Rail provide that a Bus Rapid Transit System cannot, is the question one would like to have an answer to? A BRTS will cost up to Rs15 cr/km and can provide capacities high enough not to be considered just a provider of feeder service to Metro Rail but be a competing transportation mode on its own right. Since cities comprise properties and accesses i.e. land and road network, it is a natural corollary to have buses run on them with priority to enable large number of people to cover larger distances; for medium distances bicycles and for short distances, walking as modes of mobility. Running buses with priority means a system of Bus Rapid Transit. Thus, even if we provide not 1,150 km in 2 million plus UAs but say 4,600 km of BRTS in all these 2 million plus UAs, it would cost just about Rs60,000 crore as against 1,150 km of Metro Rail’s Rs3,25,000 crore. And what do we get for this? We get four times the length of a bus service as that of Metro Rail length, in a way covering much larger area and there by serve larger number of people, at costs one-fifth of Metro Rail costs.
When cities get good mobility, there is bound to be economic growth. If city gets into a ‘jam’ over a long period, can there be any significant economic growth and thereby improvement in quality of life?
And let us not forget that with Metro Rail projects moving at super-snail’s pace, as we see it happening in Mumbai and Bengaluru, all that we will be dong is keep pouring money and not get any relief. Let us also realise that while India is rapidly getting urbanized, it is happening in Tier II and Tier III cities. The Government of India is seriously planning to put up a Metro Rail network in cities with more than 20 lakh (2 million plus) population. This will only raise the aspirations of these cities on the wrong track, achieve nothing for their majority inhabitants. The investment is enormous and it will be possible only at the cost of adding to the misery of rest of India.
While we have confined arguments to transportation and specifically Metro Rail, a city has to provide amenities and services such as water supply, sewage disposal, walkable footpaths, non-motorised vehicle lanes, medical infrastructure, education, playgrounds, gardens, recreation grounds, fire-fighting, public health and what have you. When large sums get spent on transportation sector, where from does one generate funds for the other amenities and services?
Does the question “Is Metro Rail not the answer for India’s Urban Transportation?” find an answer above?
(Sudhir Badami is a Civil Engineer and Transportation Analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at [email protected])
The future of the world depends on a new change in schooling system, thus ushering in an era of sharing, caring and universal compassion—the true religion for the masses
"The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.” -- Rabindranath Tagore
Life is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ceaseless change till death. “Anything that does not change does not come under the definition of science” wrote a federal judge in the US while delivering his judgment in a dispute between the Creationists and Scientists. Human life history is the story of the evolution of this Universe itself. If one wants to understand the nature of Nature one has just got to understand human nature which is a miniscule of this universe itself. We are obsessed with science today. The word science brings goose-pimples on many of us. Indian schools do not seem to have changed ever since the East India Company destroyed our ancient school system some time in the early 19th century. There have, of course, been some cosmetic changes in that schools today have become big corporate businesses and they have also got a bit of American flavor. However, the philosophy of feeding the young creative minds with useless dead information seems to be our goal. Rote learning for getting grades is the order of the day. Grades should make wealthy careers at the end of the day is the philosophy accepted by the greedy parents as also the powers that be in the educational system, and some of the powerful industrial honchos who see nothing wrong in education being a big business.
The vital part of education, which is to try and make healthy minds, is all but lost in this milieu. Our education, especially the primary one, which matters a lot, is, therefore, unscientific by definition, as it has not changed. The aforementioned federal judge would have declared our educational system as a religion, which I think it is slowly becoming by Karl Marx’s opinion that a religion is the “opium of the people”. The actual complete quote from 1843-44 Karl Marx’s book Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right is more nuanced, though. Marx did not ridicule religion by this statement; rather he thought that religion is an extension of his own thinking. He goes on to say that: “To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions”. That was in a way Marx’s own opium in one sentence since the “human essence has not acquired any true reality”. Yet instead of the crude opium reference there is that beautifully poetic conclusion “of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo”. To call upon our present school system bosses to change would be exactly like what Marx felt about asking for change in his times. Spirituality—sharing and caring—is not only the essence of all religions but also the ageless wisdom of man, which has very little to do with ritualistic religions.
Science today tells us that the world began with the Big Bang. I wonder if there was a big bang or a small whimper! For 750 million long years, they say, that there was no life on earth. The first life came as a single cell which could do all that you and I can do today-breathe, eat, excrete, think, and work. That stage went on for more than a trillion and half years when these single cell individuals wisely thought that it is better to get together as a colony to work more efficiently with least expense. They had a fertile brain in their cell wall (membrane), called the memBrain by a famous cell biologist, Bruce Lipton. They could sense their environment through antennae in their cell walls, their brain, called Integral Membrane Proteins (IMPs). These could make the cells come alive to the environment (universal consciousness) to have own their individual consciousness. Figuratively life gets born then like your actors on the TV screen. When that antenna does not get the message (when you switch off your TV) life ebbs out just as the TV actor dies when the switch goes off. The consciousness gets into, may be another cell immediately after that- life again. So death is only a part of life and not its end! Thus the human body is a happy colony of 50 trillion individual cells.
Why did the single free-floating cells come together then? They, in their wisdom, realized that they are better off and stronger if they came together in larger groups as they could expand their individual consciousnesses many fold by increasing the IMPs exponentially! How wise of them? As time passed they realised that each one of them need not do all the work that needs to be done. They could share their responsibilities. Some cell groups inside the body became what we call today organs doing specific tasks more efficiently. But they did not lose sight of the fact that they were all functionally identical even when they morphologically different to fit that organ e.g. brain looking after overseeing the total function of locomotion, etc. In this new role they found that they could care for others better. Thus evolved the philosophy of spirituality—sharing and caring! Body cells therefore love one another. This could be seen under the electron-microscope in disease conditions. In a fresh fracture site the red blood cells in the clot could gradually change to pluri-potent stem cells to heal the fracture eventually! Same cells but different work. These endogenous stem cells are our best doctors in all disease states.
Education, therefore, should teach the young mind that it is in sharing and caring that the world can go on for good. Our grading system, on the contrary, puts negative thoughts of greed, hatred, jealousy, anger and pride into that innocent, creative, loving, and compassionate mind of a child. Scientific studies have shown that if students in a class with varied levels of intelligence could be taught the principles of collective compassionate sharing efforts they all get high grades in the final examination! This is conducive to good health as well since body cells enjoy working together, anyway. Health is defined today as “enthusiasm to work and enthusiasm to be compassionate.” Those who do not have either or both of those are really sick! In that definition society as a whole is becoming sick today with no compassion. Recent noise about “Wall Street” greed is but a sign of that universal sickness that is overtaking our present society; rather it is the corporate greed that would eventually destroy all God-given resources of nature. The root cause for this disease is the wrong type of primary education that turns a universally compassionate, creative, God-like child into a greedy, angry, proud man/woman who joins the rat race to acquire money, power and parking lots! The future of the world depends on a new change in schooling system, thus ushering in an era of sharing, caring and universal compassion—the true religion for the masses.
“Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested all your life. We must have life-building, man-making and character-making assimilation of ideas.” -- Swami Vivekananda.
(Professor Dr BM Hegde was awarded a Padma Bhushan in 2010. Prof Dr Hegde has a string of degrees to his credit like MD, PhD, FRCP (Lond, Edin, Glasg, & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, Chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London. Prof Dr Hegde can be contacted at [email protected])