No drinking water in India by 2040: How will Government tackle this problem?

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Thermal power plants posing threat to country’s freshwater.
Addressing an award ceremony at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in New Delhi on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave mantra of 'Per drop, more crop' to create awareness about water conservation. But a recent case study done in India and three other countries says there will be no drinking water by 2040 if consumption of water continues at the current pace.

Focusing on four different case studies in France, the United States, China and India the study said that in most countries, electricity is the biggest source of water consumption as the power plants need cooling cycles in order to function for which water is needed in large volumes. If we continue doing what we are doing today to meet our energy demands, by 2040, there will not be enough potable water in the world to quench the thirst of the world population, the study added.

"If we keep doing business as usual, we are facing an insurmountable water shortage - even if water was free, because it is not a matter of the price," said professor Benjamin Sovacool from Aarhus University in Denmark.

How much of the world's water is freshwater/potable?

More than 70 per cent of Earth's crust contains water. Out of this 70 per cent, 97 per cent of the Earth's water is in the form of sea and oceans. And remaining three per cent is the only freshwater which is found in glaciers and ice, under the ground, or in rivers and lakes.

Threat to freshwater bodies

The freshwater flowing in streams and rivers is used for cooling cycles in power plants (thermal and nuclear) for generating electricity. In a developing country like India more and more power plants are being constructed in order to meet the ever increasing demand of electricity.

This will lead to a clash of competing necessities, between drinking water and energy demand, the study suggested.

Thermal power plants posing threat to country’s freshwater

The research also yielded a surprise finding that most power systems do not even register how much water is being used to keep the systems going. We do not have unlimited water resources and thus, it could lead to a serious crisis if nobody acts on it soon. By 2020, about 30-40 per cent of the world will have water scarcity and the climate change in future will make this even worse, said the study.

Alarming situation for India

As per a UN report published on water conservation in March this year, India will face the consequences if it will not plan for water conservation. The report had predicted that by 2025, nearly 3.4 billion people will be living in ‘water-scarce' countries and the situation would become grim in the next 25 years. The report added that due to its unique geographical position in South Asia, Indian sub-continent may face the brunt of the crisis and India would be at the centre of this conflict.

As per the Ministry of Water Resources, India has 18% of the world's population but has only 4% of total usable water resources. Official data shows that in the past decade, annual per capita availability of water has already decreased. Here are some more facts to enunciate the upcoming water crisis:
• India's annual per capita availability of water decreased from 6,042 cubic meter in the year 1947 to 1,545 cubic meter in 2011.
• In 2001, India's annual per capita availability of water was 1,816 cubic meter.
• By 2025, India's annual per capital availability of water will further reduce to 1,340 cubic meter and by 2050, to 1,140 cubic meter.
• 90 % of waste water discharged in rivers fails to meet environmental norms.
• 65% rainwater runoff goes into the sea, which is a major wastage.
• In India, agriculture sector is the biggest user of water followed by domestic sector and industrial sector.

To lessen these odds, environmentalists and experts are consistently pitching for making water conservation a national obsession. As per experts, there is an urgent need to harness the ground water through rain water harvesting.

Alternative sources of energy, a way forward:

About 75% of electricity consumed in India is generated through thermal power plants. Alternative sources of power generation can play a major role in preventing the loss of potable water.

Hydro-electric power:

Hydro-electric plants could be constructed on dams and streams for hydro-power generation. There is no dearth of flowing streams and dams in India and they could be used for hydro power generation. Hydro power generation has traditionally been considered environment friendly because it represents a clean and renewable energy source as it doesn't pollutes or harms the free flowing water stream.

Solar power generation:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consistently pitched for harnessing solar power to reduce country's over-dependence on industrial energy.

"Water is the gift of God. We need to learn how to preserve this gift," PM had recently said.

One just hopes that Modi Government works vehemently in generating power from renewable sources of energy and create more awareness on water conservation issue to reduce the forthcoming threat of water-scarcity in India.

Image courtesy: Reuters 

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