India’s water woes far from over

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"We never know the worth of water till the well is dry"- Thomas Fuller

We equate water with life. Over the years this indispensable resource has not only nurtured mankind, with civilizations having flourished around rivers and major waterways but has also been used for transportation of materials through rivers and canals as well as international shipping lanes- playing a significant role in the world economy.

Water woes

Every year, on 22nd March the world celebrates World Water Day to lay focus on the relevance of freshwater sanitation and sustainable management of the available water resources.

This year's theme for World Water Day - 'Water and Jobs' - lays emphasis on how water quality as well quantity can impact livelihoods around the globe.

According to reports, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year.

2.4 billion people are faced with inadequate sanitation-they are exposed to diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever, and other water-borne illnesses. Further on, two million people, mostly children, die each year from diarrheal diseases alone.

Situation moving on from "bad" to "worse"

In India's context, the situation in some of the drought-hit regions of the country has forced the inhabitants in larger numbers to leave their homes as lack of water had led to closure of a large number of industries, shops and establishments.

Latur district and the entire Marathwada region in Maharashtra is reeling under severe drought for over four years now. Developed as a trading hub nine decades ago Latur is located at the center of three states, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana, and was a major trading hub for soybean, groundnut, oils, tur dal and jaggery.

However, the droughts have brought all trading to a standstill and the acute shortage of water has led to mass exodus of residents to other places, like Pune.

The State administration fearing violence over water, imposed Section 144 recently and stepped up police patrols in the area.

Interlinking of rivers (ILR)

The idea to interlink the rivers of the country was first mooted in 1970 but significant developments have only shaped up recently.

Successive governments had announced numerous projects over the years but were stalled due to red tapism, corruption, opposition to land acquisition and lack of coordination within the government.

Earlier reports had mentioned that more than 200 irrigation projects worth some $36 billion have been stuck for years.

The massive project to link Indian rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals aims to reduce persistent floods and water shortages in affected parts of the country.

Since India is an agrarian economy with much of the agriculture dependent on rainfall, the situation faced by the farmers are challenging in the event of scanty rainfall during the monsoon season.

In September 2015, after long planning and discussions, Godavari and Krishna rivers were finally linked with Andhra Pradesh's Pattiseema project- completed in record time of over 5 months.

To expand irrigation and recharge aquifers the Central government has allocated a record $18 billion in the 2016-17 national budget, but how far the implementation of funds will be carried out it's only matter of time for the results to be visible.

PETA asks people to turn vegan:

Recognizing the severe stress that the "farmed-animal" industry places on water supply, PETA -the animal rights group has urged people to turn vegan (person who does not eat or use animal products).

Neerja Khede, PETA India campaign assistant, said yesterday: "Meat production can require 10 times more water than the production of plant-based foods. To produce 1kg meat, it can require the same amount of water that is used for bathing 75 times -- an alarming drain on a precious resource."

Other issues apart, animal slaughter houses suffer from very low hygiene standard threatening public health and environment due to discrete disposal of waste and highly polluted effluent discharge into the lakes and nearby water bodies, thereby magnifying the pollution levels several folds.

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