It is currently estimated that 97 million Indians do not have access to safe water. Approximately 70% of water in India is contaminated, whilst 75% of households do not have access to drinking water. Additionally, 84% of rural households do not have piped water, and it is thought that 40% of the Indian population will not have access to drinking water by 2030.
India ranks in position 120 on the list of 122 countries that are considered to have poor water conditions. Clean water is the key to survival, and in the absence of such, millions will die from dehydration and diseases carried by dirty water. In its current state, the water crisis in India is set to become increasingly worse, but where did the problem initially stem from?
What are the causes?
Ultimately, the water shortage in India has been caused by a growing population, over-extraction of groundwater by farmers, insufficient investment in treatment facilities, river pollution, an uneven distribution of rain throughout the year, deforestation, and industrialisation.
India’s population is growing at a rate of 1.2%, and it is predicted that the number of inhabitants will jump from the current 1.38 billion to 1.53 billion by the end of 2030. Quite simply, India does not have enough water to accommodate the number of people in the country.
Across the globe, India is the biggest extractor of groundwater, pulling more each year than the US and China combined. In 2010, India extracted 251 billion cubic metres (bcm) of groundwater, whereas the US pulled only 112 billion cubic metres. Furthermore, the extraction rate of the US has barely fluctuated over time, yet India’s yearly extraction is rapidly increasing.
Additionally, India does not experience regular rainfall throughout the year. Instead, they are subjected to stark contrasts between monsoon seasons and droughts. Similarly, rapid deforestation has resulted in less rainfall, contributing to the already unpredictable weather conditions. This deforestation has taken place in the name of industrialisation and urbanisation. Not only has this destroyed India’s means of water supply, but it has also resulted in a greater water demand.
How much water is available?
The total amount of usable water in India is estimated to be between 700-1,200 bcm, which equals to less than 1,000 cubic metres per person. For comparison, the US currently has roughly 8,000 cubic metres per person.
One way to solve the problem would be to transport and store water from other countries; however, India’s means of doing this are also limited. In 1997, India had a water storage capacity of 258 cubic metres per person, whereas the US had a storage capacity of 2,043 cubic metres per person in 2002.
The water supply in India is so scarce that it is estimated that 21 cities will completely run out of groundwater in the coming years. This will put 100 million people at risk of dehydration and deadly waterborne diseases.
What are the impacts?
Due to a struggling healthcare system, millions of Indians die each year to treatable diseases, 21% of which are related to the consumption of unsafe water. Since India does not have an ample capacity for safe water storage, the building of dams will be inevitable. This may seem like a viable solution, but the construction of dams will result in the displacement of tribal people.
Not only do people find themselves unwell from consuming unsafe water, but they also find themselves infected with viruses such as Covid-19. To stunt the spread of coronavirus, people across the globe were encouraged to wash their hands regularly. Without access to water, Indian citizens are unable to do this, allowing the virus to spread. This puts extra pressure on the already struggling hospitals and has resulted in many more deaths.
What are the main areas of concern?
The most water-stressed blocks are in Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Telangana. These regions are under drought-like conditions, which not only result in dehydration and illness but also starvation. Without consistent rainfall, crops cannot flourish which contributes to the prevailing hunger crisis in India.
How to solve the water crisis in India
You can help solve the water crisis in India by donating to Orphans in Need. We use your donations to provide support to struggling nations through delivering food parcels, funding medical care, building water wells, and finding shelter for those in need. We currently sponsor over 3,000 children in India, ensuring that they are hydrated, fed, sheltered, and healthy. Make a difference to the Indian water crisis today.