Day not far when potable water will be rationed resource, warns Jal Shakti Ministry; predicts 'Day Zero'-like situation for 17 states

New Delhi: The newly created Ministry of Jal Shakti has warned of an imminent threat, 'Day Zero' in certain states, where groundwater level are falling at an alarming rate. 'Day Zero' literally means a situation when the government is forced to shut off the taps and strictly ration water for public and industrial use.

The letter dated 19 June 2019, viewed by the Firstpost said: "Water table is going down day-by-day and in some of the areas in India, it has come down to critical levels. Some of the areas are over-exploited and soon those areas may reach the level of 'Day Zero'."

 Day not far when potable water will be rationed resource, warns Jal Shakti Ministry; predicts Day Zero-like situation for 17 states

Representational image. Reuters

There are 1,033 sub-divisions spread across 17 states where the water supply would simply run out and there would be no more water if over-exploitation is not stopped right now. Among the parched states, Tamil Nadu has the maximum of 358 sub-divisions, followed by Rajasthan which has 164, and Uttar Pradesh with 113 sub-divisions. Other states where water supplies may come under severe threat include Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana. The Ministry of Jal Shakti missive came a week after Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat's meeting with state water ministers in New Delhi, in which the Union minister reviewed the steps taken by the state governments to tackle water woes. The ministry, in a clear warning, said that water is a finite resource and sources of water will dwindle due to global warming, over-exploitation, and human errors.

The ministry's note for future challenges categorically mentioned that water scarcity will adversely impact food security, ecology, social harmony, public health issues, and sustainable industrial growth. The data from 2018, analysed by the ministry, shows a sharp decline in water levels in 52 wells across the parched states. The decline is maximum in Maharashtra followed by Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. Massive depletion in water level has also been observed by the ministry in Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand.

In Punjab, 216 wells were analysed to ascertain the decline in water table and the results show sharp dips in 181 wells, which is about 84 percent of the wells in the agrarian state. Quality of drinking water is another issue which poses major challenge for the state governments. At least 214 districts in 19 states have high concentration of fluoride in groundwater, which is beyond the permissible limit.

It is pertinent to mention that 85 percent of the rural population uses groundwater alone for drinking and domestic purposes. High concentration of arsenic is impacting 86 districts in 10 states. The twin challenges of scarcity and contamination has brought water at the centre stage of policy debate.

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With the existing rate of decline, total water demand in 2050 will outrun the availability. The ministry has also quoted a NITI Aayog report of June 2018 which clearly stated that two lakh people die every year due to lack of safe drinking water and it is only going to get worse in coming years. It further said: "India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat. Currently, 600 million Indians faces high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. This crisis is only going to get worse. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people."

Managing the resources

Since the water-scarce areas in the country are increasing, the government is pushing for concrete measures to prevent water resources being depleted at a rapid speed. Ministry of Jal Shakti said Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 6 June 2019 wrote to all sarpanchs in the country to focus on water conservation and adopt all possible measures to make it a mass movement. An inter-ministerial committee has been constituted to push water conservation-related activities and to educate people about optimal utilisation of monsoon rainfall.

Since water is a state subject, the Centre has also circulated a model Bill to all the states and Union Territories to enact a suitable legislation to regulate the use of groundwater and to ensure further enhancement of existing resources. The provisions suggested in the model bill includes provision of rain water harvesting, among other things. So far, 15 states and Union Territories have adopted and implemented the groundwater legislation.

Fall in water level

Central Ground Water Board under Ministry of Jal Shakti is working on construction of 1.11 crore rain water harvesting and artificial recharge structure across the country at an estimated cost of Rs 79,178 crores to harness surplus monsoon runoff to augment the existing water resources.

"Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has released Model Building bye-laws, 2016 which recommends rainwater harvesting for all types of Building which are built on a plot size of 100 square metre or more. Barring the States/UT of Manipur, Sikkim Mizoram and Lakshadweep, all the States have incorporated the provisions in their respective building bye laws. The plans submitted to the local bodies shall indicate the system of storm water drainage along with points of collection of rainwater in surface reservoirs or in recharge wells. Further, all building having a minimum discharge of 10,000 litre and above per day shall incorporate waste water recycling system. The recycled water should be used for horticultural purposes,” Ministry of Jal Shakti said.

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Updated Date: Jun 29, 2019 14:38:47 IST