Parched India/ India’s water crisis # Groundwater - making the invisible visible

Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese-American writer, poet and a philosopher used to say that a life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit but can you imagine a life without water that constitutes 70 per cent of our body.  With due respect to Kahlil, one can still live without love but humanity will be wiped out without water. 

Water crisis is snowballing into a global threat.  It could create a dystopian future where countries could be at war over water.  The U.S, China, Russia, Africa and elsewhere in Asia are facing increasing water scarcity due to population, industrialization, and urbanization. This has led to over-exploitation of groundwater and surface water. As per the United Nations, two thirds of the world will live in water-stressed countries by 2025. Food supply will also be at risk as agriculture will need a lot of water. To support the achievement of sustainable water management, UN has marked 22nd March as the ‘the World Water Day’.

India is facing its “worst water crisis” in history. We already know that as of now, over 75% of households in India do not have clean drinking water. In fact, 40% of the population will have no access to drinking water by 2030. Many taps are running dry in India. India's sixth-largest city, Chennai, hit the news recently for being the first major city in the world to run out of water. Other cities such as Bangalore, Delhi and Hyderabad have probably exhausted their groundwater resources in 2021. 

Water crisis is everyone’s responsibility and can be managed if all stakeholders pitch in. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a plan to provide piped potable water to every rural household by 2024.

India is one of the leading mining countries of the world. Some of the processes in the mining sector do need water and in a few cases the pumped water that is allowed to drain into the river without any usage need to be conserved. Rainwater harvesting could be an excellent method to exalt the groundwater resources

The state government in Goa is introducing several water harvesting schemes to tap additional water. In one such case they have also sought permission to use abandoned mining pits in rainwater harvesting.

Rajasthan is another such example that presents its existence on ancient mining, The State government had suggested dredging and sediment removal from traditional tanks and ponds that could potentially be used to prepare the substratum over the mine wastes for direct seeding, which was done to enhance water shortage for wildlife and people. This innovative strategy helped in the revival of traditional water harvesting systems and enhanced biomass production, providing a solution to the recurring drought faced in Rajasthan.  

Even in MP, the government has rolled out Atal Bhujal Yojana, with a total outlay of Rs 6,000 crore from 2020 – 2025, which aims at groundwater management in 78 districts of the seven states, including the Bundelkhand region which faces severe water shortage.

Companies in the private sector are also considering sustainable practices in a world that is increasingly vulnerable to climate change. Cipla is one such company that is steering an extensive sustainable compliance drive. As part of their water neutrality initiatives, the brand recycles water at their site, which is up at 40% from 36% in FY20, and they have adopted rainwater harvesting within and outside their sites. Understanding its importance, similar efforts are being realised and pursued by brands across the country.  The upcoming Bunder Diamond Project in Buxwaha is planning to do just this.  The Project’s plan is to fulfil their water requirement by tapping the surface runoff rain water from seasonal Nallah by creating a rain water harvesting structure, which otherwise drains into the main channels. All endeavors to optimize the water in mineral processing by recirculation and reuse, adopting dry disposal of tailing ensuring recovery of 80-85% process water. Thus the total water requirement will be optimized and reduced to a much lower value compared to its peak water requirement. The water harvesting structure will also recharge the ground water. The project is also planning to work on Zero discharge concept (no liquid effluent will be discharged to ground or surface water courses, inside or outside lease area) thus no impact on the

Water quality is envisaged.

Looking at the current situation, we need to find a permanent solution for the crisis that is looming over our heads. All the stakeholders including start-ups are coming up with thoughtful and innovative solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals that goes beyond drinking water, sanitation and hygiene to also address the quality and sustainability of water resources, which are critical to the survival of people and the planet. Who knows, with all its might in intellect and innovation, India could provide solutions to quench the thirst of the world.