Water scarcity smothers Indian economy

India is experiencing the worst water supply crisis in history: about 600 million people daily experience water shortages, a government analytical center said.

The report of the National Institute for the Transformation of India (Niti Aayog), which draws on statistics from 24 of the 29 states of the second most populous country in the world, emphasizes that the crisis will “only worsen” in the coming years.

The authors of the study also warn that, against the background of a steadily increasing demand, by 2020 in 21 cities of India, most likely, the groundwater will run out.

All this jeopardizes the country’s food security, since 80% of the water is used in agriculture, the British television station BBC notes.

India Water Adequacy Map

Indian cities and small towns regularly remain without water in the summer, as there is not enough infrastructure to deliver tap water to every home.

Rural areas also suffer severely from lack of access to clean water (84% of households do not have piped water). They cannot rely on groundwater due to rare rains and the fact that groundwater is increasingly used for agriculture when monsoon rains are delayed or they are short-lived.

According to the report, about 200 thousand Indians die every year due to lack of access to clean water.

Many end up relying on private water suppliers or tank cars paid by local authorities. Long lines of people with cans waiting for drinking water by a tanker or public column are a common sight in India.

As the population in megacities grows, pressure on urban water resources is expected to only increase. According to expert forecasts, by 2030, demand will exceed supply by more than two times.

Water shortages will also lead to a loss of 6% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Some Indian states, however, are more effective at providing water to the population than other regions. So, Gujarat, in the west of the country, tops the list of the most successful states in this area. It is followed by Madhya Pradesh (Central India) and Andhra Pradesh (southern part).

Fifteen of the 24 states have improved performance over the previous year, which allowed the report’s authors to conclude that “water management is improving.”

However, it remains troubling that almost half of the Indian population lives in the lowest ranking states (Uttar Pradesh and Haryana in the north or Bihar and Jharkhand in the east). These states also produce the bulk of the country’s agricultural output.

Another problem is the lack of accurate data on how much households and various sectors of the economy consume water, the authors of the study conclude.

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