New Delhi : With just five years in hand, India is facing the worst water crisis with water table drying up in many states. Conjectured as the most populous country in the world, India is running out of water.
About 100 million people across India are on the front lines of a nationwide water crisis. A total of 21 major cities are poised to run out of groundwater next year, according to a 2018 report government-run think tank NITI Aayog.
Much-needed monsoon rains have only just arrived in some places, running weeks late, amid a heat wave that has killed at least 137 people this summer.
Groundwater, which has been steadily depleting for years, makes up 40% of the country’s water supply. But other sources are also running dry – almost two-thirds of India’s reservoirs are running below normal water levels, the country’s Central Water Commission said in June.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently created the Ministry of Jal Shakti (water power) to oversee water resource management, and reiterated his election campaign promise to provide piped water to every rural home by 2024.
But many fear it won’t be enough. According to a UN human rights report, the world is fast approaching “climate apartheid” where only the wealthy can afford basic resources in the face of fatal droughts, famine and heatwaves.
In some places in India, disaster has already arrived. The four reservoirs that supply Chennai, India’s sixth-largest city, are nearly dry.
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Hundreds of thousands of residents wait in line each day to fill their pots at government water tankers, and critical services like hospitals and schools are struggling. People are forced to wash utensils in the same dirty water, saving a few bottles of clean water to cook food.
As water runs out, the country may have to confront a series of associated problems: food, insecurity, vulnerability during heat waves, disease due to deteriorating sanitation and regional conflicts over water access.