India is on the brink of becoming a ‘water-stressed’ nation with only 4 per cent of freshwater resources that is supporting 18 per cent of human population and 15 per cent of livestock. Even though India has not been declared as a ‘water scarce’ nation yet, it is in a dire ‘water-stressed’ situation with annual per capita water availability below 1,700 cubic meters.
On top of that, the exploitation of groundwater, mismanagement of wastewater, and pollution of surface water are compounding the crisis. The gap between wastewater generation and treatment capacity is also adding to the problem.
At present, India only treats a third of the 72,368 million liters of sewage generated in the urban areas each day. Untreated water is not only wasted but also polluting groundwater, rivers and other water bodies. Thus, sensible use of water in agricultural activities that consumes nearly 89 per cent of freshwater in the country is the need of the hour. Serious initiatives are required to reuse the wastage of wastewater.
The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has stated that even though the over-exploitation of groundwater is the main concern in the northwestern region, the arid climate in Rajasthan and Gujarat is another reason that has resulted in this debacle. Additionally, in the southern region, crystalline aquifers reduces the availability of groundwater.
To address the issue in the water sector, the ministry of ‘Jal Shakti’ has initiated a roadmap for making new National Water Policy that aims at addressing the existing scenario, suggesting a framework to create a system that will coordinate in planning, management and usage of water resources with a unified national objective.
The government is also planning to set up a National Bureau of Water Use Efficiency (NBWUE) similar to the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) in the energy sector for improving water irrigation system, and domestic water supply. It will also deploy water-efficient equipment and appliances across the nation.
To bridge the gap between wastewater generation and treatment capacity, the Centre is also planning to build a treatment capacity of 36,668 MLD (million liters per day) that will lead to circularity in the next few years. The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has already sanctioned 159 projects to generating treatment capacity of 4,929 MLD.
The further promote conservation, the ministry has initiated a campaign named “Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain” with the theme “Catch the Rain – Where it Falls, When it Falls” to cover all districts (rural and urban areas) nationally during the pre-monsoon and monsoon months. “The idea is to encourage states and stakeholders to create rainwater harvesting structures with people’s participation,” said G Ashok Kumar, director general, NMCG.