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Climate Change and Drinking Water Crisis: Indian Experience



  Mar 27, 2024

Climate Change and Drinking Water Crisis: Indian Experience



Climate change is exacerbating the water crisis in India, a country that is home to over a billion people. As temperatures rise, precipitation patterns change, and extreme weather events become more frequent, India’s water sources are under significant stress. Here are some examples that highlight the impact of climate change on drinking water availability in India:

1. Shrinking Glaciers in the Himalayas:

• The Himalayas, which are the source of major rivers such as the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Indus, are experiencing rapid glacier melt due to global warming. This not only threatens the long-term water supply for millions of people but also increases the risk of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) that can destroy downstream communities and infrastructure.

2. Droughts in Maharashtra:

• Maharashtra, particularly its Marathwada and Vidarbha regions, has faced severe droughts in recent years. Climate change has led to unpredictable monsoon patterns, with extended dry periods significantly reducing water availability for drinking and agriculture, forcing many to rely on water tankers and trains for their basic water needs.

3. Depleting Groundwater in Punjab:

• Punjab, known as India’s “breadbasket,” has seen a drastic depletion of its groundwater due to over-extraction for agriculture, exacerbated by changing rainfall patterns. The reliance on groundwater for irrigation, coupled with reduced recharge rates due to less predictable rains, is threatening the drinking water security of the rural population.

4. Saltwater Intrusion in the Sundarbans:

• The Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, located in the delta region of West Bengal, is facing increased saltwater intrusion due to rising sea levels and more frequent cyclones. This has contaminated freshwater sources, making it difficult for local communities to access potable water.

5. Urban Water Scarcity in Chennai:

• Chennai experienced a severe water crisis in 2019 when its four main reservoirs dried up following poor monsoon rains in previous years. The crisis was a stark reminder of how urban areas are not immune to the impacts of climate change, with over-extraction of water, pollution, and inefficient water management compounding the problem.

Addressing the Crisis:

The Indian government and various NGOs are taking steps to mitigate the water crisis through rainwater harvesting, restoration of traditional water bodies, improving irrigation efficiency, and promoting water conservation practices. There is also a growing emphasis on enhancing water use efficiency in agriculture, which consumes over 80% of the country’s freshwater resources.

However, tackling the water crisis in the context of climate change requires integrated water resource management, focusing on both supply-side and demand-side solutions, and considering the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of water use.


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