Water Crisis in India: Side Effect of Climate Change

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Water Crisis in India: Side Effect of Climate Change

There is one very famous quote which says, “Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water”. This quote highlights the importance of water and its value in sustenance of life on earth. It has multiple uses and each of them supports life, directly or indirectly. Even though 75 percent of our Earth is covered with water, less than two percent is fresh water. To make the matters worse, only about 1% is available as drinking water because two percent is frozen. (SSCWD, 2012). The facts above, at the very outset, bring about the priceless importance of water. Though once it was considered to be an endless natural resource, but lately due to endless pollution and drastic climate change the world is looking at a looming water crisis. Water resources have started depleting across the globe due to climatic changes which have been unleashed due to uncontrolled and unreasonable human activities.

India, which has conventionally been an agrarian economy, has almost 600 million of

citizens directly and indirectly employed in agricultural activities. The agriculture contributes

around 18 percent to India’s GDP (INDIA-Agriculture Economy and Policy Report, 2009).

Moreover India’s has world’s second largest population and hence the demand of fresh water is

naturally more. The facts above show the importance of water resources in India, its economy

and most importantly, its population. The ministry of water and resources of India recently submitted a report named “Preliminary Consolidated Report on Effect of Climate Change on

Water resources”, which analyzed all the possible effects, reasons and implications on climate

change on water resources in India. The foreword of the report says, “The global warming is bound to affect the hydrologic cycle resulting in further intensification of temporal and spatial variations in the water availability.” The statement speaks volumes about the seriousness of the issue.

Water resources in India can be broadly classified in three categories: surface water resources, ground water resources and glacier resources of Indian’s Himalayas. All the water resources have been severely impacted due to climate changes. The three significant and

prominent visible signs of climate change are: Increase in global level temperature, change in

regional precipitation patterns and rise in sea levels (Mujumdar 2010). All the factors have

contributed to the degradation of water resources in India, in one way or the other. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), a UNO body that oversees climate change and its effects, calculated that in the last century the global temperature increased by around 0.74+- 0.18 degree celsius. The analysis and study of Indian subcontinent has revealed an increase of 0.42 degree celsius, 0.92 degree celsius and 0.90 degree celsius in annual mean temperature, mean maximum temperature and mean minimum temperature over last 100 years (PCR, p.1). Since temperature derives the hydrological cycle, increase in the surface temperature of earth has adversely affected it in many direct and indirect ways. A warmer climate leads to higher rates of evaporation and increase of liquid precipitation. Due to this flood magnitude and frequency are likely to increase in many regions, and low flows are to decrease. This could be a major blow to surface water reserves in terms of both quality and quantity as the quantity of dissolved oxygen (used to gauge quality of water in many studies) decreases at higher temperatures. The increased temperature will result in increased flooding initially, especially during the monsoon season when rainfall is already at its heaviest. However, in subsequent years, there will be less and less glacial meltdown to continuously supply India’s rivers (Brooks, 2007). This would eventually lead to widespread drought in the country as...
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