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Millennium Post

Crisis awaits

Crisis awaits

It is hardly news that India needs to tackle its dangling water crisis that will aggravate if cautionary alarms are not heard in time. Water is central to civilisation –from agriculture to industries, rural to urban settlements, flora to fauna. Our primary source for water, groundwater, is stressed – NITI Aayog pointed in its report, highlighting some glaring facts about India's water crisis. As many as 21 cities, including the major metropolises, have precarious groundwater levels which may run out by 2020, affecting 100 million people. The study further elaborated on how groundwater is being depleted at unsustainable rates, apart from being contaminated. That was in June 2018. Seven months does not seem to have changed much except bringing us closer to water scarcity. As we move towards summer, water struggle will once again take centre-stage. Rainfall has been strained and the arrival of monsoons may vary. Seasonal rainfall forming the primary source of recharging the aquifer indeed compounds the problem. As it is, agrarian distress has been in the spotlight with farm loan waivers doing rounds to temporarily uplift farmers from prolonged adversity. While the mood in the country is set for the upcoming elections, water will undoubtedly form the pivot of upcoming campaigns. Water can aggravate agrarian distress; and, the forecast of impending water scarcity ought to push manifestos to address this issue with critical impendency. While gross reports suggest water depletion in wells, aquifers, et al, reports of contaminated groundwater further deteriorate the situation. Only recently, spiked levels of arsenic had raised concerns over drinking water as well as crop irrigation. The recent report of WWF titled – Hidden Risks and Untapped Opportunities: Water and the Indian Banking Sector does not augur well for the water situation either. In fact, it rings alarm over the already prevalent NPA issue. While banks, though recovering, still have a long list of NPAs, the recent WWF report states that close to 40 per cent of the gross credit exposure of Indian banks is in sectors where water risks are significant. Accounting for the highest gross credit exposure of Indian banks, the Power and Agriculture sectors can end up with further stranded assets due to water's stressed situation. Elections and drought will simultaneously make the headlines this summer. This makes water particularly relevant. As a poll sop, water would certainly make the manifesto, specifically because of agrarian distress, and yet, including it can backfire. While drought-relief schemes, water-tankers for drinking supply, et al, will be undertaken, they do not resolve the underlying concern of depleting groundwater levels. Knee-jerk reactions tend to matters of exigency such as drought. India needs a pragmatic policy for conservation, protection and regulation of water.

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