Today, the nation celebrates Holi, also known as the festival of colours. But Holi is also the harvest festival which heralds the advent of spring. Delhi’s Water Minister Kapil Misra recently reassured the city’s revelers that they should celebrate the festival without worrying too much about water. “People should play Holi with a full heart, they should not think twice before using water,” said Kapil Misra, adding that there is no water crisis in the city. Despite the government’s largesse, the reality is that the city relies on water supply from outside the city. Only last month, Jat protesters demanding reservations had damaged the Munak canal in Haryana, which accounts for approximately 60 percent of the city’s water supply. Despite the Delhi government’s assurances, it should be incumbent on the city’s citizens to waste as little water as possible at a time when the rest of the country is suffering. Vast swathes of this country are reeling under drought and a serious scarcity of water. After Karnataka, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Andhra Pradesh, Telangana became the tenth state to declare a drought late last year. Farmers in these parts have suffered consecutive crop failures due to deficient rainfall and inadequate irrigation systems. In the past two and half months, more than 200 farmers across eight districts in Maharashtra committed suicide. Rural India is definitely hurting.
On the occasion of World Water Day, a major international charity WaterAid released a report on the water situation in India. The report unequivocally stated that India has the greatest number of people living without access to safe water. Approximately 76 million people in India are without access to clean and safe water. Poor access to safe water has adverse health effects. According to the report, India’s water problem is down poor management of water resources. Approximately 85 percent of our water comes from our aquifers. But over pumping water for agriculture and industry has sucked too much of this resource from the ground. Suffice to say, water is being pumped out faster than it can be recharged by rain or surface water run-off. According to the latest report by the Central Water Commission, water levels at 91 major reservoirs nationwide stand at a mere 29 percent of total capacity. The data available goes on to detail that water levels at Indian reservoirs are 71 percent of last year or 74 percent of average storage over the last decade. According to an analysis of a report by IndiaSpend, a data-drive news website, the 91 major reservoirs contain only 157.8 billion cubic metres (BCM) of water, even though they can hold 250 BCM. Moreover, a further 400 BCM water is available for irrigation in India through groundwater. But according to NASA, India’s water tables are dipping at the rate of 0.3 metres a year. There are more than three months to go before we head into the monsoon season. After two consecutive years of deficient rainfall, experts are skeptical of the redeeming effect this year’s monsoon season could have on water levels. If the monsoon season follows the same pattern it did in the past two years, India could be on course for its worst water scarcity problem in a decade. Experts contend that another year of deficient monsoon with no equivalent relief in oil prices will worsen the economic distress that has already afflicted rural India. Adding to the problem of scarcity, government agencies estimate that as much of 80 percent of India’s surface water is contaminated and most of it come from untreated sewage that our cities release. This newspaper would urge its readers to celebrate Holi without wasting water unnecessarily.