India , geographically surrounded by the Indian ocean , Arabian sea , Laccadive sea , Bay of Bengal and has around 14,500 km of Inland waterways with 12 major rivers , 3 glaciers and 71 wetlands but over 25% of India’s population is severally affected by drought .
I remember the lines of my class 10th poem “water water everywhere, nor a drop to drink”. Every farmer is asking with their hands on their head – saheb … Paani kab aaiga..?
India has faced the worst ever drought year in 2009, but the last two consecutive years of drought have affected 5 major states severely. 254 of 678 districts, 33 crore population of 2.55 lakh villages are facing water shortage for drinking and irrigation. 50 districts of Uttar Pradesh comprising about 10 crore of the state’s population is affected by drought but ironically Uttar Pradesh is also the most flood affected landmass in India. Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Karnataka are in the top 5 list while Gujarat, Haryana and Bihar are also affected but centre didn’t mention them even when the state government has issued the notice.
The annual rainfall of Indian subcontinent is 300-650 mm but has certainly gone down in the past two years due to the global annual average temperature rise by 1.33 degree Celsius and EL NIÑO effect.
Maharashtra, one of the most resource rich and fastest developing state is facing the biggest problem of drinking water shortage. As many as 3,238 farmer suicides and 34,000 cattle deaths have been recorded last year. Over 90 lakh farmers of Maharashtra are facing irrigation problem. A water wagon of 50 bogies carrying 5 lakh litres of water is flagged of by the central government to the Marathwada and Latur area. The state received 58% of rainfall and Marathwada received 38% last year. In a frenz , the state government banned the IPL matches in Mumbai over excess use of water to maintain ground while 10k litres of water was used to prepare a helipad for Union Agricultural Minister Radha Mohan Singh visit to Bhiwandi. The problem is not just one, sugarcane cultivation in Maharashtra is done only on the 4% of the total cultivable land but it takes 70% of the total water for irrigation. In the last 3 years, 20 new sugar mills have started working near the water bodies, owners are the leaders of different parties. In 2013, when the then Deputy C.M Mr. Ajit Pawar were asked for a solution, he suggested farmers to URINATE in dams to save water.
Karnataka, 27 of 31 districts and over 3.1 crore population is facing severe drought. The state has had this problem continuing from the last 3 centuries. Around 43% of EL NIÑO events are followed by the drought in India, Karnataka experiences the biggest share alone. When Siddaramaiah tours the dry zones, tankers of 5000 Lt. Of water were emptied on roads to keep his cargo clean and dust proof.
Uttarakhand, placed at top & below the crown of India, a hill station is facing drought like conditions. Post monsoon rainfall went down by 50% and wheat yield drop by 10% in Uttarakhand.
While the poor are dying with dry mouths, the rich and the middle class clean their cars with water for hours on a regular basis. People brush and shave with taps on, take bath with buckets around them. The factories release the waste into the water bodies while government does nothing but sit back and watch. Watchdogs like NGT are active and taking constructive steps ahead.
The good news is that, in the history of Indian drought years, vegetable and fruit production never came down. The Indian Meteorological Department has released data that monsoon this year will be above average and will shower over every region.
Major causes might be natural sometimes but there is something in our hands always. We must realize the value of limit to water resources which are continuously dwindling posing future generations at risk. Our government should regularize crop production in different states according to the water availability and farmers must follow that. If IPL matches are banned than why people with luxurious swimming pools in their backyard be spared. If we fix our leaking taps and abandon habit of brushing and shaving with taps on will save a lot of water. Imagine what the total population can do with these 3 small things.
We have only one earth, we should not waste it with our luxury.
By, Ayush Verma, Junior Editor – DU Times