Enhancing water security through responsible tourism

Water tankers cater to the needs of populations in tourist destinations in India (Image Source: India Water Portal)
Water tankers cater to the needs of populations in tourist destinations in India (Image Source: India Water Portal)

Manisha Shah, Arghyam, Bangalore highlights the issues related to water scarcity and quality in the tourist destinations in India and shares the work of the ForWater collaborative. She stresses on the relevance of such community - led approach of managing water as commons to promote responsible tourism at the Outlook Indian Responsible Tourism Summit held at Konark on the 24th of February 2021.

While the tourism industry has a tremendous potential to grow and contribute to the economic growth of the country, water scarcity and poor water quality issues are on the rise in India and could hinder progress and pose a serious threat to health and livelihoods of people residing in tourist destinations.

Thirsty tourist destinations

Indeed, a look at the water woes of some of the important tourist destinations of the country sheds light on the importance and criticality of water availability for improving the tourism industry in the country.

A look at the groundwater exploitation and water quality hotspots in the country show that some of the most popular tourist destinations such as Jodhpur, Jaipur in Rajasthan, Kutch in Gujarat, Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Shimla, Darjeeling in Himachal Pradesh, and Ladakh show very high levels of groundwater exploitation and deterioration of water quality.

Recent news reports show that Shimla has been experiencing severe levels of water scarcity and had to request tourists to refrain from visiting the hill station in the summer! Darjeeling too continues to face water scarcity and just manages to survive on water tankers and this has given rise to water markets and a flourishing tanker industry leading to commodification of water and overcrowding due to rise in number of tankers. Ladakh's fragile economy and ecosystem too is poised on the brink of a major water crisis if not addressed in time.

Ensuring water for all

Four important aspects of water security include adequate quantity, quality, access, security and sustainability. What needs to be done is to attain sustainability. But how do we do that? Water is a complex resource with competing uses and users. Agriculture consumes a large chunk of water and is crucial for the economy and livelihoods in India. 

The question that arises is how do we ensure water security for all. Can communities ensure their own water security? Our answer is yes.

Manisha informs, "We have been able to demonstrate that change can happen at the ground level by demystifying the science of groundwater and by training people to manage groundwater demand at the village level. We realised that if we have more interactions between people at the ground level and people in decision making roles and with experts, change can happen through people taking responsibility for their own water resources. We have been trying to do this through the use of digital technologies that can greatly help in bridging this gap".

Two aspects are important in the process - that credible knowledge needs to be accessible to all and that a digital footprint is left.

Please view the detailed talk below: