Future water solutions for India - a paper by Himanshu Thakkar in the Palgrave Development journal

India has a large number of technological, management and institutional options. What is needed is the political will to put systems into place to make it happen
13 May 2011
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This paper by Himanshu Thakkar published in the journal Development looks at the daunting challenges that future water demand places on India and the possible solutions to address these problems. The challenges that the paper highlights includes:

  • Increase in population, industralisation and urbanisation
  • Increase in food grain demand
  • Increased demand for water
  • Increase in power demand
  • Lack of access to sanitation, water, electricity for majority of the population
  • Challenges due to climate change leading to increase in natural disaters such as floods, droughts, destruction of environment

The paper argues that the response of the Indian government to deal with these challenges has been completely off the mark and includes attempts at building more big dams, more big hydropower projects, more long-distance water transfer, interlinking of rivers and desalinization on a grand scale.

The paper argues that clearest sign of how poorly India is dealing with water resources development and management is the growth of water-related conflicts. There is no democracy in water resources development. However, the paper argues that  the solution lies in changing that situation in fundamental ways. Thus understanding the ground realities of Indian water resources needs to be the first step towards effective future solutions and includes:

Exploring options in agriculture and irrigation practices

  • The gap between the irrigation potential created and actual irrigation is around 10 million hectares in India. Bridging this gap would be more cost effective than hankering for more storage capacities.
  • Arresting the siltation of storages of all sizes and desilting them where feasible.
  • Attempts at recharging groundwater on a massive levels. 
  • Large-scale adoption of new methods like the System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

Hydropower options

  • Charging more for peak hour power consumption, management systems to ensure peak hour power demand management and ensuring optimum power generation to reduce the peak hour power demand also reduce the need for such projects significantly.
  • Some other options are demand side management (DSM ^ potential of 25,000MW as per a PowerMinistry study), off-shorewind power, solar and biomass power, use of decentralized power generation systems, reducing transmission and distribution losses, time of day metering and increasing end use efficiencies.

Exploring water supply options

  • The big unexplored options in this area include DSM, pollution control, reuse of water after adequate treatment and local supply-side solutions like rainwater harvesting and decentralized water treatment.

Global warming and climate change

  • These will lead to more disasters and would require to put in place better systems of monitoring now so that the impacts of such natural disasters can be minimized

The paper ends by arguing that India has a large number of technological, management and institutional options. What is needed is the political will to put systems into place to make it happen.

Read the paper

View the entire "Water and People" issue from the journal

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