India’s urban population is expected to grow around 800 million by 2050, which is predicted to create major challenges for urban water management.
India is drying up fast with low costs and the ease of availability of groundwater technologies triggering uncontrolled extraction of groundwater. And groundwater is not only important for irrigation in India. About 90 percent of rural drinking water comes from groundwater while 50 percent of the water supplied to urban areas comes from groundwater besides 70 percent for irrigation!
Ensuring water security Vs conserving biodiversity: The challenge
Groundwater irrigation covers more than half of the total irrigated area in India and is responsible for 70 percent of the agricultural production, making India one of the largest users of groundwater in the world.
India, hurtling towards a groundwater crisis
Freshwater ecosystems such as rivers, lakes, ponds cover only 0.8 percent of the Earth’s surface, but are incredibly biodiverse. They harbour around ~15,000 fish species, corresponding to approximately half of the global known fish.
Human activities such as water abstraction, diversion, damming, and pollution are posing a threat to the survival of fish.
The Western Ghats region of South India is one of the world's most important biodiversity hotspots, and the rainforests of this region are known to harbour 500 types of bird species, 225 reptile species, 219 amphibian species, and 133 mammal species.
Groundwater continues to be extracted at frightening proportions in India and the fear of severe depletion of groundwater resources in the coming years is real. As if this is not enough, the available groundwater is also deteriorating in quality posing a severe threat to the health of the population.
India drinks water poisoned with uranium
While groundwater is an important source of drinking water worldwide, contamination of groundwater sources is on the rise. Arsenic contamination of groundwater has been found to affect as high as 300 million people worldwide exposing them to a number of health risks.
Arsenic contamination of groundwater in India
Groundwater in arid and semi arid regions continues to be a valuable and often the single most source of freshwater and conservation of this resource remains crucial for the survival of communities residing in the area. At the same time, a serious decline in the quality of groundwater is adding pressure on these water resources.
The sixth assessment report by the United Nation's Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change released this week has issued dire warnings that have major implications for India.