March 29, 2016

Thirsty Cities Need Smart Solutions Like Water Reclamation

Visiting fellow Shankkar Aiyar writes in the New Indian Express about the looming water crisis in an increasingly urbanizing India.


He maintains that "...the crisis is an opportunity to disinvest incrementalism and invest in scalable smart solutions." 


Excerpts below:


"It would be tempting to blame the failed monsoon for the water crisis. That, however, would not explain the annual January announcements of water cuts and year-long stories of scarcity. The big picture about urban India is well illustrated. As early as in 2002 (Thirsty India, it was known that over 100 million people in 12 major cities thirst for water and residents of 35 cities were vulnerable. In 2015, five Indian metros—Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad —are listed on the world’s 20 most water-stressed cities. 

The crisis is about widening deficit—of quantity and quality. Most cities are located away from substantive sources of water and lack access to quantity. Ground water suffers from quality issues—pollutants include fluoride, nitrate lead, chromium and cadmium. There is much lament about the Ganges. Truth is, about 38,000 million litres of untreated sewage from over 800 towns and cities pollute rivers and ground water."

"The Smart Cities programme does highlight the issue of water. Indeed, half a dozen of the 20 cities selected as smart cities have listed water management on their agenda. Pune has listed ICT solutions for water, Kochi lists water management and 24 hour access as priorities, Sholapur is looking at water tax and conservation, and Guwahati envisages transformation of water bodies.

The harsh reality: so far so good, so far too little. The fear is that the rate of progress will hover between political incrementalism and bureaucratic gradualism. Yes, India needs to promote rainwater harvesting, create storage for surface water, promote conservation, metering to charge users to fund facilitation, and regulate ground water use to end the free water from free power regime. Those are a given. The magnitude of the crisis demands a paradigm change in the manner in which water is managed."


The full text of the article can be read here

Topic : Transitions / In : OP-EDS
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