Without a holistic approach to ensuring water-security, Indian cities could run dry in just decades
According to a recent WWF Risk Filter analysis, 100 cities globally will be facing ‘severe water scarcity’ by 2050. These cities are home to around 350 million people. Climate change and rising population—the total population of these cities could increase from 17% in 2020 to around 51% by 2050—have been cited as underlying factors. Therefore, countries need to make the spread of urbanisation more even apart from undertaking urgent climate action. Two Indian cities—Jaipur (45) and Indore (75)—feature in the list. Apart from these two, 28 other Indian cities are likely to face ‘increasing water risks in the next few decades’, including Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Delhi and Vishakapatnam.
Developing urban wetlands and watershed are crucial to containing the crisis. The Smart Cities initiative’s framework for water management also must be implemented on a war footing. In order to operationalise water management for a water-secure future, public funding for sustainable economic growth is the need of the hour. From cutting greenhouse gas emissions to reclaiming waste ware, cities must have a multi-pronged response. Given how India neither has created storage capacity commensurate to the precipitation it receives nor has moved meaningfully on wastewater reclamation, there is a lot of potential in these two areas in terms of bolstering water-security. Beyond that, the country needs to implement rainwater harvesting, micro-irrigation, etc, while transitioning away from water-guzzling crops and pricing water correctly to discourage wastage. Without a holistic outlook on water, the country suffers—research shows a clear link between water-stress and conflict.