A conference on fresh water is about to take place in New York, USA after 5 decades. Prior to this, a report regarding the situation of water across the globe was released by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Gueterres, according to which, India will be among the countries which will be the most affected by a water crisis by the year 2050. In the coming decades, due to glaciers and ice melting, water levels in rivers like Ganga, Indus, and Brahmaputra, which are considered as the lifelines of Indian life, will keep on reducing.
10 major rivers of Asia, which include the 3 mentioned above, have their points of origin in the Himalayas. These 3 major rivers of the country provide fresh water to 130 crore people, which includes a large population of north India. Out of the people facing water-related problems, 80 percent are in Asia, especially in India, Pakistan, and China. As per the CSE’s State of Environment Report 2023, in 2031, the average annual per capita availability of water in India will come down to 1367 cubic metre, which was 3000-4000 in 1950, and is continuously reducing since then.
And while the availability of water in decreasing, the consumption of the same is going up. The CSE report says that while in 2017, where the requirement of water was 1100 billion cubic metre, it will increase to 1447 cubic metre in 2050. An additional 200 cubic metre of water will be required for agriculture. Further according to the CSE report, the water basin of the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna River systems is 43 percent of the total river water basin of the country. And therefore, the reduction of their water levels can create a serious water crisis in India.
India is home to 17.74 percent of the world’s population, while it has only 4.5 percent of the fresh water sources.
The 2500 KM-long Ganga is one of the country’s major and most pious rivers. Around 40 crore people from across a number of states are dependent on this river. Ganga is fed by the Gangotri Glacier, but in 87 years, 2.75 KM out of the 30 KM glacier have melted away. There are 9575 glaciers in the Indian Himalayan region, out of which 968 glaciers are in Uttarakhand alone. There is another risk if the glaciers melt rapidly- severe floods can hit India, Pakistan, and China.
All across the globe, 2-3 billion people face the shortage of water for a month every year, and by 2050, half of the world’s population, that is around 1.7 to 2.4 billion people, will fall prey to water crisis. Back in 2016, such crisis was being faced by 93 crore people or by 1/3rd of the urban population of the world. Currently, 2 billion people do not have access to clean potable water, and 3.6 billion people do not have cleanliness facilities.