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The Perfect StormPathways to Managing India’s Water Sector Sustainably

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June 2018 |

Citation: Narae Kim, Swastik Das, Kangkanika Neog, and Rudresh K Sugam (2018) ‘The Perfect Storm - Pathways to Managing India’s Water Sector Sustainably’, June

Overview

India is home to around 17 per cent of the world’s population but has only four per cent of its freshwater resources. Water governance challenges are inevitable in ‘water-stressed’ India, considering that a growing population, rapid economic growth, along with climate change bring unprecedented complications. This white paper, published in partnership with the United Nations in India, presents a snapshot of India’s water management and security-related challenges, and recommends possible solution pathways for sustainably managing our water resources.

Key Highlights

  • Currently, global water demand has been estimated at approximately 4,600 km3 per year and is expected to increase by 20-30 percent by 2050.
  • The per capita availability of water in India reduced from 1,816 m3/year to 1,545 m3/year, during 2001 and 2011. The estimated values for 2015 and 2050 are 1,340 m3/year and 1,140 m3/year, respectively. As per UN’s classification, areas with annual water supplies below 1,700 m3/capita are water-stressed.
  • Unequal spatial distribution of water aggravates the water- stress situation in India. For instance, Brahmaputra and Barak basins covering only 7.3 per cent of India’s geographical area and 4.2 per cent of its population, have 31 per cent of the annual water resources.
  • India is the world’s largest extractor of groundwater, followed by the U.S., China, Iran, and Pakistan. Groundwater supports more than 60 per cent of irrigation and 85 per cent of drinking water requirements.
  • Currently, 38,600 MLD of untreated water pollutes rivers across the country affecting 650 towns.
  • 36,356 habitations have been affected by poor groundwater quality as per the 2018-19 data from the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
  • As per Census 2011, more than 22 percent of rural households must walk at least half a kilometre or more to fetch water, with the burden mostly being borne by women. Women and girls are often at risk of physical, mental and sexual violence when they travel long distances to fetch water.
  • The demand for water from all sectors will increase in the coming decades, further complicated by various challenges in water use, especially that of access and efficiency. As per the World Bank, only 36.7 percent of the total agriculture land in India was reliably irrigated in 2013. Moreover, according to the 2011 Census Report, 30 percent of urban Indian households do not have access to water within their premises.

Key Pathways

  • Protect traditional water bodies through their mapping, strict maintenance of water quality, proactive approach in their governance, and encouragement of community management through collective action. These water bodies serve as lifelines for the rural economy, cutting across almost all districts and villages of India.
  • Develop a robust groundwater management framework based on participatory processes. Improvement in groundwater resource monitoring, institutional strengthening and capacity building of groundwater agency, among others, should be prioritised.
  • Adopt water-use efficiency across all sectors – agriculture, domestic, industry. Micro irrigation systems like drip and sprinkler, and practices like conservation agriculture and laser land levelling should be encouraged wherever feasible. Industrial policy should orient itself towards ‘water footprint’ management. Efficient water use in industries should be seen from the supply-chain point of view.
  • Introduce sectoral reforms based on understanding sector-specific challenges. Identifying location-specific challenges, creating markets for diverse crops, and developing capacity of communities are among some of the reforms suggested for the agriculture sector. In the domestic sector, utilities services across the world should be accountable and equipped to provide equitable service to all sections of society.
  • Shift from a – ‘use and throw – linear’ to a ‘use, treat, and reuse – circular’ approach to manage wastewater. The CEEW study in association with 2030- Water Resources Group found that such a practice will have the potential to augment existing water supply sources along with opening up avenues for financial gains from resource (energy, fertilisers, and water) recovery from this treated wastewater.
  • Develop an improved water database by introducing flow measurement, installation of meters, digital water-level recorders at small-scale, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system, and satellite monitoring. Quality real-time data can significantly improve water management in the country.
  • Facilitate coordination among multiple institutions, especially those responsible for agriculture and water resources.
  • Promote transboundary water reforms by adopting a basin-wide approach to sharing of water, a departure from the status quo of bilateral treaties with vague clauses and redressal mechanisms.
  • Apply water boundaries. The potential of basin-level planning for water management instead of the one based on administrative boundaries should be considered and its feasibility studied.
A shift from ‘use and throw – linear’ to ‘use, treat, and reuse – circular’ approach to manage wastewater has the potential to augment existing water supply sources along with opening up avenues for financial gains from resource recovery from this treated wastewater.

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Climate ChangeA Risk Assessment

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July 2015 |

Citation: David King, Daniel Schrag, Zhou Dadi, Qi Ye, and Arunabha Ghosh (2015) ‘Climate Change: A Risk Assessment’. London: UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Overview

This report is an independent assessment of the risks of climate change, designed to support political leaders, businesses and financial markets in their decisions on the issue. It takes into consideration three areas: the future pathway of global emissions; the direct risks arising from the climate’s response to those emissions; and the risks arising from the interaction of climate change with complex human systems.

This first-of-its-kind multi-country assessment applies the principles of risk assessment used in finance and national security to better understand and communicate the risks of climate change.

Conducted by CEEW in collaboration with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the University of Cambridge, the Harvard University Center for the Environment, and Tsinghua University, the report highlights direct and systemic risks of increasing climate change in India and the world.

Launched simultaneously at the Bombay Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange, the report is the result of consultations with numerous experts from the fields of climate science, energy technology, water, food and agriculture, health, finance, accounting, insurance, and defence and national security (through meetings, workshops, wargaming, and scenario planning) held from November 2014 to April 2015.

Research shows that a 1m rise in sea level could increase the probability of ‘100-year flood events’ exponentially. (Source: iStock)

Key Findings

  • There is a 40 per cent chance that climatic conditions could exceed potentially lethal limits of heat stress, even for individuals resting in the shade, when global average temperatures have risen on average by one degree compared to the present.
  • A ‘1 in 100 year’ shock to global food production in the latter half of the 20th century may have become three times more likely by mid-century with increasing climate change.
  • On a high emission pathway, the incidence of extreme drought affecting cropland could increase by about 50% in South Asia, and triple in southern Africa.
  • By 2050, approximately 1.7 billion people in South Asia will be faced with risk of extreme water shortage.
  • With 1m of global sea level rise, the probability of a ‘100-year flood event’ becomes about 40 times more likely in Shanghai, 200 times more likely in New York and 1000 times more likely in Kolkata.
  • On a high emissions pathway, flooding in the Ganges basin could be six times more frequent, over the course of the century.
  • As high rates of global population growth are increasing demand, climate change could further reduce already stressed resources, especially in conflict regions. This could lead to state failures, food restrictions, civil unrest, large-scale migration and internal security hazards.

Summary of projected changes in crop yields due to climate change over the 21st century*

Source: IPCC AR5 WG2 Summary for Policymakers

Key Recommendations

  • Make risk assessments on a regular and consistent basis so that in areas of uncertainty, any changes or trends in expert judgment are clearly visible over time.
  • Apply principals of risk assessment including assessing risks in relation to objectives, identifying the biggest risks, considering the full range of possibilities, using the best available information, taking a holistic view; and being explicit about value judgements.
  • Broaden participation in the risk assessment process and define the relevance of different participants to different stages of the process (like decision making and information gathering); and widen involvement by including experts from fields like defence, intelligence, insurance, and public health in addition to scientists.
On all but the lowest emissions pathways, a rise of more than 2°C is likely in the latter half of the 21st century.

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