Since Independence there has been a significant increase in population growth in urban areas which kept on increasing from 10.8% in 1901to 17.3% in 1951and further to 27.81% in 2001and 31.2% in 2011.
The consistent increase in the rate of growth of India’s population has also led to the increase in demand for water, particularly in the urban areas where the rate of increase is higher compared to rural areas. There are a number of factors–natural growth, geographical expansion of urban centres, migration from rural to urban areas due to natural calamities, displacement and non-availability of gainful employment-responsible for faster urban population growth. The water supply of 135litres per capita per day (LPCD)as a service level benchmark should be given for domestic water use in urban local bodies as per CPHEEO, however, currently an average water supply in urban local bodies is 69.25 LPCD. This indicates that there is a vast gap between the demand and supply of water in urban areas of India.
The problem of access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities in urban areas of India is alsoa major concern. As per Composite Water Management Index’ (CWMI), around 600 million Indians facing high to extreme water stress, where more than 40 % of the annually available surface water is used every year and about 200,000 people dying every year due to inadequate access to safe water, the situation is likely to worsen as the demand for water will exceed the supply by 2050.
It is estimated that by 2050, half of India’s population will be living in urban areas and will face acute water problems.
At present, 163 million people do not have access to safe drinking-water and 210 million people lack access to improved basic sanitation in India.
In urban areas, 96% have access to an improved water source and 54% to improved sanitation.Whereasin rural areas, which accounts for 72% of India’s population lives, only 84% have access to safe water and only 21% for sanitation. In addition, there is a lack of waste-water treatment facilities to treat the wastewater of a growing population. There is a need to reuse treated wastewater in order to meet the current and future demands for water.Moreover, presently a debate continues to rage on whether or not water is a right. The parties in favour of ‘water as right’ view adequate access to safe water as a basic individual need, to be treated at par with other human rights, all of which form an integral part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The prevention of pollution of water sources is extremely critical in order to continue to supply water of quality standards. Available data suggests that pollution levels have increased in surface water as well as groundwater. More than 100 million people in urban areas exposed to poor water quality. The a lack of sufficient infrastructure, services and funds to support water and wastewater treatment facilities required for an urban area further exacerbates the problem. Moreover, the drainage and solid waste collection services are not adequate in most of the urban areas. The systems are either poorly planned and designed, or operated without inadequate maintenance.
Use of natural capacities of soil and vegetation (green infrastructure) can be applied to absorb and treat waste water. Natural systems are found to be more cost-effective and require low building, labour and maintenance costs.It is our duty to ensure that our current and future cities have smart water and waste water treatment systems to manage water crisis.
Sustaining healthy environments in the urbanized world of the 21st century represents a major challenge for human settlements, development and management. Again, flexible and innovative solutions are needed to cope with sudden and substantial changes in water demand for people and their associated economic activities.
Individuals will need to start adopting eco-friendly practices and products. For example, possible methods to overcome this increasing water demand is rain water harvesting and water aerators. If every independent house/flat tries to use these systems, a huge amount of water can be conserved annually. This alone can reduce the water demand significantly, if efficiently designed and properly managed[.
An Integrated Urban Water Management approach needs be adopted which involves managing freshwater, wastewater, and storm water. The strategies need to be promoted for Integrated Urban Water Management are utilization of waste water after tertiary treatment so that treated waste water would be dual source of water supply to bulk water users, comprehensive water flow auditing from intake to consumer which will assist in identifying old water distribution and house connection pipes that needs repair or replacement on priority basis to prevent conveyance loss, water pricing at domestic level should be adopted to make wiser use of the resource and follow up a proper monitoring protocol for surveillance of water quality within water distribution network.
Singh, N. (2000).”Tapping Traditional Systems of Resource Management”, Habitat Debate, UNCHS, Vol.6, No.3.
WHO and UNICEF (2017) Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: 2017 Update and SDG Baselines. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2017.
UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation estimate for 2008 based on the 2006 Demographic and Health Survey, the 2001 census, other data and the extrapolation of previous trends to 2010.