Written by Nirbhay Lumde
It is an accepted principle that water is a strong catalyst for growth. The World Water Development Report 2016 states that, water and jobs are inextricably linked on various levels – be it from an economic, environmental or social perspective. It is also important to note that water and sanitation features as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, water as a resource has to be prioritized; policy and practice have to be linked to manage water as a critical resource.Water – the Next Sustainability Frontier by Yes Bank is definitely a short in the arm as large regions of the country is facing severe recurring water crisis year on year. It’s ringing a warning bell that these occurrences may not be limited to summer but may also spill over to other seasons as well.
The publication, ‘Water –the Next Sustainability Frontier’, report is an honest revelation of not a very good future unfolding in front of us with respect to water resources in India. The report is factual, bold and candid with pragmatic approaches to address the issue at the stake. It is timely and deserves right attention as it demands action to step up collective role in managing the water crisis. It stands out with its uniqueness and is a clear differentiator with financial models in ensuring equitable and balanced distribution of water.
The report is holistic – the report opens up with a profound statement stating that water is vital to the sustenance of human life and its development. It also points out that water cuts across Human Development Indices and impacts Gross Domestic Product. It lays stress to treat water as a critical component in driving socio-economic development with loads of important and significant qualitative as well as quantitative inputs. The current water situation is analyzed in great depth using the three large frameworks – water budget, water demand and regulatory measures.
It is also candid – assertive statements on current water availability vis-à-vis usage with increase in demand by two folds in the coming decade and attributing sewage as the largest pollutant of rivers in India. The report also walks an extra mile of detailing on challenges faced in urban areas with respect to water supply networks. It lists down lack of access to dependable sources for growing demand of water, availability of quality of water, adequate Facilities for sewage treatment, lower recovery of Operation & Maintenance costs from the users and the poor financial health of urban local bodies as some of the challenges. It is critical of overexploitation of groundwater resources with the limited systems for retaining rainwater centrally in dry season.
The report dissects groundwater utilization to the smallest revenue division, block level, to emphasize on effective governance systems. It also reports current notable schemes and legislations to provide water to users such as Namami Gange, interlinking of rivers and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana. The report accepts that a strong regulatory framework exists but however suggests strict adherence as the key to promote equitable and fair availability of water resources across the country. The report also looks at the impact of green revolution beyond increasing food grains in the country. It provides a clear case of looking at returns beyond mere numbers and points out at water shortage as imminent risk to mere survival of the business. The report does not mince words in pin pointing the guilty.
The report is definitive with impactions for inactions. One of the chapters of the report is titled as, Risk of Inaction, which presents a summary of events and implications that would eventually paralyze the system in case of inaction with respect to equitable water distribution. It refers to Global Risk Report 2016 highlighting water crisis as one of the most significant social risks and quotes World Health Organization statement on investment returns on water and sanitation. It estimates that every USD 1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an economic return of USD 4. One of the exhibits in the reports points out intricate relationship between monsoon forecast and reaction on the stock exchange.
The report estimates that the water consumption would surpass the water availability in next 30 years and recommends change in strategy framework to address the issue on war footing. It speaks about urgent need to shift focus from ‘water supply system’ to ‘water resource management system’. The differentiator strategy has three components to make water usage more efficient by reducing wastage, recycling water within the consumption boundaries and rainwater harvesting. However, it calls for investment in building local infrastructure, development and adoption of appropriate and cost effective technologies for treatment and reuse of waste water. This helps, improve the living conditions of the local geography and greatly reduce water pollution.
The report discusses various factors affecting greater water demand and ultimately leading to water stress in India. It also cautions that lack of mitigation of these factors would cause competition amongst various users and stakeholders, and ultimately paving way to conflicts. Overtly, the above two statements point towards immediate attention, affirmative action and alternate solutions to address larger problem of climate change.
The report is pragmatic and solution bound as it presents some innovative practices and presents a strong case for traditional practices such as rainwater harvesting and watershed management techniques. It is extremely heartening to note that the report moots developing location-specific scenario based solutions rather than one-size-fits-all model. It also presents a case for financing models to fund water management related activities. The framework would certainly help initiate discussions to mobilize and divert funds towards water infrastructure. The report also states that the industries have the access to technology to reuse the water in their internal processes and calls out for mass adoption of Micro Irrigation to meet agriculture water demand.
The whitepaper suggests that tackling the water challenge requires collaborative and forward looking self-sustainable mechanisms that sustains in the long run. Developing mechanisms to evaluate true cost of water and risks involved, recognizing opportunities in water management and developing financing models and develop an approach to collective governance are three recommended approaches to achieve water security for India.
It’s a highly recommended read for every Indian citizen. Yes Bank should make efforts to reach this report to all the schools in the country, especially the first three portions, to disseminate the importance of water conservation. The future citizens certainly have greater control over the current resources and drive change towards future practices. The report also illustrates pragmatic approaches to judicious use of water, water conservation and financial models towards greater water security in India.
About the author
Nirbhay Lumde is a Corporate Social Responsibility professional. The views expresses are personal. He can be connected at @NirbhayLumde