UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | 11 March 2022

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What’s the article is about?

The Global Water System Project implies global concern about the human-induced transformation of fresh water and its impact on the earth system and society.

Syllabus: GS2, Water management


  • As per IPCC 4th assessment, it is globally estimated that the gap between demand for and supply of freshwater may reach up to 40% by 2030 if present practices continue.
  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on water availability and sanitation for all by 2030 (SDG 6).
  • At present, the average water consumption in the domestic sector in urban areas is 135 liters to 196 liters ahead of the day.

Anthropogenic factors that influence a freshwater system:

  • Engineering of river channels: That is changing the course of the river and also adding waste to the river impacting the life of marine animals Ex: Inter-river basins.
  • Irrigation and other consumptive use of water: Rice and wheat account for more than 75% of agricultural production use. The agriculture sector uses a little over 90% of total water use in India.
  • Widespread land use/land cover change: This has led to the desertification of land impacting land productivity and storage of water.
  • Change in an aquatic habitat: Increased use of plastic and less waste management resulting of waste into the freshwater impacting aquatic habitat.
  • Point and non-point source pollution affecting water quality: Release of industrial pollutants directly into freshwater leading to thermal and water pollution.
  • Reduction in natural storage capacity 
  • Deterioration in catchment efficiency: Lack of proper rainwater harvesting mechanisms, and fewer catchment areas.
  • Greywater: Less recycling of greywater and mixing with fresh water has created a vicious cycle of impacting freshwater.

To combat these governments have introduced Inter-Basin transfer(IBT) of water to ensure freshwater supply to all. There are several IBT initiatives across the world. The National River Linking Project of India is one of those under construction. Recently, inter-basin transfer of water drew attention in India due to a provision made in Budget 2022 for the Ken Betwa river link project.

The issue that persists in IBT:

  • Contestation on the concept of the surplus and deficit basin.
    • Contestation on the concept of the surplus and deficit basin itself as the exercise is substantially hydrological.
    • Rainfall in many surplus basins has been reported as declining.
  • Low capacity utilization: Concern about the present capacity utilization of water resources created in the country.
    • By 2016, India created an irrigation potential for 112 million hectares, but the gross irrigated area was 93 million hectares. There is a 19% gap, which is more in the case of canal irrigation.
  • Low use of greywater: It is estimated that 55% to 75% of domestic water use turns into greywater depending on its nature of use, people’s habits, climatic conditions.

Way forward:

  • A hybrid water management system is necessary, where the individual, a community, and society have definite roles in the value chain.
  • It is important to include less predictable variables and involve non-state actors in decision-making processes.
  • The need of the hour is proper valuation of water as per the UN World Water Development Report, 2021, including 5 parameters. water sources; water infrastructure; water services; water as an input to production and socio-economic development, and socio-cultural values of water.

Proper measures are needed to be taken in order to ensure the SDG 6 and availability of water to all by 2030.

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