Water is a basic resource needed for survival. But, less than 2% of the available water on the planet is fresh and can be used. Rapid population growth has caused water demand to far exceed its supply. In India, especially the situation looks bleak. India has one of the lowest water efficiencies in the world. And now, the country's billion strong population is on the verge of a water crisis.
Currently, more than 80% of India's fresh water is consumed by the agricultural sector. But, rainfall patterns are becoming more and more erratic, on account of climate change. Farmers are thus required to increasingly pump water from the ground. This leads to groundwater table levels dropping drastically. In some coastal areas the water table has even fallen below the sea level. Basic access to safe drinking water is also denied to a large portion of the rural and urban population.
Something drastic needs to be done to ensure adequate water supply for our future generations. The Planning Commission plans to do just that in the 12th Five Year Plan beginning in 2012. The focus is on using technology, and promoting the use of recycled water. Recycled water can be used for various industrial uses. Sprinklers and drip systems would help farmers use their water efficiently. But, the Commission also plans to introduce a concept of 'paying for water'.
Paying for water, based on usage will help ensure a constant supply of the resource. But, this radical move will not come without opposition. Many people in India still believe that water is their birthright. Privitisation of water would seem that one of god's free gifts is being taken away from them.
However, some projects in the state of Andhra Pradesh have worked successfully. Over 1 million people in the state have organised water management systems. According to Commission, if water for irrigation purposes is not charged, then the basic right for drinking water is endangered. Without reforms, and enabling efficient usage of this resource, in a few years we may not have a single drop of safe water to drink. With agricultural sustainability also an issue, the water crisis may even spiral into a food crisis. Paying for water on a per usage basis, and incentivising people to be rational in their usage makes complete sense. India cannot afford to wait to adopt new and innovative technologies to ensure that this precious resource lasts for future generations.