There is one very famous quote which says, “Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water”. This quote highlights the importance of water and its value in sustenance of life on earth. It has multiple uses and each of them supports life, directly or indirectly. Even though 75 percent of our Earth is covered with water, less than two percent is fresh water. To make the matters worse, only about 1% is available as drinking water because two percent is frozen. (SSCWD, 2012). The facts above, at the very outset, bring about the priceless importance of water. Though once it was considered to be an endless natural resource, but lately due to endless pollution and drastic climate change the world is looking at a looming water crisis. Water resources have started depleting across the globe due to climatic changes which have been unleashed due to uncontrolled and unreasonable human activities.
India, which has conventionally been an agrarian economy, has almost 600 million of citizens directly and indirectly employed in agricultural activities. The agriculture contributes around 18 percent to India’s GDP (INDIA-Agriculture Economy and Policy Report, 2009). Moreover India’s has world’s second largest population and hence the demand of fresh water is naturally more. The facts above show the importance of water resources in India, its economy and most importantly, its population. The ministry of water and resources of India recently submitted a report named “Preliminary Consolidated Report on Effect of Climate Change on
Water resources”, which analyzed all the possible effects, reasons and implications on climate change on water resources in India. The foreword of the report says, “The global warming is bound to affect the hydrologic cycle resulting in further intensification of temporal and spatial variations in the water availability.” The statement speaks volumes about the seriousness of the issue.
Water resources in India can be broadly classified in three categories: surface water resources, ground water resources and glacier resources of Indian’s Himalayas. All the water resources have been severely impacted due to climate changes. The three significant and prominent visible signs of climate change are: Increase in global level temperature, change in regional precipitation patterns and rise in sea levels (Mujumdar 2010). All the factors have contributed to the degradation of water resources in India, in one way or the other. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), a UNO body that oversees climate change and its effects, calculated that in the last century the global temperature increased by around 0.74+- 0.18 degree celsius. The analysis and study of Indian subcontinent has revealed an increase of 0.42 degree celsius, 0.92 degree celsius and 0.90 degree celsius in annual mean temperature, mean maximum temperature and mean minimum temperature over last 100 years (PCR, p.1). Since temperature derives the hydrological cycle, increase in the surface temperature of earth has adversely affected it in many direct and indirect ways.
A warmer climate leads to higher rates of evaporation and increase of liquid precipitation. Due to this flood magnitude and frequency are likely to increase in many regions, and low flows are to decrease. This could be a major blow to surface water reserves in terms of both quality and quantity as the quantity of dissolved oxygen (used to gauge quality of water in many studies) decreases at higher temperatures. The increased temperature will result in increased flooding initially, especially during the monsoon season when rainfall is already at its heaviest. However, in subsequent years, there will be less and less glacial meltdown to continuously supply India’s rivers (Brooks, 2007). This would eventually lead to widespread drought in the country as rivers will dry up, which are a primary source of surface water in India.
Climate change has also affected rainfall patters in numerous ways in India. Monsoon has become uncertain and rains have become erratic and non-uniform. It is leading to unpredictable weather. This has again lead to decrease in water flow and water levels in Indian rivers and the ground water level has also suffered extensively. India, being an agricultural country is overly dependent on rainfall and ground water for irrigation and hence the importance of these two sources cannot be stressed enough. The stage of groundwater development in India is 58%, which is indeed alarming. Glacier resources of Indian Himalayas are very important water resource for India. All the major North Indian rivers owe their origin to thousands of glaciers in the Himalayas. There are around 9575 glaciers in Indian Himalayas (PCR, p.13). Hence, the value of Himalayan glaciers as a water resources is India is paramount and its necessity and importance cannot be undermined. Climate change has impacted Himalayan glaciers in a very big manner too. The temperature rise affects the natural process of glaciation and de-glaciation which poses a lethal threat to glaciers.
Due to change in climate and increased temperatures, glaciers in Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau have been melting lately. Indian Himalayas and Nepalese snow-fed rivers are responsible for over 70 percent discharge in Ganges (India’s most important river). This means if Himalayas dry up, so would Ganges. The Ganges has many tributaries which supply water and are a source of water for huge chunk of population for purposes like drinking, irrigation and industrial purposes. According to Brooks, “The glaciers, which regulate the water supply to the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Thalwin, Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, are believed to be retreating at a rate of about 33-49ft each year” (2007). This could lead to severe consequences as all the rivers mentioned above are very important for India and losing them could mean a disaster for India as a nation.
Not only the resources but even the urban water infrastructure in India has been facing the heat of climate change. The water infrastructure consisting of pumping systems, water supply systems, ground water pumping is being affected due to the stresses caused by change in climate. Most of the population in India relies on surface water supply by local agencies and ground water pumping for almost all their needs. The global climate change has severely hit both these sources. Due to reduction in stream flows and erratic and less rains, ground water level has decreased and surface water has depleted at an alarming rate. This has left many parts of India dry. An indirect effect of climate change is an increase in water demand, because of rise in temperatures, for the same given population (Mujumdar 2011). Thus the affect of climate change has been rather severe for India. It has not only leaded to decrease in water levels of primary water resources, but has also crunched the available infrastructure. The situation of water resources is grim in India and climate change is exacerbating the depletion of these resources. Indian Government and the entire world needs to take corrective measures soon to reverse these effects and control activities leading to climate change, for the sake of their people and for the sake of entire humanity as this is the state of water resources in many countries across the globe.
Brooks, Nina (2007), ‘Imminent Water Crisis in India’, 16 November 2012, Available at: http://www.arlingtoninstitute.org/wbp/global-water-crisis/606
Mujumdar, P.P. (2011), ‘Implications of Climate Change for Water Resources Management’,
pp. 18-27, 16 November 2012,
Available at: http://www.google.co.in/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=implications%20of%20climate%20change%20for%20water%20resources%20management%20pp%20mujumdar&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CB8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.idfc.com%2Fpdf%2Freport%2F2011%2FChp-2-Implications-of-Climage-Change-for-Water-Resource.pdf&ei=JRamUN3pKsj_rAeSmIDwBA&usg=AFQjCNELn5EeB7JDkWyya6hmTJm0kiIVHA
SSCWD (2012), ‘Water Conservation Facts and Tips’, Sunnyslope County water District, 16 November 2012,
Available at: http://www.sscwd.org/tips.html
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Available at: http://www.google.co.in/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=india%20an%20agrarian%20country&source=web&cd=9&cad=rja&ved=0CFgQFjAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fas.usda.gov%2Fcountry%2Findia%2Findian%2520agricultural%2520economy%2520and%2520policy%2520paper.pdf&ei=2jmlUJXkKaWhiAeK24GwBw&usg=AFQjCNHmedwq23VwzLV7YCDybznZKP7vFQ
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resources’, Government of India-Ministry of Water Resources, pp. 1-29 16 November 2012,
Available at: cwc.gov.in/main/downloads/Preliminary_Report_final.pdf.