India’s Water Crisis & Women | 18 Aug 2021

Why in News

India is water-stressed due to changing weather patterns and repeated droughts. And the worst sufferers of this crisis are mostly women.

  • Water scarcity in India is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by the year 2050.

Key Points

  • Water Crisis:
    • Although India has 16% of the world’s population, the country possesses only 4% of the world’s freshwater resources.
    • In recent times, the water crisis in India has become very critical, affecting millions of people across India.
    • As many as 256 of 700 districts in India have reported ‘critical’ or ‘overexploited’ groundwater levels according to the most recent Central Ground Water Board data (from 2017).
    • Three-fourths of India’s rural families lack access to piped, drinkable water and must rely on unsafe sources.
    • India has become the world’s largest extractor of groundwater, accounting for 25% of the total. Some 70% of our water sources are contaminated and our major rivers are dying because of pollution.
  • Causes of Water Crisis:
    • Population Growth:
      • There is insufficient water per person as a result of population growth.
      • The total amount of usable water in India has been estimated to be between 700 to 1,200 billion cubic meters (bcm)
        • A country is considered water-stressed if it has less than 1,700 cubic meters per person per year.
    • Poor Water Quality:
      • Water in most rivers in India is largely not fit for drinking, and in many stretches not even fit for bathing.
      • Poor water quality is the result of insufficient and delayed investment in urban water-treatment facilities.
      • Moreover, industrial effluent standards are not enforced because the state pollution control boards have inadequate technical and human resources.
    • Dwindling Groundwater Supplies:
      • There is dwindling groundwater supplies due to over-extraction by farmers.
      • Deficient rain in some areas is also depleting ground water.
    • Unsustainable consumption:
      • Wells, ponds and tanks are drying up as groundwater resources come under increasing pressure due to over-reliance and unsustainable consumption.
      • Unequal distribution of water, contamination/depletion of local water bodies due to pollution and no proper water treatment facility augment the water crisis in India.
  • Impact on Women:
    • Vulnerability of Women:
      • The crisis of water only puts them at a higher risk of vulnerability. Fetching water in India has been perceived as a woman’s job for centuries.
      • Women, especially in the rural areas, walk miles to collect water from the nearest source.
    • Reduced Access to Sanitation:
      • Their marginalisation is compounded by the indignity and insecurity of not having a private spot to fulfil their toilet needs.
      • This whole system of women being forced to be water carriers leads to them having very less time for themselves. This further reduces access to clean sanitation, better physical and mental health of women.
    • Water-Wives:
      • The entire water management by women has led to polygamy in one drought-prone village of Maharashtra. This involves having more than one spouse to collect water. The arrangement is termed as ‘water wives’.
        • This is undoubtedly an example of regressive thinking — of women being seen as substitutes for water pipes or tankers.
  • Related Government Initiatives:

Way Forward

  • Addressing women’s water, sanitation and hygiene requirements is a critical driver in attaining gender equity and unlocking the potential of half of the world’s population. The water crisis is a women’s issue and feminists need to talk about it.
  • The water levels of the floodplain aquifers need to be monitored scrupulously to be well above the river water level to avoid contamination by river water.
  • Floodplains can be secured by planting organic food forests or fruit forests which don’t demand or consume much water.
  • In water management, corporations must play a more active role in using their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts towards innovation and conservation of water and harness water recharge.

Source: DTE