Indian industry Can Lead The Way In Water Conservation
Policies that propagate and incentivise investment in water conservation need to be created.
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India Inc, supported by the government, can lead the way to maximise availability and reduce consumption of water as well as encourage a water-frugal lifestyle
Chennai, the sixth-largest city in India and home to a population of over four million, made headlines recently, as the metropolis perilously veered on the brink of a major water crisis. With all the four reservoirs that supply water to the city having gone dry, it triggered a humanitarian crisis requiring emergency measures which included water being transported to the water-starved city on trains.
However, Chennai isn’t alone in its crisis. Several parts of the country are staring at water scarcity, at a scale and severity that has never been witnessed before. As shocking as this is, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, India is among the world’s most water-stressed countries.
According to the World Bank, India had 3,000–4,000 cubic meters of water per person in 1950, which has fallen to around 1,000 cubic meters per person today, largely due to population growth and increase in consumption patterns.
Growing competition over finite water resources, compounded by climate change, will have serious implications for India’s food security, the livelihoods of its farmers and for overall economic development. In short, India is staring at an apocalypse triggered by water scarcity.
Water, a key asset
India is poised to become the third-largest world economy and one of the top three manufacturing destinations by 2030, as a result of which the demand for water for industrial use is also expected to increase significantly.
However, that is just one facet of the problem. With India expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2042, the demand for domestic water is set to outpace supply by a significant margin.
Cognizant of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to step up efforts, India Inc has been proactively contributing to the country’s efforts to find sustainable solutions to the problem. From continuous process improvements that use less water per tonne of product to reducing water consumption or installing effluent treatment plants, harvesting rainwater and recharging groundwater by building aquifers, Indian industry’s efforts cover a wide spectrum.
Even though the measures have been successful, there is still much more to be done before we can escape this water emergency. The situation calls for collective efforts by corporate India to conserve this scarce resource. Some corporates such as Godrej Industries have set up treatment facilities to reuse as much water into processes and prevent waste water runoff, and even beyond the fence, building watersheds and rainwater catchments, to augment water supply.
Change at scale
While these efforts need to be intensified to bring change at scale, it is now imperative for India Inc to focus on the development of ‘green products’ that require less water both at origination and formulation as well as the consumption stage. Green products have the potential to influence consumer behaviour towards saving water and minimising wastage.
For instance, soap and shampoo manufacturers are working on developing products that facilitate lesser water consumption. Showers and other bathroom fittings could be adapted to have a set, lower flow rate. Appliances like washing machines and dishwashers are being innovated to consume less water.
Businesses also need to explore and foster linkages to reduce water consumption. A washing machine manufacturer can tie-up with a detergent company to develop an integrated water-efficient washing solution.
Similarly robust linkages between industries can pave the way for an integrated approach to eradicating water shortage. One industry’s waste is often another’s raw material.
The Government of India has been taking earnest efforts to tackle the situation. The newly-formed Ministry of Jal Shakti and the launch of the nation-wide water conservation project are steps in the right direction. However, the government needs to play a more significant role to complement and amplify corporate India’s efforts.
Setting up of common treatment plants and building infrastructure to facilitate transfer and treatment of water and effluents are steps where the government needs to focus attention. However, it is in policy support that the government has the most prominent role to play. Policies that propagate and incentivise investment in water conservation need to be created.
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