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Altering India's Water Realty

India’s problems with water may be big, but let’s look at making small changes to mitigate the crisis, says Mikael Abbhagen, Co-Founder and Design Director, Altered

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Schools will be required to install automatic taps with sensors and double flush tanks on priority.

As the saying goes – water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink. Sounds too grim to be real? Then think again. Because the world, covered as it is by over 70 per cent in water, has a real H2O crisis on its hands. Unless we, the people, do something to remedy the situation, we could well be on our way to a time when we would need to ration how much we use. 

Despite living in a water-world, we’re seeing so many urban centres of the world facing a paucity of portable water already. In India cities like Chennai and Bangalore are grappling with procuring portable water from natural sources. In Delhi NCR’s Gurgaon, rapid urbanisation has led to such a pressure on the water-table that some fear ground-water could be totally depleted in the near future making it mandatory for authorities to tap water from Himachal’s Renuka Lake – a move that’s had environmentalists up in arms. 

Globally too, figures are dismal. It is estimated that women and children face the brunt of the water crisis by spending a collective of 200 million hours a day just hauling water*. The average woman in Africa walks six kilometres a day to haul 40 pounds of water and 844 million humans lack access to the basic drinking water making a glass of portable water a real luxury when it should be a necessity. 

There isn’t a global water shortage yet, but climate change and bio-energy demands do amplify the problem to such a degree, that the UN believes individual countries need to up the ante on water conservation in order to safeguard their future on a war footing. In India, with the population expected to cross the 1.6 billion-mark by 2050, we can well imagine what kind of pressure the population will exert on this natural resource.

If we are to examine the problem closer, it would emerge that there is no one solution to the problem. There are several approaches to mitigate the challenge. Whether its measures like rain-water harvesting, collection of rainwater from the atmosphere, to policy and politically driven infrastructure regulations – an entire gamut of measures need to be implemented in tandem to tackle the water challenge headlong. 

One of the easiest solutions in India could be desalination. Then why don’t we just start to desalinate all available water right away? The answer is quite simple. Money. It’s a huge investment to start with. UAE has started to build one of the world’s largest desalination plants in the world at a cost of a massive $800 million with a production of 900.000 m3 a day. And the amount of energy it takes to produce water from salty seawater is astounding. A price not many can afford or are willing to accept and invest in.

Another issue is waste. Leaking pipes, inefficient usage and old technologies render a lot of portable water waste it this country. Quite honestly, plain old disrespect for water-on-tap is also largely responsible for portable water being squandered with exaggerated amounts of water being used for regular activities like washing hands, watering plants or just brushing one’s teeth. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
water resources water pollution

Mikael Abbhagen

The author is Co-Founder and Design Director, Altered

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