Land, water resources are at breaking point, Water pollution UPSC | IAS Target IAS Target

Land, water resources are at breaking point

04 Jan 2022

Category : Environmental Issue

Topic: Land, water resources are at breaking point

India is approaching a turning point in water scarcity due to the depletion of water resources due to overfishing and the decrease in water supply due to climate change.
Apart from that, some government measures have also led to water abuse, especially in the agricultural sector (minimum support prices). These factors put India under pressure.
In this context, we need to act within the framework of a citizen's initiative for cooperative federalism and the sustainable use of stressed resource water.

Water stress situation in India

India has the reputation of being by far the largest user of groundwater in the world, even if the national average groundwater level drops by 0.4 m. According to reports from Bihar, the water table there has recently dropped a few meters.
Surface Water
As per a report, more than 70% of the surface irrigation water nationwide is simply wasted.
As per a recent report from the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), rainfall in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal has decreased "significantly", and monsoon variability has increased nationwide over the past 30 years.
Hydrological conditions also vary significantly from region to region. Some are at risk of drought, while others are flooded repeatedly. Annual rainfall is sufficient (about 400 billion cubic meters), but the available natural runoff is much lower. Geological factors such as steep slopes contribute to the reduced usability of rainwater.

Reasons for water stress in India

Exploitation of resources:
  • According to the figure, groundwater covers more than two-thirds of irrigation needs.
  • Over the last 40 years, about 85% of the additional irrigation has come from groundwater.
  • This is unsustainable and results in severe water table depletion.
  • This problem is exacerbated by Indian law that gives landowners exclusive rights to groundwater.
Basic question:
  • Groundwater is used to grow water-intensive crops such as rice and sugarcane (promoted by the Green Revolution) in rain-deficient countries such as Punjab and Maharashtra.
  • Punjab's government procurement policies and subsidies allow farmers to produce rice.
  • Similarly, farmers in Maharashtra grow sugar cane because they can certainly get it.

Inadequate maintenance:

There is a large gap between the irrigation potential created and the irrigation potential actually used, simply because of loose supervision.

Untrustworthy data:

  • Water data is often inconsistent and is compiled using outdated technologies and techniques.
  • Data is almost always available only at the aggregate level in most segments (industrial, household, etc.), suggesting that policymaking is less valuable.

Rapid urbanization:

  • Water data is often inconsistent and is compiled using outdated technologies and techniques.
  • Data is almost always available only at the aggregate level in most segments (industrial, household, etc.), suggesting that policymaking is less valuable.
  • This specification also reduces the formation of new groundwater.

Flawed water treatment system:

  • Too little investment in water treatment and reuse.
  • Almost 2% of our urban areas have both sewage systems and sewage treatment plants.
  • Over 40,000 million litres of wastewater is generated daily in urban areas of India, but only about one-fifth of the dirt is cleaned.

Government measures

MGNREGA for saving water:
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is one of the most extensive government-funded employment programs in the world.
  • The huge workforce hired by MGNREGA allowed the government to introduce water conservation as a project within the meaning of the law.
  • The government has fixed the objective of enhancing groundwater use through MGNREGA and establishing water conservation and storage mechanisms.
Jal Kranti Abhiyan:
  • The government is actively working to revolutionize villages and towns through block-level water protection programs.
  • For example; The Jal Gram scheme within Jal Kranti Abhiyan aims to develop two model villages in arid areas to guide other villages to conserve water.

National Water Mission:

Through the integrated development and management of water resources, the Government of India aims to conserve water, minimize waste and ensure a more equitable distribution both within and within the state. One of the mission's goals is to improve water efficiency by 20%.

National Rural Drinking Water Program:

The aim is to provide all rural people with adequate clean water for drinking, cooking and other basic household needs in a sustainable manner.

NITI Aayog Composite Water Management Index:

  • With the aim of effective water use, NITI Aayog has developed a complex water management index.
  • The index revolves around water shortages, deaths due to lack of access to clean water, related mortgages such as projected increases in demand over the years, and finding ways to save them effectively.

Jal Shakti Ministry and Jal Jeevan Mission:

Measures such as the establishment of the Ministry of Jal Shakti (to tackle water issues comprehensively) and the goal of supplying tap water to all rural households by 2024 as part of the Jal Shakti mission are steps in the right direction.


  • People tend to ignore the importance of saving water, as water saving is free or nominal in most places.
  • Reasonable water pricing can be practiced, given the affordability of the country's population.
  • River rejuvenation must be a political priority for the centre and the state government.
  • We need to promote the sustainable operation and maintenance of irrigation systems.
  • Information technology must be used to modernize water-related data systems that are significantly lacking in coverage, efficiency, or robustness.
Water pollution UPSC is an important topic aspirants must study.

Steps we can take:

  • We need to pursue conservation of agriculture.
  • Cultivation methods adapted to plant requirements and local conditions. Cultivation of less water-intensive crops such as legumes, millet and oilseeds should be encouraged in arid areas.
  • A decentralized approach that focuses on water conservation, water source sustainability, and as much storage and reuse as possible.