Editorial Analysis || Scaled-up solutions for a future of water scarcity

Mains Paper 1: Geography | Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian subcontinent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India) Important Geophysical phenomena
such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their
location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in
flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

Prelims level: Waterbodies

Mains level: What are the reasons for water scarcity at geographical location?

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Context:

• Humans have built artificial infrastructure that kills natural infrastructure created by
evolution over ages.

• Forests, rivers, mountains, aquifers and soil are being lost.

• India is in the midst of a suicidal water crisis as urban and rural landscapes go thirsty.

• Activists, scientists and experts in India have worked on bottom-up schemes to revive and rejuvenate lakes, wetlands, streams and other small water bodies.

• These movements have brought about a significant change at the local level, the scale of our water problems is much larger.

Reasons behind this scarcity

• Cities today continue to spread with large populations which depend on water, food,
energy and all other resources.

• High densities of our cities do not allow for water harvesting to fill the gap.

• Invasive schemes like dams to service these large cities and the huge needs of agriculture have caused extreme ecological devastation.

• In our global market economies, the products and services that are derived from natural infrastructure have often led to the terminal loss of the source itself.

• The global free market, and with it the scale of human intervention, now exceeds the scale of the planet.

• These resources (forests, mountains, floodplains and rivers) are often lost to the greed of governments, institutions, corporations and individuals.

• Natural resources are living evolutionary resources that are constantly renewed by natural cycles.

• Large-scale non-invasive schemes are scarce because they are far more challenging.

• These are large-scale schemes that can provide a perennial supply of water to large populations in cities and towns,

• Engage the natural landscape, sustain ecological balance and have major economic and health benefits.

• Our evolutionary resources with the help of science, it would secure the future for humanity and the natural world.

Possible solution to remove the scarcity

• Floodplains of rivers are good aquifers where any withdrawal is compensated by gravity
flow from a large surrounding area.

• So floodplains can be used as a source of providing water to cities.

• Floodplains are formed over millions of years by the flooding of rivers with
deposition of sand on riverbanks.

• Floodplains of Himalayan rivers contain up to 20 times more water.

• The Delhi Palla floodplain project on the Yamuna has utilized 20 sq.km of
the river length and provides water to almost a million people daily.

• Piezometers and a control system ensure sustainable withdrawal and
provides huge revenue to the Delhi Jal Board.

• Land on the floodplains can be leased from farmers in return for a fixed
income from the water sold to cities.

• The farmers can grow orchards/food forests to secure and restore the
ecological balance of the river ecosystem.

• Currently, mineral water is brought from faraway mountain springs, putting huge
pressure on the mountains.

• It is packaged and consumed in plastic bottles that end up in landfills.

• Forested hills, a result of evolution are not polluted and have underground
aquifers that contain natural mineral water.

• This is because the rain falls on the forest and seeps through the various
layers of humus, picking up nutrients and minerals and flows into underground
mineral water aquifers.

• The water in these aquifers is comparable to International natural spring mineral waters.

• The Aravalli forested hills can provide mineral water to all major towns of
Rajasthan and can improve the health of citizens and preserve forests at the
same time.

• Quality natural mineral water can be provided for all at 20 times less than
the market price.

Conclusion

• Evolutionary resources once lost, will be lost forever.

• It is time to recognize the true value of natural infrastructure and ‘conserve and use’
evolutionary resources to secure the future for humanity and the natural world.

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