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Water and Environment: Achievements and Challenges in India

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Kashinath Vajpai
I presently work as Deputy Research Director (Environment) at TNS India, a research organization based in New Delhi (India). Also worked with government of India and Unicef, and authored 16 international peer reviewed papers on Environment & Development.

Keyword(s): environment, drinking water, programme
AbstractThe global population, which was 6.1 billion in 2000 is growing by about 77 million per year, and is expected to reach 7.9 billion by 2025. The high population density, vulnerable ecology, extreme climate phenomena and economic dependence upon natural resource base are the greater challenges in India and South Asia region, in context to environmental sustainability. The environmental risks are exacerbating poverty, urban environment and biodiversity altogether in the region. Having a comprehensive set of environmental laws, institutions and active judiciary system, even countries like India are facing problem to access and manage the increasing environmental risks. The percentage of urban and rural population in India is 29 and 71 respectively, but 95% population in urban and only 83% in rural areas use improved water sources. The poorest performance has been observed to its directly influencing factors sanitation coverage (33%) and existing forest cover (23%). By 2025, by many accounts, much of India is expected to be part of the one-third of the world destined to face absolute water scarcity. India shares 16 percent of the global population and only 4 percent of the total water resources, whereas the urban water demand is expected to double and industrial demand to triple by 2025. About 68 percent of India’s land mass is drought-prone to varying degrees, of which about 50 percent is chronic. One of the estimates says that, the effluents flowing into river Ganga is 1.7 billion liters each day out of which 1.4 billion litres is untreated. Where as about 47 percent of the total irrigated land area in Ganga basin consumes about 86,311 tonnes of technical-grade insecticides annually from 182.5 million hectare land. The Agenda 21, of Earth Summit (2002) recommends nationwide- holistic, integrated and environmentally comprehensive policies for water management, better water laws, institutional frame and multi- sectoral approach. The MDG sets the target for safe drinking water, as it has been observed that achievement of this goal will lead to reduction in disparity, eliminating poverty and promoting social cohesion. This paper critically analyzes and discusses different factors those are affecting the achievement of environmental related developmental targets in India in relation to water management and development. A set of drinking water supply schemes, water management programmes and river conservation initiatives, those implemented in 4 provinces of India have been critically reviewed for this purpose. The analysis is based on the implementation processes, coordination efforts among bi-lateral, multilateral, government and civil society organizations and programme outcomes. This paper also highlights and critiques the programme in lieu of future course of action.
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