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Integrated Management of the Water Resources of Peninsular India in Changing Environments

Congress: 2008
Author(s):

Keyword(s): Population, Climate change, degradation, Water management, Peninsular India, environmental policy
AbstractManaging water resources to satisfy the multiple needs of increasing population in a changing climate and deteriorated environment is a global challenge, especially in developing countries like India with inadequate finance to implement adaptive mechanisms. Indian population has crossed 1Billion and the increase is likely to continue at least for another five decades. By that time, demands in food, water and land will be tremendous. Water resources in India are being fast depleted due to overuse, pollution and encroachments. Decreasing water availability leads to social issues like competition and transboundary disputes in regions with wide variability in the distribution of rainfall and water resources. Present paper analyses the water management issues in the peninsular part of India in changing environments. This region has varied geography and rainfall. The west coast receives very heavy rainfall because of the orography of the north-south running Western Ghats Mountain, whereas the interior peninsula is short of rainfall. East coast is vulnerable to severe tropical storms and floods. There are number of rivers originating in the Western Ghats, most of them wastefully flowing west to the sea, before effectively harnessed. Some of the rivers flow east through the drier interior and there exist a number of severe disputes over water sharing among different states, regions and users. Failure in conservation management causes seasonal water shortages even in the coastal belt with more than 3000mm rainfall. In the interior, overdraft of groundwater is far above replenishable limit. Overdraft and coastal aquaculture has invited salinity far inland even in deep aquifers. Encroachment has destroyed large number of wetlands, ponds and canals, affecting millions that depended on them. Deforestation in hill region and sand quarrying in riverbeds and watersheds have made some of the once perennial rivers seasonal and caused the groundwater level to recede by one metre in two decades. Entire water bodies in the peninsular area are highly polluted from industrial and domestic effluents and fertilizers and chemicals from farms. Water availability in the peninsular region is assessed at the present level and in an altered climate using models, taking into consideration the population growth. Result shows a drastic reduction in availability in few years from now. Existing water issues are likely to worsen and new ones are likely to originate soon. Harnessing some water from west flowing rivers and making it available to the rich agricultural lands in the interior could make another revolution in agriculture and water, solving many of the water issues and bringing overall prosperity in the entire region. A regional environmental policy including land and water, and in agreement with a national policy and a strong and impartial political will to implement regulations are urgently needed. Some guidelines to face the challenges of water shortages in a changing environment have been presented, based on the economic, environmental and political scenarios.
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