~ by Trinanjan Chakraborty
A study on natural water resources linked to urban metropolises by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) paints a bleak future scenario in the near future for the global urban population. The WWF’s “Risk Filter Analysis” has identified 100 cities globally which face an immediate water scarcity challenge. Egypt’s Alexandria tops the list with Mecca at no. 2, Riyadh at no. 5, Buenos Aires at no. 6 and Durban at no. 9. Out of these 100, 45 cities are from China while another 20 are from the Middle East. There are two Indian cities on this list: Jaipur at no. 45 and Indore at no. 75. These 100 cities face the most serious water scarcity risk as well as dangers of flooding due to dramatic increase in population (projected) in the near future.
The study also assigns a ‘risk score’ to the cities for 2030 and 2050. Any score above 3 qualifies as ‘high’ risk while anything above 4 is ‘severe’ risk. There are 16 Indian cities that face ‘severe’ risk of running out of water by 2030 with Ludhiana topping the list. This number is projected to increase to 26 by 2050.
The WWF Water Risk Filter is “a practical online tool that enables companies and investors to explore, assess, value and respond to water risks worldwide”. It aims to “help evaluate and inform long-term resilience planning and strategy”, the WWF statement states. The statement further quotes Alexis Morgan, WWF Global Water Stewardship Lead in saying that cities need to invest more in nature-based solutions and enhance the health of river basins, watersheds and wetlands to build resilience to water risks.
The statement also notes that GoI’s Smart City Initiative is a right step in this direction, stating that the holistic framework on water management laid down as part of the Smart City protocol, the initiative can help develop urban watersheds and wetlands to bolster freshwater conservation which are “critical” for maintaining the water balance of a city, flood cushioning, micro-climate regulation and protecting its biodiversity.
Water, at one point considered a never-ending natural resource, is already under severe strain in most parts of the globe. Nearly half of India’s population face high to extreme water stress. With close to 90% of groundwater consumed by farm activities, India faces a huge challenge in providing clean water for consumption to it’s ~1.3 billion population. In June 2019, 65% of all reservoirs in India reported below-normal water levels, and 12% were completely dry. On 19th June, 2019, Chennai, one of India’s largest urban metropolises, had declared “day zero” i.e. the day when all four main reservoirs servicing the city had run dry.
While serious government initiative is the need of the hour to tackle this impending crisis, the onus also lies on each and every citizen to acknowledge the water crisis and alter behavior accordingly. Unfortunately though, majority of India’s population remains unconcerned on this and water wastage / spillage continues to be a regular occurrence.