Watering the Economy
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for every one's greed."
Unfortunately, this is the truth about the world's water supply today. Water scarcity is a fact of life faced by more than two billion people globally. In India, this problem is particularly pronounced. Millions of Indian citizens suffer from a lack of access to clean drinking water. With the second largest population in the world, the problem is only expected to grow. By 2050 India will overtake China's population, when it is expected to reach 1.6 billion people. With a growing population, comes the stress associated with it. A massive agricultural sector to support food requirements, a growing economy to sustain the livelihood of citizens and the need for drinking water will only place a larger burden on quickly dwindling water bodies.
The World Health Organization reports that 97 million Indians lack access to safe drinking water, while 21 percent of the country's communicable diseases are transferred by the use of unclean water.
Water, pollution and over-pumping are deemed as critical issues but the largest issue by far is the mismanagement of water resources. If the last five years are a peek in to times ahead then erratic and unpredictable weather conditions can be expected to worsen due to climate change. A large fear associated with a shortage of water is that it may quickly become the root of domestic and in-ternational conflict.
Mr. Arun Lakhani, MD of Vishvaraj Infrastructure and an ardent promoter of water supply solutions states, "Mismanagement of water is obviously a human process issue. Unclear laws, government corruption and industrial and human waste have drastically reduced the amount of water available and have contributed to the pollution of huge quantities of water."
In their defence, the Indian government has had to play a balancing act, ensuring they meet the demands of urban and rural india, across different social strata, meeting economic and environ-mental targets. Today they stand at an important threshold, where a change in their actions, processes and protocols can prevent devastating water scarcity.
According to The World Bank, after China, India is the largest user of ground water in the world. 114 million Indians will face desperate shortages if something is not done soon.
Any solution to the water scarcity problem must come from within the nation. For example, Andhra Pradesh has successfully pioneered a highly ejective program of self-regulation. Involving the community to manage water schemes and creating awareness campaigns amongst farmers has allowed the state to reduce its water consumption.
However in order to make a large difference and curb the problem before it grows beyond us, the government will have to involve the private sector which has the financial resources needed to bring in change at a nation-wide level and the streamlined processes required to complete gigantic projects.
Mr. Arun Lakhani believes that a partnership between the Public and Private sector is the best way forward. "To recycle and reuse water in order to reduce the stress on natural sources and avoid conflicts is what is needed."claims the PPP expert.
Those who support the PPP model are of the understanding that a privatized approach would improve efficiency, encourage innovation and prevent waste. In fact the usage of treated water for industrial purposes is expected to reduce fresh water consumption by 20,000 MLD, creating extra supply for urban use. Such a model would also allow local municipalities to earn extra income as the treated water will be sold to industries and the revenue will be shared between the Urban Local Body and the private company.