India is suffering from its “worst water crisis” ever with about 60 crore people grappling with acute shortage, NITI Aayog said in a report on Thursday. Groundwater is getting depleted at unsustainable rates and about two lakh Indians die annually for lack of access to safe water, the report said.
Gujarat topped the report’s Composite Water Management Index for the year 2016-’17 while Jharkhand performed the worst among non-Himalayan states. Only three states – Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh – had scores of over 65 on a scale of 100 for the way they manage their water resources. Among the hilly states, Tripura ranked the best with a score of 59.
The report warned that the low performers on the index – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Haryana among others – are populous states that contribute significantly to the country’s agricultural output. “Given the combination of rapidly declining groundwater levels and limited policy action, as indicated by the low Index score, this is also likely to be a significant food security risk for the country going forward,” the report said.
“By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual 6% loss in the country’s GDP,” the report noted.
The report said there is an “imminent need to deepen our understanding of our water resources and usage, and put in place interventions that make our water use efficient and sustainable”.
The index, released for the first time, uses 28 indicators across nine areas to rank the states. The indicators cover aspects of groundwater, health of water bodies, irrigation and farm practices, availability of drinking water and policy steps.