Is India Managing its Water Resources Judiciously?—A Prerequisite for Sustainable Development

Water is a finite but renewable natural resource and, like other natural resources, it is an integral part of the environment. It is essential for the survival of all living beings on this planet and also for the socio-economic development of households, communities and nations all over the world. It is also necessary to maintain and enhance biodiversity and quality of environment. In a nutshell, water contributes to achieve the goal of sustainable development through ensuring survival of all living beings, food security, ecological security and health and hygiene of people. 

India, as whole, is reasonably well-endowed with fresh water resources. But the distribution and availability of water is not uniform over space and time. An article from the IIM Kozhikode Society & Management Review focusses on the need for the present generation to ensure intergenerational equity by safeguarding the interests of future generations through maintaining the natural resources capital of this planet intact. Economic sustainability implies the maintenance of produced capital and natural capital used in the production of goods and services. Therefore, water being a natural resource must be managed in a sustainable way, if the goal of sustainable development is to be achieved. 

It is well known and documented that all ancient civilizations evolved and flourished around water bodies. Irrigation had made it feasible then, as it does now, to produce adequate foodstuffs, without which it would not have been possible for those civilizations to develop and flourish. In future, irrigated farming will have to play an even greater role in meeting the food and fiber requirements of growing population, especially in Asia, where it is estimated to contribute around 60 per cent of the total value of crop production nowadays.

India has more than 18 per cent of the world’s population, but has only 4 per cent of the world’s renewable water resources and 2.4 per cent of the world’s land area. The most serious challenge of the twenty-first century for India will be how to meet the deficit or demand–supply gap, especially the regional and seasonal deficits. Floods and droughts have been a bane of India’s economy since time immemorial. It is an irony that in many parts of India, we have droughts and in many others, we have floods occurring almost concurrently every year. 

Thus, its clear that water is too scarce and too precious a natural resource to be left unmanaged. At present, it is not managed at all; in fact it is grossly mismanaged. Therefore, it is high time that India designed and launched programmes aimed at judicious management of its water resources on a sustainable basis. We need cost-effective and practicable interventions in both the water supply and demand management.

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