Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung organised on 23 November 2017 a one-day national conference on “Water Security and Governance in India” at India International Centre, New Delhi. Six speakers from the Indian and Bavarian government, think tanks and non-governmental organisations discussed the state of water security in India. In terms of governance issues, opinions deviated among the panellists.
India is already a water-stressed country. Consequent upon the rapid growth of urbanisation and population on one hand and lack of effective water governance measures on the other, it is becoming a water-scarce country: A few states in India already show signs of water scarcity. The situation is further complicated by climate change and its impact on available water resources. Melting glaciers and increasing temperatures add to the already deteriorating situation.
Given its geographical position, India is destined to play major role in its neighbourhood when it comes to transboundary river water sharing. An area which receives growing attention given the growing stress on the resource in the entire South Asian region. While mutual cooperation would help ameliorating the situation, information sharing is not a given thing in this geopolitical setting. This led the panel to discuss potential scenarios of cooperation with its neighbouring countries – the difficulty being that the relation between an upper and a lower riparian country is always unbalanced.
Domestically, India needs to focus on water use efficiency to resolve current water problems. The quantity of water uses can be reduced drastically by increasing the practice of water reuse and recycling in water intensive sectors such as agriculture and industry. Innovative water conservation technologies will help immensely. By changing crop pattern and promoting organic farming, water usage can be reduced. Another strategy to cope with water problems is to augment water resources. This can be achieved through better watershed management, rainwater harvesting and ground water recharge naturally as well as artificially. This will require large investment in water sector. A basic requirement for this would be a comprehensive concept for water efficiency as postulated by U.P. Singh, the director of India’s National Mission for Clean Ganga.
Another lever for the government to take into consideration was brought forth by Martin Grambow, head of department for water and soil at the Bavarian State Ministry for Environment: While it has been observed that national and state governments in the developing countries are usually reluctant to invest in the water sector, Prof. Grambow could prove that in European countries, investment in the water sector can give a return on investment of 250 percent or more in terms of improved sanitation, flood protection, trade taxes etc. Additionally, the investment on water directly benefits the communities and society and contributes immensely to the public health and thus to productivity and site attractiveness.
For effective water governance and better water management, it is imperative to bring people, politics and science together – a response to the emerging water insecurity of the Indian subcontinent.