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Water Crisis in Himachal Pradesh – Why is the State with perennial rivers staring at a water crisis?

Water Crisis in Himachal Pradesh – Why is the State with perennial rivers staring at a water crisis?

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  • GS 3 || Environment || Climate Change || India & Climate Change

Why in the news?

Himachal Pradesh is likely to face an acute water scarcity this summer. Many water schemes may reach the brink of closure. Himachal to go through the toughest times because of drinking water shortage

Issue of water crisis in Himalayan region:

Eight towns in the Himalayan region of Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan were nearly 20%-70% deficient in their water supply, according to a survey that appears in the latest edition of the journal Water Policy.

Background

The researchers surveyed 13 towns across these countries to understand the challenges of the urban denizens of these regions. Unplanned urbanization and climate change are the key factors responsible for the state of affairs, the study says.

Water crisis in detail

  • Most of the community’s water sources are from springs and the springs are on the decline because of the complex combination of climatic and non-climatic factors.
  • Ten of Asia’s largest rivers originate in the Hindu Kush Himalaya stretch of mountain ranges running from Afghanistan in the west to China in the east.

  • Yet, the gap between demand and supply of water here may double by 2050. The places surveyed are extremely dependent on springs (ranging between 50% and 100%) for their water, and three-fourths were in urban areas.
  • Under current trends, the demand-supply gap may double by 2050. Communities were coping through short-term strategies such as groundwater extraction, which is proving to be unsustainable.
  • A holistic water management approach that includes springshed management and planned adaptation is therefore paramount.
  • Across the region, the encroachment and degradation of natural water bodies (springs, ponds, lakes, canals, and rivers) and the growing disappearance of traditional water systems (stone spouts, wells, and local water tanks) are visible.
  • One of the studies that makes the same point about rapid urbanisation, blames poor water governance, lack of planning, poor tourism management during peak season as well as climate breakdown for the water stress.
  • Of India’s 12 Himalayan states, Assam, Mizoram and the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are the most vulnerable to climate change.

Reasons for water crisis in Himachal Pradesh region:

  • Perennial sources of water such as Sutlej and Beas rivers heading for a water Crisis.
  • Himachal Pradesh received less snow and rain this winter.
  • After winter, melt-water from glaciers and the snow cover regularly feeds the groundwater as well as other downhill water sources such as springs, wells, bawries, lakes, rivulets, streams, and rivers.
  • Water sources have already started drying up this year due to deficient snowfall.
  • According to the Indian Meteorological Department, the state received only 59 millimetres of precipitation this winter (January 1 to February 28), which was 69 percent less than normal.
  • Over the decades, demand for water has been growing due to increasing population in the state, with people now relying more on piped water supply schemes rather than traditional sources such as springs and bawries.
  • Rainfall patterns, too, have become erratic. During dry periods, water sources dry up quickly in some areas, especially in the Shiwalik hills where the water-holding capacity of the soil is low.
    • There are villages in various constituencies which often remain without water supply for weeks.
    • Areas like Dalhousie and Banikhet suffer water shortage even during normal times but this year, drought-like conditions have already begun and it is bound to get worse during the coming months.

Solutions:

  • The installation of hand-pumps and bore wells
  • Water harvesting tanks will be built throughout the state
  • Building rainwater harvesting structures
  • Water tankers during periods of shortage
  • Explore the option of “snow harvesting” in the higher reaches.

Government Policies and Programmes:

  • National Water Policy 2012: The stringent implementation of National Water Policy
  • Atal Bhujal Yojana: It was introduced in 2016-17 Union Budget for a period of 5 years with a corpus of Rs.6000 crore, shared by Central government and World Bank on 50:50 basis.
  • National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP): It aims at providing every person in rural India with adequate safe water for drinking, cooking and other domestic basic needs on a sustainable basis.
  • National Programme on Regeneration of Springs (NPRS): The programme will entail several short, medium and long-term actions through 8 step methodology.
  • International cooperation:
    • 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu, the SAARC member countries signed a Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation.(hydropower projects)
    • The Koshi Flood Outlook being developed by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and its national partners in Nepal and India has high potential for saving lives and properties in the basin
  • This will not only help us face the present crisis, but also open up avenues to deal with issues of future water availability amid climate and socioeconomic changes. Regional cooperation should be based on the three pillars of sustainability: economic vitality, environmental integrity and social equity, both at the national and local level.

Can we avoid more Cape Towns?

  • Expanding water supply, increasing storage this will ensure that cities survive under drought.
  • Nature-based solutions can address overall water scarcity through “supply-side management,” and are recognized as the main solution to achieving sustainable water for agriculture.
  • Environmentally-friendly agricultural systems like those which use practices such as conservation tillage, crop diversification, legume intensification and biological pest control work as well as intensive, high-input systems.
  • The environmental co-benefits of nature-based solutions to increasing sustainable agricultural production are substantial as there are decreased pressures on land conversion and reduced pollution, erosion and water requirements.
  • Constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment can also be a cost-effective, nature-based solution that provides effluent of adequate quality for several non-potable uses (irrigation) and additional benefits that include energy production.
  • Watershed management is another nature-based solution that is seen not only as a complement to build or “grey” infrastructure but also one that could also spur local economic development, job creation, biodiversity protection and climate resilience.
  • Steps must be taken to make farmers efficient in use of irrigation water. Water reuse is an option too. Both in urban and rural areas, digging of rainwater harvesting pits must be made mandatory for all types of buildings.
  • Conscious efforts need to be made at the household level and by communities, institutions and local bodies to supplement the efforts of governments and non-governmental bodies in promoting water conservation.
  • Sustained measures should be taken to prevent pollution of water bodies, contamination of groundwater and ensure proper treatment of domestic and industrial wastewater.
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle must be the watchwords if we have to handover a liveable planet to the future generations.

Way Forward:

  • Populations have been struggling with short-term solutions like groundwater mining, which has proved to be unsustainable.
  • It is therefore important to take a holistic approach to water management that involves springshed management and expected adaptation..

Mains oriented question:

Himachal Pradesh being a hilly state, mostly faces the water crisis. What ails the hilly state when it comes to water?