Indiaâs water crisis was the highlight of the THiNK 2013 session âWater Wars: The Terror Story You Donât Know Yetâ. The discussion featured philanthropist Rohini Nilekani, expert on water issues Tushaar Shah and fisherman-activist Jones Spartegus. The conversation ranged from the magnitude of Indiaâs water crisis and its causes to possible solutions to mitigate the problem.
TEHELKA’s Shoma Chaudhury flagged off the discussion by introducing the audience to the extent of the water crisis facing India â the situation is grim as we are increasingly depending on groundwater for drinking and agricultural use, leading to drastic falls in groundwater levels, rivers dying and untreated sewage being dumped in water bodies. The building of dams and ports at an alarming pace isn’t helping matters either.
Nilekani, who runs a charity that works on water issues, felt that there was little awareness or understanding about the water crisis especially among the urban elites as the problem doesnât directly affect them. She remarked upon the contentious trade-offs involved in the use of water when she said, âSomeone else has to give up water for those residing in cities to get waterâ.
Both Nilekani and Shah shared their belief that solutions to the water problem will differ from locality to locality and hence a context specific approach is best suited in such cases. Shah said that groundwater re-charge was the key to tackling the water crisis in India and for that to happen the government should be willing to work with communities.
Jones Spartegus, a fisherman-activist, spoke about the plight of the fishing community in the backdrop of the alarming pace at which coastlines are being exploited by the setting up of power plants, engaging in trawler fishing and sewageÂ dumping. He advocated the need for an integrated government policy with regards to coastal areas.
Nilekani gave a ray of hope though when she said that since water was a renewable resource the crisis was not irreversible.
By Shashank Shah