Will India have a future of draught or floods?
In a country of over a billion people, policy flaws exacerbate difficulties created by more irregular weather!
Weather trends in India have been shifting towards more days of heavy rain. That sounds excellent for the water supply, but it also means that the intervals of dry weather between downpours are getting longer.
That is a problem, not a benefit!
While moderate rain soaks the soil and replenishes aquifers, heavy rain rushes over the dry soil too rapidly for sufficient absorption. The vital fresh water then makes its way to streams and rivers on its route to the Indian Ocean.
Extreme Weather Conditions
The climate in India is becoming one of extremes!
In August, India Today reported that eight of the 15 regions in the globe that had received the most rainfall in the preceding 24 hours were in India, yet only two months before, four sites in India were ranked among the 15 warmest.
This boom-and-bust rainfall cycle in a democracy with over 1.3 billion people — a nation so huge and physically unique that it is referred to as a subcontinent — has the potential to be terrible. And all signs point to the cycle deteriorating as a result of climate change.As is customary, the poor bear the brunt of such climatic shocks, continuing to worship now-toxic rivers and wait for a rapidly disappearing monsoon season that is as much a cultural phenomenon as it is a critical resource.
This year, the monsoon didn't leave until the end of the festival season in October, and 1,600 people died in floods caused by unusually severe rainfall. High tides mixed with the unseasonable downpour, causing the water to rise into the streets after overflowing sewers. With water everywhere, residents were frequently forced to rely on tanker trucks for potable drinking water.
Policy Struggles to Keep Pace
To add to the irregular monsoon season, experts predict that melting Himalayan glaciers could lead to droughts in the future. Water difficulties have swept across India, from rural regions to India's largest city, Mumbai, to the rapidly rising tech capital of Bangalore, and finally to Chennai, the "Detroit of India," where the taps just ran dry this year.
India's problems are not limited to the weather. Surface water bodies have been contaminated, which might function as buffers against water scarcity. Subsidies are provided for water-hungry crops. Inefficient practices continue to exist. Deep woods that store fresh water are still being cut down. Lakes and streams have been covered over in the name of progress. And, as industry has grown, nothing has been done to reduce associated water usage.
According to the World Bank, erratic rainfall patterns and higher temperatures would "depress the living conditions of nearly half of the country's population." This equates to nearly 600 million individuals. However, public policy is catching up, with Gujarat and other states legislating industrial reuse of municipal wastewater for industrial process water.
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