Sustainable water management and the climate crisis - Hindustan Times

Sustainable water management and the climate crisis

ByTejashree Joshi
Apr 09, 2024 03:18 PM IST

This article is authored by Tejashree Joshi, head - environmental sustainability, Godrej & Boyce.

The unfolding climate crisis has cast a long shadow over our planet and brought sharply into focus the critical importance of conserving water. As global temperatures soar and weather patterns shift erratically, the stress on our water resources signals dire implications for ecosystems and people. Communities worldwide are confronting the realities of droughts, floods, and the resulting scarcities that compel mass migrations, disrupting lives and livelihoods. Studies predict that 700 million people could be displaced by intense water scarcity as early as 2030.

Water (Getty Images/iStockphoto) PREMIUM
Water (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

With around 16% of the world’s population and just 4% of its freshwater resources, India is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. As per a report by Niti Aayog, 20 Indian cities could face severe water crisis by 2030 with 40% of India’s population not having access to drinking water. The El Nino phenomenon which began last year left more than a quarter of the country’s regions facing severe drought. A more recent example is the water crisis that escalated urban distress in Bengaluru, forcing numerous migrant workers to return to their hometowns and impacting production in water-intensive industries.

The ramifications of inadequate water supply extend far beyond mere inconvenience; they pose a direct threat to societal stability and economic prosperity. Inadequate access to clean water jeopardises public health, heightening the risk of waterborne diseases and further straining already overburdened healthcare systems. Adding to this the pollution that not only renders water unsafe for consumption but also exacerbates the loss of biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems, further diminishing the capacity of these systems to support both, biodiversity, and livelihoods.

Beyond its societal impact, the water crisis also poses a formidable challenge to our industries. Agriculture, manufacturing, and other key sectors heavily reliant on water resources face imminent threats to their operations. As water scarcity disrupts supply chains and drives up production costs, businesses are compelled to reassess their strategies for long-term viability.

Sustainable water management efforts must be prioritized not only for ethical reasons but also for its pivotal role in ensuring business continuity. Addressing India's water crisis requires a multi-faceted approach that encompasses policy reforms, technological innovation, and community engagement.

Government intervention is crucial in enacting policies that promote responsible water usage, incentivize conservation efforts, and regulate industrial water consumption. Jal Shakti Abhiyan is a step in this direction. The practice of water pricing at its true cost is also a strategy that governments and industries should employ to curb industrial water consumption by assigning the right monetary value to the vital resource.

Another way to optimize usage and reduce waste is to investment in water infrastructure like irrigation systems and wastewater treatment. Public-private partnerships can further mobilize resources and extend support to small and medium-sized enterprises for adopting water-efficient practices. Encouraging the adoption of water-efficient technologies through subsidies can also accelerates progress and acceptance.

Community engagement is an indispensable component of water infrastructure development. It will ensure that projects align with the needs, priorities, and concerns of the local population. Furthermore, community engagement fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility, leading to more sustainable and resilient solutions. ‘Arth Ganga’, a model of circular economy introduced by the government is an effective initiative that aims to engage with the community to achieve water security.

Last but not the least forging partnerships and sharing best practices help leverage collective expertise and resources to develop holistic solutions. A crucial aspect of this endeavour is the implementation of integrated recovery, reuse, and recycle systems, alongside effective groundwater recharging mechanisms. By embedding the principles of the 5 R process (redesign, reduce, reuse, recycle, recovery) into their operations, industries can significantly minimise their water footprint, thereby fostering a more sustainable production process. Integrated recovery, reuse, and recycle systems, alongside groundwater recharging mechanisms, are vital components of sustainable water management.

The theme for World Water Day, "Water for Peace," highlighted the link between water security and societal harmony. By prioritising water security, we are not only safeguarding our environment and livelihoods but also sowing the seeds of resilience and equity for our future generations. It’s important that we seize this moment and along with a collective commitment forge a sustainable and inclusive path forward, ensuring that this indispensable resource remains a source of life, prosperity, and peace for all.

This article is authored by Tejashree Joshi, head - environmental sustainability, Godrej & Boyce.

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