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October 16, 2023 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm


The theme for World Food Day (October 16) this year — ‘Water is Life, Water is Food’. Countries face severe challenges such as drought, floods, unseasonal rains and prolonged dry spells.

With less than seven years left to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (2030), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) — the UN’s food agencies — lay stress on the need to adopt innovative and collaborative approaches for improved management, conservation and availability of scarce water resources.

Water Scarcity and its effects

Water availability affects every aspect of human life, especially food and nutrition security. For instance, about 60% of India’s net sown area is rainfed, contributing to 40% of the total food production.

However, rainfed agriculture depends directly on water availability, and rain and soil moisture variations can severely affect food and nutrition security. Sustainable water management is critical to address the impending food and nutrition security threats.

In turn, irrigated agriculture accounts for 72% of global freshwater withdrawals, sometimes with lasting damaging effects on the sustainability of significant ecosystems, such as seasonal rivers and deep aquifers.

Water and crop production

Decades of poor water management, misuse and pollution, and the climate crisis have degraded freshwater. About 40% of the planet’s total land area is degraded, leaving farmers with less productive land.

Small-scale farmers, who make up more than 80% of farmers globally, are especially affected as they often lack access to finance, technology and irrigation to maintain a level of production that can sustain their livelihoods.

Without adaptation measures, rainfed rice yields in India are projected to reduce by 20% in 2050, and by 47% in 2080 scenarios, while irrigated rice yields are projected to decline by 3.5% in 2050 and 5% in 2080 scenarios.

Wheat yields are projected to decrease by 19.3% in 2050 and 40% in 2080, while kharif maize yields could decline by 18% and 23%. In every scenario, climate change without adequate adaptation measures reduces crop yields and lowers the nutritional quality of produce.

Irrigation can also be an effective measure to make agriculture more resilient, and in most cases, enable farmers to transform their livelihoods by growing, consuming and selling high-value crops such as nutritious fruits and vegetables.

In this context, the WFP supports soil and water conservation, the building or fixing of irrigation canals, dams, ponds, and dykes, as well as flood barriers through food assistance in exchange for labour.

In 2021 alone, 8.7 million people across 49 countries benefited directly from such support. Similarly, IFAD supports Indian States in leveraging the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme.

Water Sharing across the borders

Strengthening transboundary cooperation is the main tool to avoid conflict and escalating tensions, noting that 153 countries share nearly 900 rivers, lakes and aquifer systems, and more than half having signed agreements.

UN Report on Water: India Expected To Face Severe Water Scarcity By 2050: UN Report

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that “Water is the lifeblood of humanity. It is vital for survival itself and supports the health, resilience, development and prosperity of people and planet alike.”

The smart management and conservation of the world’s water resources means bringing together governments, businesses, scientists, civil society and communities – including indigenous communities – to design and deliver concrete solutions.” In particular, the 2023 United Nations Water Conference is a critical moment for collective progress – the first major UN meeting on water in nearly half a century, and a significant step towards Sustainable Development Goal 6: clean water and sanitation for all, Guterres said.

What are the Reasons for the Water Scarcity in India?

  • Changes in Water Storage:
    • Although the number of large irrigation dams has increased from 236 in 1960 to 5,334 in 2020,the gross water availability of dams dwindles during summer.
    • Studies show that perennial rivers likeGanga, Godavari and Krishna dry up in many places during summer.
    • It is estimated that thelevel of groundwater in Ganga and Brahmaputra, which are said to be the largest groundwater rich river basins in the world, declines by 15-20 mm per year.
    • Owing to human and other interventions in the catchment area, the sediment deposit in the water storage area of major and medium dams has increased,which is reducing the total water storage.
  • Agricultural Demand:
    • The Ministry of Water Resources has estimated that the country’s total water demand may exceed the amount of water available for use by 2050, due to the rapid economic development and increasing population.
  • Cultivation of more Water-Intensive Crops:
    • Due to income and market-related reasons,farmers have been cultivating more water-intensive crops in recent years.
      • For example, between 1990-91 and 2020-21, the area under water-intensive sugarcaneincreased by 32%, paddy by 6%, and banana by 129%.
    • This hasled to a rapid increase in the demand for water in recent times.
  • Unequal Distribution:
    • Unequal distribution of water resources across different regions of the country is also a major issue. Some regions have abundant water resources while others face acute shortages.
  • Over-extraction of Groundwater:
    • Over-extraction of groundwater for agriculture, industries, and domestic purposes has led to the depletion of groundwater levels in many parts of the country.
    • This has made it difficult for people to access water for their daily needs.
  • Pollution:
    • The pollution of rivers, lakes, and other water bodies has made it difficult to use water for drinking, irrigation, and other purposes.
    • Industries and urban areas discharge untreated waste into water bodies, which not only pollutes the water but also reduces its availability.

Mains Questions

1.Critically comment on the reasons for Water Scarcity in India? Is India taking adequate measures to address the issue holistically? (250 Words) 15 M

Ans: Water scarcity is a pressing issue in India, affecting millions of people across the country. The primary reasons for water scarcity in India include rapid population growth, urbanization, industrialization, and climate change. India is the second-most populous country in the world, which means that there is an ever-increasing demand for water to sustain the growing population. Urbanization and industrialization have also contributed to the problem, as these activities require significant amounts of water.

Another factor that exacerbates water scarcity is climate change. India is prone to droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events, which can lead to water shortages. Moreover, the country’s water resources are unevenly distributed, with some regions receiving abundant rainfall while others are dry and arid.

India has taken some measures to address the issue of water scarcity, but it is unclear if these measures are adequate. The government has launched several initiatives, such as the National Water Mission and the Atal Bhujal Yojana, aimed at conserving water resources and promoting sustainable water management practices. However, these efforts need to be scaled up to have a significant impact.

Moreover, there is a need to address the root causes of water scarcity in India, such as population growth and unsustainable development practices. This requires a holistic approach that involves not just the government but also civil society, the private sector, and individuals. Education and awareness campaigns can also play a crucial role in promoting water conservation and sustainable water use practices. Overall, addressing water scarcity in India will require concerted efforts from all stakeholders.

2. While the world addresses the economic and environmental cost of water scarcity, we fail to even acknowledge the social fall out of water scarcity. Comment (150 Words) 10 M

Ans: Water scarcity is not only an economic and environmental issue, but it also has a significant social impact. Access to clean water is a basic human right, and when people are denied this right, it can lead to dire consequences. In many parts of the world, women and children spend hours each day collecting water, which means that they have less time for education and other activities. This can perpetuate the cycle of poverty and limit opportunities for growth and development.

Water scarcity also exacerbates existing social inequalities. In many cases, the wealthy have access to clean water while the poor are left to fend for themselves. This can lead to resentment and social unrest. Moreover, water scarcity can cause displacement as people are forced to move in search of water. This can put additional strain on already vulnerable communities and lead to conflict.

It is crucial that we acknowledge the social impact of water scarcity and work to address it. This involves ensuring that everyone has access to clean water and that water resources are managed sustainably. Only then can we build a more just and equitable society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.


October 16, 2023
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Event Category: