Awash in water crises (World Water Day on March 22) : Important Topics for UPSC Exams

Awash in water crises : Important Topics for UPSC Exams

Water crises is the situation when there is lack of sufficient availability of potable, unpolluted freshwater within a region and due to which regions demand for water remain unfulfilled due to various factors like growing freshwater use and depletion of freshwater resources. Almost every continent is affected by water crises.

Why in news?

  • World Water Day on March 22.

  • World Water Development Report 2018 released on 19th March 2018.

World Water Development Report 2018

  • The United Nations World Water Development Report, Nature-based Solutions for Water, launched on 19 March 2018 during the 8th World Water Forum, and in conjunction to the World Water Day.

  • The report demonstrates how nature‐based solutions (NBS) offer a vital means of moving beyond business‐as‐usual to address many of the world’s water challenges while simultaneously delivering additional benefits vital to all aspects of sustainable development.

Challenges to Global Water Security

  • The world’s population is expected to increase from 7.6 billion (2017) to between 9.4 and 10.2 billion people (2050), with two-thirds of them living in cities and UN estimates are that more than half of this anticipated growth will be in Africa (1.3 billion) and Asia (0.75 billion). Therefore, those most in need of water will be in developing or emerging economies.

  • Climate change and induced Global warming also impacting the Global water cycle, due to which wetter region generally becoming wetter and drier region drier.

  • An estimated 3.6 billion people now live in areas that could face water scarcity for at least a month in a year, with that number increasing to 4.8 and 5.7 billion by 2050.

  • The International Water Management Institute estimates that total demand could increase from 680 billion cubic metres (BCM) to 833 BCM by 2025, and to 900 BCM by 2050.

  • By 2050, countries already facing water scarcity challenges may also be forced to cope with the decreased availability of surface water resources.

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Water crises in India

  • India faces major threats to its water security, with most water bodies near urban centres heavily polluted.

  • Inter-State disputes over river resources are also becoming more intense and widespread.

Quality of Water- Global

  • Along with water scarcity, there is the issue of water quality. Since the 1990s, water pollution has worsened in most rivers in Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

  • An estimated 80% of industrial and municipal wastewater is released without any prior treatment, with detrimental impacts on human health and ecosystems.

  • Given the transboundary nature of most river basins, regional cooperation will be critical to addressing projected water quality challenges.

Quality of water- India

A report conducted by CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) indicates-

  • Almost half of India’s inter-State rivers are polluted.

  • Sewage from 650 cities and towns along 302 polluted river stretches in the country increased from 38,000 million litres per day (MLD) in 2009 to 62,000 MLD in 2015.

  • Report found that the untreated sewage and industrial waste was a major cause of pollution in 16 of 40 inter-State rivers in the country.

Solutions for ensuring water security

Environmentally-friendly agricultural systems like-

  1. Use practices such as conservation tillage,

  2. Crop diversification,

  3. Legume intensification and

  4. Biological pest control.

Constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment


  1. These 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.
  2. Such systems already exist in nearly every region of the world.
  3. Natural and constructed wetlands also biodegrade or immobilise a range of emerging pollutants.
  4. Recent experiments suggest that for some emerging pollutants, nature-based solutions work better than “grey” solutions, and in certain cases may be the only viable option.

Watershed management

  • It is another nature-based solution that is seen as a complement to built or “grey” infrastructure.

  • It can also spur local economic development, job creation, biodiversity protection and climate resilience.

Advantage of Nature based Solutions?

  • In areas like access to drinking water, sustainable food production, improved human settlement, water related disaster risk reduction the Nature based solutions provide great opportunities.

NBS use or mimic natural processes to-

  1. Enhance water availability (e.g., soil moisture retention, groundwater recharge),
  2. Improve water quality (e.g., natural and constructed wetlands, riparian buffer strips), and
  3. Reduce risks associated with water‐related disasters and climate change (e.g., floodplain restoration, green roofs).
  • Nature-based solutions can address overall water scarcity through “supply-side management,” and are recognised as the main solution to achieving sustainable water for agriculture.

  • Nature-based solutions are closely aligned with traditional and local knowledge including those held by indigenous and tribal peoples in the context of water variability and change.

Case Study- Chennai

  • Chennai in Tamil Nadu is a textbook example of how nature is being ignored in urban development-posed challenges.

  • Unplanned urban development and unwieldy growth with no hydrological plan are causing many problems.

  • Earlier, when there was heavy rain in catchment areas in the Chennai region, lakes, ponds, tanks, rivers and inter-linked drainage systems helped replenish groundwater, hold back some water and release the excess to the ocean.

  • With development, a number of tanks and lakes in and around Chennai have been encroached upon by various stakeholders.

  • Major rivers and canals such as the Cooum, Adyar and Buckingham Canal which are meant to carry excess rainwater to the Bay of Bengal now serve as the city’s drainage outlets.

  • The Pallikaranai marsh which acted as a sponge to soak up excess rainwater is now an over-run.


Business-as-usual approaches to water security are no longer sufficient and Nature-based solutions are crucial to achieving our Sustainable Development Goals. Adopting them will not only improve water management but also achieve water security.


:: MCQ’s ::

Q. World Water day is celebrated on?

A.19th March.

B. 22nd March

C.22nd April

D.5th June

Answer- B

Q. Explain how Climate change is affecting the global hydrological cycle and Mention the solutions to check global water crises?

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