Reckless Wastage Leads To Shortage Of Water
Mawsynram in Meghalaya is the world’s wettest place. In 1861, Cherrapunji in the state had received more rainfall than in any other part of the world. Even though rainfall in this land-locked hilly state has become one-third since the 1970s, it is still the highest in the world. But, Meghalaya too faces water shortage, for long now. And this is true of a large part of India. In Mumbai, real estate construction mafia has reclaimed a 100-feet natural water channel that drains out excess water from Pelhar dam and Tungareshwar hills. This means that there is no shortage of natural water channels. So, why is water so scarce?
In Meghalaya, for example, the absence of a culture of rainwater harvesting is one of the reasons why there is a shortage of water. It is important to remember that what we face is not a shortage of resources, but the failure in accessing the resources that we have. As the residents of Cherrapunji did not feel a strong need to engage in rainwater harvesting, the abundance of water did not do much good to them. Some experts also think that as there are not many trees standing, water goes downhill without serving the needs of the locals.
This does not fit goes well with the goal to make housing affordable for everyone by 2022 because the value of real estate in many parts of Indian cities has not been unlocked because of poor water supply. When there is not enough water supply in a part of the city, people are often not willing to build houses there, or buy land in such areas.
The arguments on intrinsic shortage of water are often obviously wrong. Some residents of Meghalaya, for example, claim that the water supply was enough to cater to a small population. But as population has grown in the past many decades, the water supply the state receives is not enough. But, this cannot be true because it is the wettest place on earth. People are often forced to walk for very long to fetch water. People are still making up excuses along the lines that they never learnt rainwater harvesting, and that now it is too late.
The single-biggest reason why there is a shortage of water is that it is seen as a common resource. When water is seen as a common resource, people are not likely to conserve it. Water is more likely to be depleted and overused. But when there is a market in water, and when water is seen as a private resource, this is far less likely to happen. In Mumbai, for example, developers are filling the water channel with garbage, to use it for their own needs. This would not have happened in a world where there was a market for water.