Mega Integration of Water Cycle and Socio-economics of India

Mega Integration of Water Cycle and Socio-economics of IndiaIn India both land and water are critical natural assets to serve the purpose of socio-economic development. Land area as recorded is 305 mha which includes 195 mha as culturable area and 69 mha as forest area in 1995-96. The balance area is used for other purposes or is barren. The population was 361 million in 1951, increased to 1210 million in 2011 and is currently 1338 million. It may stabilize at approximately 1600 million by 2050. This huge increase in over half a century requires a serious relook at the way we have been planning for water and land till now. The assets related to water include visible water (glaciers, river water, ground water and sea water) and invisible water (soil moisture, vegetation and atmosphere). Each of these elements of water and the interaction between them plays a role to maintain ecosystems and provide water for humankind and animals. This water cycle starts from the sea and through clouds coming over the land with a precipitation of 4000 bcm flows through various rivers to the sea to complete the cycle, after being used for various purposes on land. The first systematic study of water availability in India in different forms was done by the National Commission on Agriculture from 1972-75. Rainfall was considered for the past 100 years as recorded and its average annual availability was considered with regard to land use for various purposes. A flow chart along with revised precipitation and its flow and utilization upto the sea was made. The actual use in 1970s and projections for 2000 and 2025 were also given. There are shortages of water in various places, from the year 2000 onward because of additional population, urbanization, increased agriculture and industrial activities. Also, excessive pollution makes part of the available water unusable. In recent decades there has been a decrease in the ground water recharge due to decrease in infiltration because of higher use of irrigated agriculture and mismanagement of forest area. However, in recent years new sources of water such as desalination of sea water have become available through research and reduction in costs. Waste treatment, using appropriate technologies, is another new source or means to produce water. Greater use of solar and wind power as against conventional power plants can also help in more land becoming available for infiltration and recharge of groundwater. In order to keep groundwater-level sustainable and manageable, it would be necessary that wherever ground water recharge is hindered, it should be recharged through various means - natural and artificial. Climate change in the next few decades is another very important factor to consider. Our paper suggests various policy measures and methods to prevent decrease in groundwater recharge and use of newer sources of water based on modern technologies like desalination.