Archive for ‘water scarcity’


The Indian restaurants that serve only half a glass of water

Glass half full

While many parts of India are going through a sustained water crisis, the western city of Pune is trying to deal with the problem in a rather unusual way, writes the BBC’s Geeta Pandey.

The dystopian future we worried about is already here.

Many restaurants in the city of Pune have begun serving only half glasses of water to guests.

At the pure vegetarian Kalinga restaurant, a couple have just been seated when a waiter approaches their table and asks if they want water.

“I said yes and he gave me half a glass of water,” says Gauripuja Mangeshkar. “I was wondering if I was being singled out, but then I saw that he had only poured half a glass for my husband too.”

For a moment, Ms Mangeshkar did wonder whether her glass was half full or half empty, but the reason why she was served less water was not really existential.

Nearly 400 restaurants in Pune have adopted this measure to reduce water use, ever since the civic authorities announced cuts in supply a month ago.

Image captionGauripuja Mangeshkar was served half a glass of water at a restaurant in Pune

Pune Restaurant and Hoteliers’ Association president Ganesh Shetty, who owns Kalinga, told the BBC that they have worked out an extensive plan to save water.

“We serve only half glasses of water and we don’t refill unless asked, the leftover water is recycled and used for watering plants and cleaning the floor,” Mr Shetty explained. “Many places have put in new toilets which use less water, we have put in water harvesting plants and the staff are briefed on minimising water use.”

Kalinga gets about 800 customers a day and by serving only half glasses, he says the restaurant is able to save nearly 800 litres (1,691 pints) of water a day.

“Every drop is precious and we have to act now if we want to save the future.”

Owner of 83-year-old Poona Guest House, Kishor Sarpotdar, shows the shorter steel tumblers he’s bought to replace the earlier taller ones. His restaurant is not only serving half glasses of water, he says, they are serving them in smaller ones too.

Pune is next door to India’s financial capital, Mumbai. An educational and cultural hub, it was famously described as the “Oxford and Cambridge of India” by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

This city of four million people has been well served by the Khadakwasala dam built in 1878, and water shortages are new here.

Mr Shetty says the first major water crisis the city faced was two years ago.

“For two months in February and March, our water supply was reduced by half. We got water once in two days.”

Strict guidelines were issued about what fresh water supplied by the civic authorities could – or couldn’t – be used for. And people were encouraged to install bore wells to pump out ground water to meet additional requirements.

All construction in the city was stopped for two months, car garages were allowed to do only dry servicing, the city celebrated a dry Holi, clubs and water resorts were barred from holding popular rain dance events and swimming pools were ordered shut.

All misuse was checked and those who erred were made to pay hefty fines.

Image captionKishor Sarpotdar shows the shorter steel tumblers he’s bought to replace the earlier taller ones

“It was very serious,” says Col Shashikant Dalvi, Pune-based water conservation expert.

This year, he says, the situation is “worse”. “Panic buttons have been pressed in October itself. How will we face the challenge in the summer months?” he asks.

According to a government report earlier this year, India is facing its worst-ever water crisis, with some 600 million people affected. The report said the crisis was “only going to get worse” in the coming years and warned that 21 cities were likely to run out of groundwater by 2020.

In May, the popular Indian tourist town of Shimla ran out of water, while last year it was reported that the city of Bangalore was drying up.

Large parts of the western state of Maharashtra, where Pune is located, are water deficient and every year, at the onset of the summer season, the state makes the news for “water wars” between districts – farmers, villagers, city residents, slum dwellers, the hospitality industry and businesses all clamouring for their share of water.

This year, that talk has already started. And it’s just the beginning of winter. Many areas are already staring at drought and acute water distress.

And this time, Pune too is affected. In October, the Pune Municipal Corporation announced 10% cuts in supply for everyone.

Image captionRestaurant owner Ganesh Shetty says every drop is precious and we have to act now if we want to save the future

Col Dalvi though is baffled about this shortage.

“The crisis two years ago,” he says, “was because of deficient rainfall. But this year, Pune had excessive rainfall until the end of July. The dams were full. So where has the water gone?”

The monsoon rains will not come before June and eight months can be a long time. “It’ll be a nightmare for the city unless we get some rains in the winter,” he says.

Experts blame climate change, deforestation and the rapidly growing city population as the main reasons for the water shortage. And the fact that the Khadakwasala dam reservoir has never been de-silted, which means its capacity to hold water is reducing daily.

Col Dalvi offers a prescription to deal with the water shortage in Pune and the rest of the country, because by “2025 India will be most populous country in the world”.

“Leakages must be plugged, unsustainable over-extraction of ground water must stop, rooftop rain water harvesting and recycling of water must be made mandatory, otherwise shortages would get more critical,” he says.

What about restaurants serving half glasses of water to patrons? Is it just a gimmick, I ask.

“Not at all,” he says. “It’s not a gimmick. It’s an excellent idea. A drop saved is a drop gained.”


Are India and Pakistan set for water wars? – BBC News

India is stepping up efforts to maximise its water use from the western rivers of the Indus basin, senior officials have told the BBC.

The move would involve building huge storage facilities and canals.

The three rivers flow through Indian-administered Kashmir but most of the water is allotted to Pakistan under an international treaty.

Experts say Delhi is using the water issue to put pressure on Pakistan in the dispute over Kashmir.Relations have deteriorated since a deadly militant attack on an Indian base in September. Pakistan denies any link to the attack.

Why India’s water dispute with Pakistan matters

Kashmir: Why India and Pakistan fight over it

Kashmir profiled

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said a government taskforce is finalising details of the water project, which he has made a priority.

“The ball has started rolling and we will see some results soon, most of them will be about building new storages in the basin,” one top official said on condition of anonymity.

Another senior official said: “We are quite familiar with the terrain as we have already built a number of structures there.

But he added: “We are talking about few years here.

“How much water is at stake?

India wants to “maximise” its use of water from the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers. Millions of people in both countries depend on water in the rivers.

An official with India’s water resources ministry insisted that this action would be “well within” the terms of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).

India began reviewing the treaty after the militant attack in Indian-administered Kashmir in September in which 19 soldiers were killed.Delhi accused Islamabad of being behind the attack and relations have plummeted, leading to a rise in cross-border tensions.

The IWT was signed in 1960 and allocated the three eastern rivers – the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej – of the Indus basin to India, while 80% of the three western ones – the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab – was allotted to Pakistan.

India says it has not fully utilised the 20% of water given to it in the three western rivers. Pakistan disputes this.

Officials in Delhi said the IWT allows India to irrigate 1.4 million acres of land using water from those rivers.

But they say only 800,000 acres are irrigated at present.

They added that the building of hydropower projects would also be accelerated.

India currently generates around 3,000MW of hydroelectricity from the western rivers, but the Indus basin is said to have a potential of nearly 19,000 MW.

How safe is the water treaty?


Pakistan is watching India’s moves closely.

India shares a heavily militarised international border with Pakistan

Speaking in an open debate of the United Nations Security Council on “water, peace and security” last month, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, denounced any use of water as an “instrument of coercion and war”.

“The IWT is equally a good case study of what could go wrong if such agreements are not honoured or threatened by one of the state parties to be abrogated altogether.

“Water experts say the treaty seems to have at least survived because India is not talking about withdrawing from it.

But, they believe, maximising use of water from the western rivers in the Indus basin can still fuel tensions.

Islamabad is already unhappy with some of India’s existing water projects.It has asked the World Bank, which brokered the signing of the treaty between the two countries, for a court of arbitration to consider two Indian hydropower projects in the Indus basin.

India has objected to this move, prompting the bank to pause the dispute process while it tries to persuade the two countries to resolve their disagreements, fearing that otherwise the treaty itself could be in peril.

In 1987, Delhi suspended the Tulbul navigation project on the Jhelum river after Pakistan objected to it.But sources within India’s Water Resources Ministry say this project could now be revived.

“The decision to review the suspension signalled the Modi government’s intent to revive it irrespective of Pakistan’s protests,” the Times of India newspaper wrote.

“As an implication, India gets to control Jhelum water, impact Pakistan’s agriculture.

“What else could India do?

Some experts say India could also demand a review of the IWT.

“The review can be used to demand more rights over the western rivers,” says Himanshu Thakkar, a regional water resources expert with South Asian Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

Some water resources analysts believe Delhi will also have to be mindful of China before making any major move.

In September, Tibet blocked a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo river (known as the Bramhaputra in India) as part of its most expensive hydro project, Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

The news came just when Indian media were suggesting that Delhi could pull out of the IWT.

“We need to remember that China is an upper riparian country in Indus and Bramhaputra basins and it is also Pakistan’s closest ally,” said Mr Thakkar.

Many experts agree that completing such huge and complex infrastructure projects may not be as swift as some Indian officials suggest.

Source: Are India and Pakistan set for water wars? – BBC News


Unholy woes | The Economist

AT THE dawn of time Lord Vishnu made gods and demons join in churning the milky oceans to extract an elixir of eternal life. After cheating the demons of their share, Vishnu spilled four drops of the precious nectar. Where they fell sprang up sacred rivers whose waters wash away sins, now sites for mass Hindu pilgrimages called Kumbh Mela.

For a lunar month every 12 years it falls to Ujjain, a town in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, to host the Kumbh Mela by the revered Shipra, whose waters meander north into the mighty Ganges and eventually eastward to the Bay of Bengal. By the time the full moon reappears on May 21st tens of millions of bathers, among them thousands of bearded ascetics known as sadhus (pictured), will have worshipped on Ujjain’s teeming riverbanks.

What few are aware of is that the water is no longer the Shipra’s. Urbanisation, rising demand and two years of severe drought have shrivelled the sacred river. Its natural state at this time of year, before the monsoon, would be a dismal sequence of puddles dirtied by industrial and human waste. But the government of Madhya Pradesh, determined to preserve the pilgrimage, has built a massive pipeline diverting into the Shipra the abundant waters of the Narmada river, which spills westward into the Arabian Sea. Giant pumps are sucking some 5,000 litres a second from a canal fed by the Narmada, lifting it by 350 metres and carrying it nearly 50 kilometres to pour into the Shipra’s headwaters. To ensure clean water for the festival, the Shipra’s smaller tributaries have been blocked or diverted, and purifying ozone is being injected into the reconstituted waters in Ujjain itself.

The pilgrims and merchants of Ujjain are happy. But down in the Narmada valley there is little cheer. “They are wasting water on sadhus…while our farms go dry,” says Rameshwar Sitole, a farmer in the hamlet of Kithud. Since March the canal, which feeds his 2.5 hectares of maize and okra along with the farms of 12 other hamlets, has been bone dry. Mr Sitole’s crops have withered and died: a loss, he reckons, of some 50,000 rupees ($750). The government insists the water will return once Ujjain’s pilgrimage ends, but he is not so sure. “They turn it on when we protest, and then take it away again,” Mr Sitole shrugs. Meanwhile, over the hills, industrial users near Ujjain are lobbying loudly to exploit the fancy new water sources.

Poor monsoons are not unusual, but the back-to-back shortfalls, linked to the El Niño effect, which India has experienced in the past two years are very rare. Ten out of 29 states, with a population of some 330m, have been badly hit, with the worst-affected areas in the centre of the country. India is suffering its gravest water shortage since independence, says Himanshu Thakkar, a water expert in Delhi, the capital. Every day brings news of exhausted rivers and wells, destitute farmers migrating to the cities or even committing suicide, water trains being dispatched to parched regions—and of leopards venturing into towns in search of a drink.

The central government has responded with make-work programmes for afflicted areas, emergency shipments of water, and many promises. In February Narendra Modi, the prime minister, pledged to double farm incomes by 2022. Other ministers speak of massive irrigation projects, and have dusted off an ambitious water-diversion scheme for parched regions that is priced at $165 billion and involves no fewer than 37 links between rivers. Most links would be via canals—some 15,000km of artificial waterways in all.

Source: Unholy woes | The Economist


How India’s River Row with China Shows The Growing Importance of Water Security – The Short Answer – WSJ

A river that flows through India, China, Bangladesh and Bhutan is churning up the issue of water security in a fast-developing region.

The river–which is called Brahmaputra in India–is a source of tension between India and China and how those two countries are managing it affects Bangladesh downstream, a new report by Washington-based nonprofit, CNA Analysis and Solutions says.

The report, titled “Water Resource Competition in the Brahmaputra River Basin: China, India, and Bangladesh,” recommends ways the countries can stop the issues from drifting out of control.

Here’s a brief rundown of the report.

Where does the river flow?

The river originates in China, where it is known as the Yarlung Tsangpo. It then flows through India and Bangladesh, before entering the Bay of Bengal. Part of the river’s basin is also in Bhutan. In India, it runs through six states in the country’s east and northeast covering a distance of about 570 miles. In parts of India, it is also known as the Siang and in Bangladesh, as the Jamuna. The river’s basin covers 580,000 square kilometers (224,000 square miles) through the four countries. The World Bank estimates that India and China occupy 50% and 34% of that area.

Why is the river important to China?

The river is strategically important for China, mainly for its hydropower potential. The report said China has already built one hydropower dam on the river and plans to raise four more. China is worried about India’splans to build hydroelectric dams in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, whose border is disputed by both countries. China worries that plans to build on the river could “strengthen India’s ‘actual control’ over the disputed region and complicate border negotiations,” the report said. This could amplify tensions between India and China.

And, to India?

For India the waterway is one of its seven major rivers and is of immense political significance, the report said. Upholding rights on the river isn’t only key to India to consolidate its existing control over land that is contested with China, but also to cater to its need to manage flooding and soil erosion in the country’s northeast.

What do the recommendations say?

The report recommends an increase in sharing of hydrological data by India and China. China does so during the flood season and it should consider offering “real-time, year-round river flow data to India,” the report says.

India should do the same. India should disclose how many dams it plans to build, the report said.

It also recommends an annual three-nation dialogue with participation from university and think-tank scholars from India, China and Bangladesh to discuss not just diplomatic, but scientific aspects of water-sharing, like potential ways to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Source: How India’s River Row with China Shows The Growing Importance of Water Security – The Short Answer – WSJ


China opens key section of massive water project | Reuters

China on Friday opened a key section of a massive and ambitious plan to transport water from wetter central and southern parts of the country up to its arid north, including the capital Beijing, state media reported.

The $62 billion undertaking – dreamed up by former Communist Party leader Mao Zedong in the 1950s – is designed to supply China’s parched and pollution-ridden north, home to more than 300 million people and countless water-intensive businesses.

The latest section opened begins at Danjiangkou reservoir in central China’s Hubei province and runs for 1,432 km (890 miles), the official Xinhua news agency reported.

It can supply on average 9.5 billion cubic meters of water annually for about 100 million people in places like Beijing, Tianjin and the nearby provinces of Henan and Hebei, Xinhua said.

Some provinces in northern China have less freshwater per person than the desert countries of the Middle East. Of the country’s total, water-intensive industries such as clothing and electronics manufacturing consume a quarter – a share the think-tank 2030 Water Resources Group expects to grow to a third by 2030.

The first stage of China’s south-to-north transfer brought water to the industry-heavy northeast, but it was barely useable when it reached Tianjin because it picked up pollutants and sediment while flowing north through polluted soil.

That has raised concerns about the latest phase – a decade in the making – bringing water via a different, less polluted route.

Some experts have also voiced concern that the project’s extensive tapping of water from the Yangtze River and its tributaries may damage one of China’s most important water ways.

via China opens key section of massive water project | Reuters.


Rs 5,160cr given to states to clean rivers – The Times of India

Centre has released Rs 5,160 crore to various states for implementation of pollution abatement works in rivers, Parliament was informed on Monday.

Minister of water resources, river development and ganga rejuvenation Uma Bharti said in Rajya Sabha that Rs 5,159.81 crore has been released by the Centre to states for implementation of pollution abatement works and a sewage treatment capacity of about 5,005 million litres per day has been created so far under NRCP and NGRBA programmes.

National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) and National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) programme cover polluted stretches of 42 rivers spread over 21 states at a sanctioned cost of Rs 11,362.85 crore.

To another question, the minister said conservation of rivers is an ongoing process and cleaning of Ganga and other rivers is taking time mainly due to the “large gap between sewage generation and availability of sewage treatment capacity…”

She said it is the responsibility of the state governments and local bodies concerned to set up proper facility for collection and treatment of sewage generated and ensuring that it is not discharged into the rivers.

The new NDA-government has set up an Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission — ‘Namami Gange’ for for rejuvenation of Ganga and its tributaries.

via Rs 5,160cr given to states to clean rivers – The Times of India.


Chinese tests find quarter of drinking water ‘substandard’: Shanghai Daily | Reuters

Almost a quarter of purified drinking water tested by China’s top safety watchdog was substandard, with many products found to contain excessive levels of bacteria, the official Shanghai Daily newspaper said on Monday.

The findings underline the challenge to controlling supply chains in China, after a slew of food safety scares over the past year from donkey meat products contaminated with fox to heavy metals found in infant food.

The China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) found excessive bacteria in purified water products from China’s biggest drinks maker, Wahaha Group, as well as C’estbon Beverage Co Ltd and Danone SA’s Robust brand, the newspaper said.

In a statement posted on the official Xinhua news agency, Wahaha said it had recalled the affected products and cut its supply relationship with the water station where it said the contamination had occurred.

via Chinese tests find quarter of drinking water ‘substandard’: Shanghai Daily | Reuters.


China’s Water Supply Is Contaminated and Shrinking – Businessweek

China’s hazardous smog is an in-your-face and choke-your-lungs kind of problem—hard to miss, particularly when air quality soars to severely polluted levels, as it did in Beijing today (Nov.19). But an equally dire environmental threat is the alarmingly low quality of China’s water resources.

A polluted canal in Beijing

That was highlighted in an investigative report on China’s water crisis in the official Xinhua News Agency yesterday. Sixty percent of China’s groundwater, monitored at 4,778 sites across the country, is either “bad” or “very bad,” according to a survey by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Xinhua reported. Meanwhile, more than half, or 17 of China’s 31 major freshwater lakes, are polluted, at least slightly or moderately.

The report said that 300 of China’s 657 major cities also face water shortages, according to the standard set by the United Nations. A particularly severe problem is the dearth of water in the North China region, including the cities of Beijing and Tianjin and the surrounding province of Hebei. Water per capita in that area amounts to only 286 cubic meters annually, much less than the 500 cubic meter minimum. Below that minimum is classified as “absolute scarcity.” (Xinhua says under 1,000 cubic meters per capita classifies as “scarcity.”)

With rapid urbanization an official economic priority, fears are that China’s crisis of degraded and inadequate water supplies could worsen. Meanwhile, about 3.3 million hectares of farmland—an area the size of Belgium—has become too contaminated to grow crops, China’s authorities revealed late last year.

“Experts blamed some local governments and businesses for recklessly pursuing quick money by developing projects that devoured resources and caused serious pollution,” the China Daily reported today, citing the Xinhua article on water scarcity.

via China’s Water Supply Is Contaminated and Shrinking – Businessweek.


Water consumption: A canal too far | The Economist

THREE years ago the residents of Hualiba village in central China’s Henan province were moved 10km (six miles) from their homes into squat, yellow houses far from any source of work or their newly allocated fields. These days only the very young and very old live there. Close to their old farms, a giant concrete canal now cuts a swathe. From October 31st the channel will gush with water flowing from China’s lush south to the parched north.

The new waterway is part of the biggest water-diversion scheme in the world: the second arm of what is known as the South-North Water Diversion Project. This is designed to solve an age-old imbalance. The north of China has only a fifth of the country’s naturally available fresh water but two-thirds of the farmland. The problem has grown in recent decades because of rapid urban growth and heavy pollution of scarce water supplies.

The result is a chronic shortage. The World Bank defines water scarcity as less than 1,000 cubic metres (35,300 cubic feet) of fresh water per person per year. Eleven of China’s 31 provinces are dryer than this. Each Beijing resident has only 145 cubic metres a year of available fresh water. In 2009 the government said that nearly half the water in seven main rivers in China was unfit for human consumption. All this has encouraged ever greater use of groundwater. Much of this is now polluted too.

In 1952 Mao Zedong suggested the north could “borrow” water from the south. After his death China’s economic boom boosted demand for such a scheme and provided the cash to enable it. In 2002 the diversion project got under way. An initial phase was completed last year. This involved deepening and broadening the existing Grand Canal, which was built some 1,400 years ago, to take 14.8 billion cubic metres of water a year more than 1,100km northward from the Yangzi river basin towards the port city of Tianjin.

In late October the second, far more ambitious and costly route is due to open. This new watercourse, over a decade in the making, will push 13 billion cubic metres of water more than 1,200km from the Danjiangkou dam in the central province of Hubei to the capital, Beijing. The aim is to allow industry and agriculture to keep functioning; already in 2008 Beijing started pumping in emergency supplies from its neighbouring province, Hebei. The new canal will help avert an imminent crisis. But the gap between water supply and demand will remain large and keep growing.

The transfer will supply about a third of Beijing’s annual demand. A spur of the canal will provide an even greater proportion of Tianjin’s. But these shares will shrink over time. Even if people use less water, population growth, the expansion of cities and industrialisation will increase China’s overall demand. By lubricating further water-intensive growth the current project may even end up exacerbating water stress in the north.

Shifting billions of cubic metres across the country has caused huge disruption. The government says it has moved 330,000 people to make way for the central route. Laixiang Sun of the University of Maryland in America reckons the number uprooted is at least half a million. There will also be health and environmental costs. Diverting river-water northward could promote the spread of diseases common in the south, particularly schistosomiasis, a debilitating snail-borne disease. Reduced flow in the Yangzi may make coastal water supplies vulnerable to intrusion by seawater and increase the potential for drought.

The financial cost is also high. Mr Sun puts the cost of the project at more than $62 billion—far higher than the original $15 billion price tag. His estimate does not include the running of the project or the building of 13 new water-treatment plants to clean the water.

By increasing supply, the government is failing to confront the real source of the problem: high demand for water and inefficient use of it. Chinese industry uses ten times more water per unit of production than the average in industrialised countries, according to a report by the World Bank in 2009. A big reason for this is that water in China is far too cheap. In May 2014 Beijing introduced a new system that makes tap water more expensive the more people use. But prices are still far from market levels. Officials turn a blind eye to widespread extraction of un-tariffed groundwater by city dwellers and farmers, despite plummeting groundwater levels.

Raising the price would cut demand and encourage more efficient use. It should also help lure industry away from water-scarce areas where prices would be set at higher rates. Arid areas that are forced by the government to pipe water into desiccated cities like Beijing could offset their losses by charging higher tariffs.

via Water consumption: A canal too far | The Economist.


China’s Next Great Water Project Uproots More Than 330,000 – Businessweek

China’s track record for forced relocations that accompany large infrastructure projects is dismal. Many of the 1.3 million people relocated during the construction of Three Gorges Dam in the 1990s and early 2000s were moved from ancestral villages and farmland, where they could profitably grow crops, to newly (often shoddily) built apartments, with no job training or employment help. The result: vanished earnings and increased social dislocation.

A child standing next to his family's possessions as residents in central China's Henan province make way for the South-to-North Water Diversion Project in 2010

So far, it appears that the relocation of more than 330,000 people during the ongoing construction of the South-to-North Water Transfer Project is somewhat better planned, although still deeply flawed. Beijing News looked at the fate of approximately 70,000 people relocated from homes in Hubei Province for the construction of the middle leg of the project, which aims to redirect water from China’s lush south to its arid north. The local government seems to be more aware of the importance of protecting migrants’ livelihoods, but that awareness hasn’t yielded simple solutions.

“It isn’t easy to tell people they must leave their homes,” Gufang Yan, a staffer at the Nanzhang Bureau of Immigration, told the newspaper. “Nobody gave us information about how to find a job; we did not know anything about recruitment,” said a man named Chen Yan, who was relocated for the project four years ago. He eventually managed to find work near his new home repairing cars, and he learned on the job.

via China’s Next Great Water Project Uproots More Than 330,000 – Businessweek.

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