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Water Scarcity Looms As Demand Set To Double By 2050

BANGALORE: India may be shining, but it's also dirty and thirsty -- the water and sanitation status of our rapidly developing country is sure to draw shame. These facts could make one hold the nose tight: only 13% of our total sewage is treated, over 700 million Indians do not have toilets and defecate in the open or non-sanitized conditions, the Ganga is polluted with 60,000 faecal coliforms per 100 ml, 68.5 million metre cube of waste water is directly dumped into our rivers and lakes, without any treatment.

Resounding alarm bells to protect our water resources immediately, speakers at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) sponsored German Alumni Water Network International seminar, co-organized by the department of civil engineering, Bangalore University, on Monday presented an overview of our water status and impact of global warming on it.

In 1995, 19 cities in India were already facing water scarcity. According to scientists, by 2025, the whole of India will be a `water-stressed region'. This is primarily due to our leaping population, underpriced water due to political reasons, absence of adequate water treatment plants, and difficulty in motivating customers to pay for such services. Besides, 86% of our water demand is from the agriculture sector.

In Asia, about 85 litres per day per capita is being used, whereas in Africa, it is 47 litres per day per capita. However, in future, our industrial water needs are going to increase, leading to high pressure on water availability for the public.

Josef Winter, academic director, resource engineering, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), highlighted the plight of water scarcity, Dieter Prinz, academic director, resource engineering, KIT, spoke about the impact of global warming on water resources. Though India's per capita emissions are very low, it has one of the highest increases in overall emissions.

According to UN data, India's population is likely to increase to 1.6 billion by 2050, surpassing China's, which is on the decline. "We should realize that we are all in the same boat, and climate change will hit us hard," said Prinz.

The total renewable water available currently in India is 1,200 cubic metre per capita per annum, and 1,700 cubic metre per capita per annum is the limit -- which shows that India will move into the water-stressed zone very quickly.

According to a recent World Bank study, India's water demand is going to double by 2050, and the triggering factors would be a GDP growth of 7.7% annually and an industrial output of 7%. India is also switching to a more protein-rich diet like the West, which also adds to water demands.

"The global financial crisis, climate change and migration of people to urban areas marks a fundamental turning point in the evolution of the world economy. It's time we move from a paradigm of resource exploitation to valuing ecosystems," said vice-chancellor, Bangalore University, N Prabhudev.

SOME FACTOIDS

* The Economic Times of 1 kg of industrial beef requires over 15,500 litres of water, 10 times what 1 kg of wheat does

* Climate change aggravates the already destructive human activities like deforestation, drainage of wetlands, drainage of peat lands, overfishing, clearing mangrove belts for tourism and shrimp cultivation

* The seminar is being held from November 2-5, and the participants are from around the wor

 
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