News / Asia

India Could Face Water Woes In Coming Decades

An Indian girl crosses over a stream of polluted water as she carries drinking water on the outskirts of Jammu, India, March 21, 2011
An Indian girl crosses over a stream of polluted water as she carries drinking water on the outskirts of Jammu, India, March 21, 2011
Kurt Achin

U.N. World Water Day is a reminder that some of the world's looming water crises are urgent and vast in scope.  That is especially true in South Asia, where hundreds of millions of the world's poorest residents lack basic water infrastructure, and where access to natural water supplies is set to become ever more competitive.  

U.S. intelligence officials believe water scarcity is shaping up to be one of the main potential drivers of future global conflict.

In his 12 years on a U.S. Congressional intelligence committee, U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer says he had regular access to reports about transnational issues U.S. officials believed could spark conflict or even war.   He says the prominence of water issues in those reports evolved rapidly from the 1990s forward.

"We saw issues like al-Qaida and technology, and water was about 10th or 11th on that list," said  Roemer. "By the 2025 projected report, water was in the top five."

India's population of more than a billion people is widely expected to overtake the population of China by the middle of the 21st century.   Both countries depend on a handful of major waterways originating in the Himalayan mountain range.   One of those is known to Indians as the Brahmaputra, running through Chinese-controlled Tibet and into the eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Indian officials are closely monitoring Chinese plans to build a hydroelectric dam along that waterway.  They say, during an India-China summit late last year, Beijing offered assurances it would do nothing to affect the supply of water downstream.  The discussions are made more tense by the fact that China does not fully recognize India's sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh. On official Chinese maps, the Indian state shows up as "Southern Tibet."

For hundreds of millions of Indians, lack of water is not a question of geopolitics, but lack of infrastructure for water delivery and purification.  Ambassador Roemer says India's water crisis often affects the poorest, and the youngest.

"We all know small villages where, when you say hello, and you hug 10 children in that village, two or three of them may not be there four or five years from now due to problems that they have just getting access to clean and potable water," he said.

India's challenge in delivering basic sanitation and water supplies to the majority of its citizens is part of what Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh describes as a broader problem of "ecological poverty," which contrasts with India's growing wealth as an industrial and technological power.

"The reason why India must take environment seriously is because it is becoming a very serious public health concern," said Ramesh. "A public health concern not for the rich or for the middle classes, but it is becoming a public health concern for the poor."

Ramesh says India has undertaken a 10-year program to ensure no untreated industrial effluent or urban sewage is released into the country's main river, the Ganges.  He says man-made pollution is one of the main contaminants of India's groundwater, upon which hundreds of millions of Indians depend for consumption and agriculture.

"Water quality is something that's absolutely essential," he said. "And we need to address some of these issues in a much more systematic manner than we have."

One of the most dramatic warnings about India's groundwater supply comes from Dipankar Chakraborti, director of environmental studies at Javadpur University in the Indian State of West Bengal.  He was one of the first to point out decades ago the problem of arsenic contamination in deep water wells in West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Chakraborti predicts the health crisis of arsenic contamination will not be limited to northeast India and Bangladesh, but will emerge in the coming decades along the flood plains of the Ganges and other transnational waterways.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More