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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters 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.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs