Tuesday November 13, 2018
Home India Drying Ganga ...

Drying Ganga Can Hinder India From Achieving Sustainable Development Goals

The lower the river flow, the more concentrated the pollutants become, making it difficult to wash them out.

0
//
Ganga
Drying Ganga could stall food security and prevent achieving SDGs. Pixabay
Republish
Reprint

Millions of people residing in the lower reaches of the Ganga basin in India may face food shortage in the next three decades if the much revered river continues to lose water due to factors that include unsustainable groundwater extraction, a study has claimed.

Researchers associated with the study added that low river flows could also have implications for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

But experts, not associated with the study, also pointed to the combined blow of surface and groundwater misuse that has beleaguered the Ganga river basin, sheltering around 10 per cent of the global population. Agricultural inefficiency is a chink in the chain, they say, when it comes to sustainable water use.

The modeling study forecasts that in the absence of interventions, groundwater contribution to the river’s water flow would continue diminishing in the summer for the next 30 years.

Ganga
A pile of garbage lies on the riverbank along the Ganges riverfront known as “Har ki Pauri,” the most sacred spot in the Hindu holy town of Haridwar where devotees throng. VOA

The analysis was conducted by Abhijit Mukherjee at the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur, Soumendra Nath Bhanja (formerly at IIT Kharagpur) and Yoshihide Wada from Austria’s IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) on the stretch of the river from Varanasi to the Bay of Bengal.

“The impacts of groundwater depletion on Ganga river flows are very complex. However, our study found that there is significant concern that ongoing groundwater pumping over the basin is unsustainable, leading to not only lowering groundwater levels but also reduction in river flows during summer time,” Wada told Mongabay-India.

This problem is more serious downstream of the Ganga river, Wada said.

Mukherjee, lead author of the study, said: “So far, in the last three decades we have seen the groundwater input to the river decline by 50 percent during summer. This decline could go up to 75 per cent compared to the scenario in the 1970s in the summer months.”

Although the modeling study doesn’t factor in climate change impacts, the authors argue that if they were to do so, the situation could be worse than predicted.

Ganga
River Ganga is one of the holiest, yet the most polluted river.

The Ganga’s 2,525 km watercourse is sustained by rainfall in the hinterlands of the Ganga basin, Himalayan glacial melt as also groundwater discharge. In summer (non-monsoon months), this groundwater contribution (baseflow) to the river can be 30 percent in some sections and can even swell up to 60 to 70 percent, informed Mukherjee.

“The combination of groundwater (around 70 percent) and river water (30 percent) availability actually runs the farming system that yields the food crops,” Mukherjee said.

The researchers assess that at present, surface water irrigation for cropping accounts for 27 percent of the total irrigation in the study area.

Hence, the dwindling of the Ganga would also severely affect water available for surface water irrigation, with potential decline in food production in the future.

“Our prediction shows that about 115 million people can be impacted due to insufficient food availability in the next few decades. In a status-quo scenario, this reduction would enhance in the future and there is a possibility that there would be reverse flow of the river water to groundwater. This is called stream flow capture,” Mukherjee said.

Ganga
NITI Aayog, CII partnered on sustainable development goals. Flickr

Apart from ongoing reduction in summer river flows heightening vulnerability of regional food production and water supply policy, Wada observed that low river flows also influence dilution of water pollution in the Ganga river, which is one of most contaminated transboundary rivers worldwide.

This is a “huge concern” for regional water supply and sanitation, he said, adding the issue could have implications for achieving United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets.

“South Asian countries are working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aim towards improving water sanitation and reducing water scarcity, but decreasing summer river flows and increasing groundwater depletion will make only more difficult for regional policy makers to achieve the targets by 2030,” Wada elaborated.

The researchers also observed that low river flows influence dilution of water pollution in the Ganga river, which is one of most contaminated transboundary rivers worldwide.

Ganga
Children waiting for food from Akshaya Patra Foundation. Wikimedia

“The lower the river flow, the more concentrated the pollutants become, making it difficult to wash them out,” Mukherjee remarked.

Wada batted for more co-operation between India and Bangladesh, where the Ganga eventually flows, in regional water resources allocation.

Also Read: Fall Of the Currency And Increase In Oil Prices: India’s Turmoil

“Local excessive groundwater pumping over two countries is affecting the river flows of the entire basin. Regional policy makers from the two countries can cooperate for better monitoring and regulation of groundwater pumping and water use at larger,” Wada said.

He noted that it is vital to understand that both upstream and downstream regions need to share the burden of better water allocation policy. “Two countries need to work very closely to establish how to improve the situation. Water scarcity will get only worse under climate change, if the situation continues,” Wada reiterated. (IANS)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2018 NewsGram

Next Story

Twitter Takes Multiple Steps To Curb Misinformation Before Elections in India

More than 80 per cent of the Twitter accounts linked to spread of disinformation

0
Twitter, tweets, India
The Twitter logo appears on a phone post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.. VOA

Twitter is taking “multi-variable” steps, including the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, to curb the spread of misleading information on its platform ahead of 2019 general election in India, Co-Founder and CEO Jack Dorsey said here on Monday.

Addressing a Town Hall-style meeting at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi (IIT-D), Dorsey said fake news is a way too big category.

“The real problem is not misinformation per se as jokes can also be categorised as misinfomation. But misinformation that is spread with the intent to mislead people is a real problem,” stressed the Twitter CEO who is in India on a week-long maiden visit.

Dorsey, who got a rousing reception at IIT-D with the students wildly cheering the young entrepreneur, likened solving the problem of misleading information to that of addressing a security issue, or building a lock.

Twitter, India
Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign influence operations and their use of social media on Capitol Hill. VOA

“No one can build a perfect lock, but we need to stay ahead of our attackers. AI could probably help,” Dorsey told the audience.

Earlier in the day, the Twitter CEO met Congress President Rahul Gandhi and discussed various steps the social network was taking to curb the spread of fake news and boost healthy conversation on its platform.

Dorsey also met Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama over the weekend. He was also expected to meet Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in the wake of the growing criticism over Twitter’s role in the spread of misinformation and fake news as India faces Assembly polls in five states in November-December ahead of next year’s general elections.

Twitter, India
Twitter on a smartphone device. Pixabay

Twitter, along with other social media platforms, including Facebook, came under intense scrutiny of policymakers in the US for their failure to stop the spread of misinformation by Russia-linked accounts on their platforms during the 2016 Presidential election.

The micro-blogging site since then has stepped up its efforts to curb the spread of divisive messages and fake news on its platform.

To further protect the integrity of elections, Twitter recently announced that it would now delete fake accounts engaged in a variety of emergent, malicious behaviour.

India, elections
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses the gathering during the ‘Global Mobility Summit’ in New Delhi, India, VOA

As part of the new rules, accounts that deliberately mimic or are intended to replace accounts that were previously suspended for violating rules may be identified as fake accounts, Twitter said recently.

Also Read: Twitter Giving Its Users More Freedom to Report Fake, Suspicious Accounts

However, according to a Knight Foundation study released in October, more than 80 per cent of the Twitter accounts linked to spread of disinformation during the 2016 US election are still active. (IANS)