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India’s bulging water crisis: Is it too late for us to do something?

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water

By Harshmeet Singh

Sarvesh, a 9-year-old boy, is among the thousands of kids living in an unauthorized slum in West Delhi’s Vikaspuri area. A student of 3rd grade at the nearby Vikaspuri municipal school, he always arrives at the school half an hour late. When asked repeatedly by his teacher about the reason behind his late arrival, he says, “I need to go and fetch 4 buckets of water for my house every day from the nearby public tap. The supply only starts at 8 am and there is a big queue every day.”

Unfortunately, his household is not the only one in the capital facing water shortage. India’s per capita availability of fresh water has dropped significantly to 1,123 cubic metres as compared to over 3,000 cubic metres 50 years ago. In comparison, globally, the average fresh water availability per capita remains 6,000 cubic metres. The USA enjoys 8,000 cubic metres of fresh water per person as of today.

If the World Resources Institute’s report is to be believed, India’s groundwater levels are declining sharply due to reckless digging of aquifers and drain wells by the local farmers, industries and residents alike. Moreover, in most cases, the water taken out from the ground is found to be severely polluted. A World Bank report says that more than 20% cases of communicable diseases in India can be traced to unsafe water.

According to the report titled ‘Charting Our Water Future’ and published by McKinsey & Company, Standard Chartered Bank, Nestle and others, India’s water supply could come down to 50% of the total demand by 2030.

Why is there so much shortage of water?

More than half of India’s geographical area comes under ‘extremely high water stress’ territory. An ever galloping population has certainly added to the country’s water woes. Additionally, large proportion of agricultural lands in the country ensures that water demand never shrinks.

Most of the Northwest area of the country comes under ‘high water stress’ territory. The agricultural habits of the area have a major role to play behind this situation. Haryana and Punjab account for half of government’s total rice supply, along with over 80% of its overall wheat supply. Rice and Wheat cultivation demand high quantities of water. Moreover, slow acceptance of genetically modified crops, which require lesser water, has also ensured that the demand for water in agriculture shoots up gradually.

While there is no dearth of rivers in India, water in most of these rivers is unsafe even for bathing, let alone drinking. The ambitious ‘Ganga Action Plan’ of 1984 was launched to clean the river within 25 years. And yet, over 30 years down the line, we are still making plans to clean up Ganga. The funds splurged during these years have come to nothing since the facilities were never maintained properly. Absence of stringent laws against industrial effluent standards has seen the situation changing from bad to worse.

Areas of concern

Balancing increasing demands of irrigation with acute water shortage is indeed a tough challenge. To achieve the targeted 4% agricultural growth, proper irrigation and high yield seeds are imperative. Uneven distribution of rains across the country means that water storage and transportation capacity needs to be developed. Water harvesting methods can only help to a certain degree. Local storage and watershed management must be given emphasis. Although a number of environmentalists oppose the construction of storage dams, their reservoirs can come in extremely handy when needed. India’s poor record of displacing lakhs of tribal people from dam sites and leaving them in a lurch without adequate compensation hasn’t added to the popularity of dams in the country.

India’s past experience of grain import from USA in 1960 and a peaking population won’t allow it the luxury of reducing water usage in agriculture anytime soon.

The news of Water Mafia operating in the National capital has been reported several times. An acute water shortage has ensured that the Water Mafia’s work blooms constantly. With no other option, the citizens turn towards these Water Mafias who supply water filled tankers within hours of the order being placed. Though the Delhi Jal Board dispatches close to 900 water tankers everyday to the localities without a pipeline connection, it doesn’t seem to be enough.

How to go forward then?

First and foremost, the Government must engage the local bodies and educate them about the gloomy future if such reckless extraction of groundwater continues. Monitoring groundwater extraction is a necessity if the situation is to be taken under control. Secondly, emphasis on watershed development across the country is a must. The efforts of some states have shown that it is a profitable and convenient method to overcome water scarcity. Thirdly, environmentalists speaking against storage dams must be engaged in a constructive dialogue to arrive at a consensus. Other countries have adopted this method successfully in the past. Lastly, the pollution control boards must be strengthened to deal with industries violating norms. State of the art treatment facilities for the sewage would ensure that our water bodies are in a much better state.

India’s water crisis has been in the making for a number of decades now. Expecting it to avert within a few years would be impractical. But taking the first few steps would surely get us moving in the right direction.

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Delhi Jal Board to Bring in a State-Of-The-Art Technology: Sewage Cleaning to go Hi-Tech

Delhi Jal Board is working on enhancing its technological intervention to solve the problem of sewage waste

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Sewage
Delhi Jal Board to go hi-tech to solve sewage woes. Pixabay

The Delhi Jal Board is working on enhancing its technological intervention to solve the problem of sewage waste which poses a serious problem in the national capital where a large section of population lives in unauthorized colonies with either incomplete or no sewerage.

As a large number of houses depend on septic tanks for sewage disposal, the DJB is planning to bring in a state-of-the-art technology for collection and transportation of the waste. “The Board is hiring 80 advanced machines for a period of 10 years for collection and transportation of sewage waste that would be collected from septic tanks,” an official told IANS.

These machines would be GPS-enabled with geo-tagging and will run 4 trips a day to collect the sewage. “The corona pandemic has affected budget funding. We are, however, hopeful that we would get the budget approvals and continue with our efforts to serve the people of Delhi with technological interventions,” the official said.

The new machines would not only help in easy treatment of the waste but would also protect manual scavengers who are still hired to carry out this hazardous job of cleaning these septic tanks. This is important as many frontline workers of the Board have contracted the deadly coronavirus while at work.

Sewer
Overflowing sewers would be fixed and desilting of sewer lines would be carried out in Delhi Jal Board’s new initiative. Pixabay

Recently, the Delhi High Court while hearing a PIL alleging that waste collected by the government agencies from the septic tanks is not being treated and is directly being released into the Yamuna, directed the DJB to expeditiously finalise the tender for hiring specially fabricated machines to collect, transport and dispose of septic tank waste from unauthorised colonies in the national capital. According to the Summer Action Plan of Delhi Jal Board, overflowing sewers would be fixed and desilting of sewer lines would be carried out. “Super suction-cum-jetting machines/recycler machines will be deployed for de-silting and removal of blockages in the sewerage.”

As per the plan, DJB this year is targeting treatment of 550 MGD sewage in June. “Preventive maintenance of process units and equipment and minor/major repair will be completed by this month to ensure that all pumps at sewage stations are in working conditions.” Collection and treatment of sewage will progressively increase with completion of Interceptor Sewer Project and laying of sewer lines in unsewered areas. This would minimize blockages and will result in improved sanitation conditions, the DJB said.

Also Read: Tamil Nadu Relaxes TV Serial Shooting Restrictions Further

The Board early this month said it is installing 254 tubewells across the city, taking the number of tubewells in the city to about 5,000, in order to meet the the water demands in the national capital. The Summer Action Plan is prepared keeping in mind the water demand during the summer months, when it is at its peak, the DJB said. (IANS)

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The Indian Triple Disaster: Virus, Heat Wave And Locusts

Other than Coronavirus pandemic, India faces 2 more challenges to cope up with

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Locusts
Migrant workers, who left cities and towns where they were abandoned by their employers, rest inside a tent before traveling in special trains arranged to transport them to villages in home states, at a railway station in Gauhati, India, May 28, 2020. VOA
By Associated Press

As if the coronavirus wasn’t enough, India grappled with scorching temperatures and the worst locusts invasion in decades as authorities prepared for the end of a monthslong lockdown despite recording thousands of new infections every day as per the Latest news on coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

This triple disaster drew biblical comparisons and forced officials to try to balance the competing demands of simultaneous public health crises: protection from eviscerating heat but also social distancing in newly reopened parks and markets.

The heat wave threatens to compound challenges of containing the virus, which has started spreading more quickly and broadly since the government began easing restrictions of one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns earlier this month.

“The world will not get a chance to breathe anymore. The ferocity of crises are increasing, and they’re not going to be spaced out,” said Sunita Narain of New Delhi’s Center for Science and Environment.

When her 6-year-old son woke up with a parched throat and a fever, housekeeper Kalista Ekka wanted to bring him to the hospital. But facing a deluge of COVID-19 patients, the doctor advised Ekka to keep him at home despite boiling temperatures in the family’s two-room apartment in a low-income neighborhood in South Delhi.

“The fan only makes it hotter but we can’t open the window because it has no screen,” and thus no defense against malaria and dengue-carrying mosquitoes, Ekka said.

In a nearby upmarket enclave crowded with walkers and joggers every morning and at dusk — some with face coverings, some without — neighbors debated the merits of masks in an online forum.

In the heat, “it is very dangerous to work out with a mask. So a Catch-22 situation,” said Asmita Singh.

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India is facing high tempratures with many people lacking water and air conditioning. Pixabay

Temperatures soared to 118 degrees Fahrenheit (47.6 degrees Celsius) in the capital New Delhi this week, marking the warmest May day in 18 years, and 122 F (50 C) in the desert state of Rajasthan, after the world’s hottest April on record.

India suffers from severe water shortages and tens of millions lack running water and air conditioning, leaving many to seek relief under shady trees in public parks and stepwells, the ancient structures used to harvest rainwater.

Though many people continued wearing masks properly, others pushed them onto chins, or had foregone them altogether.

Cyclone Amphan, a massive super storm that crossed the unusually warm Bay of Bengal last week, sucked up huge amounts of moisture, leaving dry, hot winds to form a heat wave over parts of central and northern India.

At the same time, swarms of desert locusts have devastated crops in India’s heartland, threatening an already vulnerable region that is struggling with the economic cost of the lockdown.

Exasperated farmers have been banging plates, whistling or throwing stones to try to drive the locusts away, and sometimes even lighting fires to smoke them out. The swarms appeared poised to head from Rajasthan north to Delhi, but on Wednesday a change in wind direction sent them southward toward the state of Madhya Pradesh instead.

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Swarms of desert locusts have devastated crops in India’s heartland. Pixabay

K.L. Gurjar, a top official of India’s Locust Warning Organization, said his 50-person team was scrambling to stop the swarms before breeding can take place during India’s monsoons, which begin in July. Otherwise, he said, the locusts could destroy India’s summer crops.

Meanwhile, India reported another record single-day jump of more than 6,500 coronavirus cases on Thursday, pushing up the total to 158,333 confirmed cases and 4,531 deaths.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is preparing a new set of guidelines to be issued this weekend, possibly extending the lockdown in worst-hit areas while promoting economic activity elsewhere, with unemployment surging to 25%.

The sudden halt to the Indian economy when the lockdown began March 25 has been devastating for daily laborers and migrant workers, who fled cities on foot for their family homes in the countryside.

The government started running special trains for the migrants, but deaths on the rails because of starvation or dehydration have been reported. Others immediately put into quarantine centers upon their arrival in home districts have tested positive for COVID-19, adding to the burden of severely strained rural health systems.

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India reported another record single-day jump of more than 6,500 coronavirus cases. Pixabay

To jump start the economy, Modi’s environment ministry has moved to lower liabilities for industrial polluters and given private players the right to explore for coal and mine it. Cheap oil will fuel recovery efforts worldwide.

Also Read: IIT Mandi Researchers Have Developed Low-Cost Portable Ventilators

Indian environmental journalist Joydeep Gupta said that the perfect storm of pandemic, heat and locusts show India must go green. He said the government should implement policies to safeguard biodiversity and offer incentives for green energy to reduce greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

Instead, “the government is promoting the same sectors of the industry that have caused the multiple crises in the first place,” he said.

But Narain said other government initiatives that expand federal agriculture employment, cash transfer and food ration programs help India deal more effectively with its threats.
“It’s building coping abilities of the very poor to be able to deal with stress after stress after stress,” she said. (VOA)

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Know About the Various Fasting Methods for Weight Loss

Fasting for weight loss: Know the pros and cons

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Weight loss
Fasting can have various health benefits and can help you out with your weight loss. Pixabay

Across India, fasting is generally linked with religious beliefs, and people fast before or during traditional rituals. On the other hand, fasting also has many health benefits and some of its pitfalls.

Many times, people ignore their bodily conditions and choose to fast. For instance, women who are breastfeeding or are pregnant must not fast. Also, people with Type 1 Diabetes who are on medication and people who have had a history with an eating disorder should consult a health specialist before altering a dietary pattern.

Fast can be done in various patterns: the ’16:8′ pattern involves 14 to 16 hours of fasting and eating between the 8 hours. Another fasting method is 5:2, that is fasting for alternate two days in a week.

Weight loss
A good diet can not only help you lose weight but it can also boost immunity. Pixabay

There are various types of fasting methods that you can follow considering your health condition, as says Shikha Mahajan, holistic nutritionist and founder of Diet Podium:

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting or IF includes reducing calorie intake for an interval of time so that the person fasts for the other hours. This kind of fasting allows restricting the calorie intake and results in weight loss. Time-Restricted Fasting is also similar to IF.

Water Fasting

Water fasting is a way of fasting where the individual only takes water and the intake of food is restricted for a duration of time. This kind of fasting should only be preferred under medical supervision. Sometimes doctors prescribe this kind of fasting to cure various health issues. There is a major drawback of this fasting. Since it is very difficult for a body to survive only on water. Therefore, it can cause many adverse effects on the body.

Weight loss
Water fasting can help you lose weight but should only be preferred under medical supervision. Pixabay

Fasting Mimicking Diet

This is the diet that tricks the body to think it is fasting. The individual is allowed to eat but only the diet which includes plant-based food, low in carbs and calories, and high in fat.

Here are some pros of fasting. Fasting helps to boost immunity. It naturally increases energy and will help you to feel more alert and focused throughout the day. It helps you attain a leaner, harder physique as fasting kills body fat dead.

There are cons of fasting too. The desire to binge after fasting is the biggest problem people face with fasting. Sometimes people tend to overeat during the non-fasting duration. This can lead to health issues like hormonal imbalances, increase in stress and migraines.

Also Read- Follow These Home Decor Tips During Lockdown

Occasional lightheadedness is the major problem faced during fasting, To negate this con, you can start with shorter fasting periods first. Always remember fasting or changing your dietary pattern can make a big change to your body functioning, its metabolism and psyche.

Before opting for any kind of fast, consult a health expert and consider your health background. (IANS)