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Water use in India - Insights into a global crisis

nabadip - Sat, 02 Apr 2005 16:09:11 +0530
Great bathing ghat
- Thirstiest of all, city tops water chart

Mumbai, March 30: Calcutta is not clean but Calcuttans should be.

Calcuttans are scrubbing themselves clean more vigorously than their compatriots in other big cities, turning themselves into chart-busting water-guzzlers.

But the city is still thirsting for more: 31 per cent of its needs cannot be quenched with the available water.

A study on domestic water consumption shows that Calcutta tops seven cities.

An average household in the city was found using 445.5 litres a day as against 407.1 litres in Mumbai and 400.1 in New Delhi.

Calcutta also has a higher rate of per person consumption of water. A Calcuttan uses 115.6 litres of water per day while a Mumbaikar makes do with 90.4 litres and a Delhiite 78 litres.

The residents of Calcutta use a large quantity of this wa-ter for bathing, an unavoidable preoccupation considering the pollution levels in the city.

As much as 37 per cent - the single largest segment in the city of the water consumed is used in bathing in Calcutta. Delhi uses 32 per cent for the same purpose while Mumbai is trying to cope with 24 per cent.

The study was carried out by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in collaboration with research firm Mode Modellers in seven cities Calcutta, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kanpur, Madurai and Ahmedabad. As many as 12,880 people - 2,234 families were surveyed. Four hundred of these families live in Calcutta.

An ominous finding of the survey was that 65 per cent of the households are water deficient. It showed that north India faces the highest rate of water deficiency.

Mumbai has over 17.35 lakh households which do not get enough water, followed by New Delhi with 14.73 lakh households. Calcutta stood third with an estimated 4.36 lakh households deemed water deficient.

"Personal hygiene and washing seem to be the main guzzlers," said Abdul Shaban, who headed the study.

The respondents picked washing clothes as the activity that wasted more water than bathing.

They believed that washing clothes, bathing and cleaning utensils consumed the maximum amount of water and resulted in wastage.

"Scarcity, pollution and misman agement of water resources have land ed us in dire condition. Our cities have expanded rapidly, but there hasn't been enough investment or attention paid to water supply needs. We felt it

imperative to understand the patterns of water usage and find effective solu

tion to conserve water in urban India," Shaban said.

He advocated water conservation through efficient use and reduction of wastage.

"Use a bucket of water instead of the shower for bathing. Use low sud detergents for washing clothes, which will help save 50 per cent of water wastage. Recycle water from kitchen and bathrooms for other purposes like gardening," Shaban said.

source: [url=](does not lead to specific article)
nabadip - Sat, 02 Apr 2005 16:36:58 +0530
Not mentioned here is agricultural use of water, whose amounts are horrendous since the Gov of India subsidizes the use of power for agricultural water pumps.
nabadip - Sat, 02 Apr 2005 18:31:42 +0530
an overview on the water situation in India:
nabadip - Thu, 28 Apr 2005 16:52:33 +0530
Farmers protest against exploitation of groundwater resources

Staff Reporter The Hindu

Memorandum seeks constitution of experts panel

VELLORE, Tamil Nadu: The Ambalur Palar Groundwater Resources Protection Committee has protested against the continued exploitation by municipalities and village panchayats of the groundwater resources in the Palar close to the villages. This had turned the villages into a veritable desert.

A group of farmers from Ambalur, Kodayanji, Ramanaickanpettai, Avaranguppam, Eklaspuram and Vadakkupattu comprising Jamuna Thiagarajan, correspondent of the Ambalur Karia Gounder Vidhyashram, Maheswari, president of Ambalur panchayat and Padma, vice-president of the panchayat, representing the committee met the Collector, S.Gopalakrishnan here on Wednesday and submitted a memorandum to him, urging the government to constitute an experts' committee to study the problems of the villages near the Palar bed and take steps to resuscitate the river which has gone dry, primarily due to drought, and due to over-exploitation of its groundwater resources by the municipal and panchayat bodies including Tirupattur, Vaniyambadi and Ambur municipalities.

The above villages were agriculturally prosperous about 40 years ago, when the Tirupattur municipality first dug a well in the Palar river, constructed a pump house on the river and extracted the groundwater resources from the river for supply to its residents. This was followed by similar attempts by other municipalities and industrial houses, which gradually led to the over-exploitation of the underground water resources and the drying up of the aquifers, which fed the agricultural lands for several centuries.

Ms.Jamuna Thiagarajan told The Hindu that the continued drought on account of the failure of the monsoon for the last four years has compounded the problem, leading to a virtual water crisis in the above villages, affecting the lives of nearly one lakh people in about 30-40 villages starting from the point where the Palar entered Vellore district up to Vaniyambadi. Under these circumstances, the villagers protested against the recent move by the Jolarpet Third grade municipality to deepen its borewell in the Palar river.
Kulapavana - Thu, 28 Apr 2005 23:12:25 +0530
I work for an environmental laboratory where we do a lot of drinking water testing and consequently know this subject quite well. The quality of water worldwide is in a steep decline, especially in countries like India, where the majority of sewage ends up in the rivers completely untreated. The unclean habit of pooping into rivers and creeks introduces very dangerous pathogens into drinking water supply. Small wonder almost everyone gets sick when they visit India. Some say it is part of tapasya of visiting the Dham, but I say it is sheer ignorance unsure.gif
nabadip - Fri, 13 May 2005 10:12:30 +0530
Chief Minister concerned at falling water table

Staff Correspondent

DEHRA DUN: The Uttaranchal Chief Minister, Narayan Dutt Tiwari, has expressed grave concern over the depleting water table in the agriculture rich Terai region and urged the G B Pant University of Agriculture and Technology to study the depleting water table of Udham Singh Nagar and suggest suitable ways to reverse the depletion process.

Inaugurating the I T Park Corporate Office, Biotech Park and the Business Incubator Complex on the varsity campus, Mr. Tiwari said that Udham Singh Nagar had developed into a major foodgrain production centre in the country and the farmers should equip themselves with the technique to add value to their products to earn more. The farmers should also try to make farming less water intensive. IT-related industries should be encouraged in this district which was emerging as a major industrial centre, he said.

The Uttaranchal Health Minister, Tilak Raj Behad wanted a comprehensive ground water policy to save productivity of the agricultural belt. The Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and PWD, Indira Hirdeyesh wanted the officials and farmers to join hands to make rainwater harvesting a lifestyle of the people. "A litre of water put back into the aquifers or saved from wastage was equivalent to several litres needed for various important works," she said.
Jagat - Fri, 13 May 2005 17:29:11 +0530
When in Vrindavan, I stayed for a few days at Jai Singh Ghera (still have to send a letter of thanks... gratitude delayed is gratitude denied...). Michael Duffy, who is in charge of Friends of Vrindavan. He too considers the water situation the most grave crisis in India. With increasing populations, the water table sinks lower and lower. How long can this go on?

Madhava, Malati and I also went to Varshana (where Madhava's new profile picture was taken) and we met Rama Baba, who is also much preoccupied by the ecological state of Vraja. He is particularly preoccupied by the condition of the tanks, and we discussed Radha Kund (and later reported to Ananta Dasji). There are politics in all this, but there seems to be some kind of will developing gradually to see something done.

The newspapers were full of various reports of promised government action while we were there. There are several NGO's in the area that want to do things, so anyone who wants to participate in this kind of work will have plenty of opportunity to find one that touches his or her heart. I personally found Ramdas Baba in Varshana to be particularly devotionally oriented and attractive to persons from various sampradayas, not just the Nimbarka, to which he belongs.
Madhava - Fri, 13 May 2005 18:27:57 +0530
Ramesh Baba would be the name. He stays at Man Mandir.

Attachment: Image
nabadip - Sat, 28 May 2005 14:15:20 +0530
Who owns groundwater?

T.N. Narasimhan
(The writer is Professor, Materials Science and Engineering Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California at Berkeley.)

Water should be held in public trust for the benefit of society at large.

AS INDIA grows economically, its groundwater resources are particularly stressed. Groundwater is being commercially pumped in large quantities from areas surrounding cities such as Chennai and Bangalore to satisfy metropolitan water needs. Reportedly, overdraft has led to alarming declines in groundwater levels in some areas. As concerns mount about groundwater depletion, an inevitable question arises, "who owns groundwater?" To rationally discuss this question, it is useful to examine how this issue has been faced elsewhere in the world. In this regard, much can be learned from California's water experience.

California, situated on the west coast of the United States, is a large State, occupying about one-eighth the land area of India. Its climate, landscape, flora and fauna are as diverse as those of India. At the time of Statehood in 1850, the new settlers of California had a vision of prosperity, and the State grew and thrived through exploitation of a vast land, untouched by an industrialised society. Nascent California's laws were designed to foster this vision by granting appropriative water rights to those who used water. At that time, very little scientific knowledge existed about groundwater. The courts believed that groundwater was mysterious and occult, not amenable to rational understanding. In this atmosphere, groundwater came to be treated as private property of the overlying land owner.

With the introduction of the electric motor and the deep-well pump at the turn of the twentieth century, groundwater extraction escalated. Over much of California, well water levels dropped dramatically, well productivities tumbled, and problems of saltwater intrusion and land subsidence emerged. Meanwhile, the birth of the new field of groundwater hydrology established that groundwater conformed to physical laws, and that its behaviour was amenable to rational understanding. By the 1920s, Californians recognised that rights without responsibilities were untenable. In 1928, they amended the State's Constitution to incorporate public trust. The central theme of the public trust doctrine is that water is owned by the people, and that the State holds the water in trust for the people. All users of surface water in California must seek permit from the State, which has declared that water shall be put to beneficial use, without waste.

Because of economic and political pressures, public trust has had limited success in California. Legally, public trust is limited to surface water (especially navigable waters), contrary to available scientific knowledge that surface water and groundwater are intimately interconnected. Nevertheless, many communities such as Santa Clara County and Orange County have established public ownership of water within their watersheds, and have implemented integrated management of surface water and groundwater. In the U.S., "county" is the administrative equivalent of India's "district".

Presently, groundwater is treated as property of the overlying land owner in many parts of California. But, as population pressures rise, stresses on the environment mount, and the potential for long-term drought looms, science points out that groundwater cannot be separated from surface water. Gradually, groundwater is being recognised in California as being within the spirit of public trust, if not within its legal scope. Legislative actions are being taken to encourage integrated management, programmes for conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater, and establishment of monitoring stations.

If one looks at the Chennai and Bangalore metropolitan areas, the groundwater situation is analogous to that of California a century ago. Economic considerations are driving groundwater extraction. Because of the hard-rock geological conditions of these areas, surface water and groundwater are intimately interlinked. The people of these areas would gain much by following the lead of communities such as Santa Clara County and Orange County to develop plans for integrated management of surface water and groundwater, complemented by artificial recharge, conjunctive use, conservation strategies, and public education.

From what we know of groundwater occurrence, it is unwise to engage in uncontrolled groundwater extraction. Although overdraft may initially provide some short-term relief, long-term societal costs will be high.

India has historical traditions of having respect and reverence for water and nature. Remarkably, the western doctrine of public trust is philosophically quite compatible with India's cultural past. India needs to formally recognise the importance of water and have the will to articulate it. The judiciary and the government must have necessary authority to ensure that surface water and groundwater are managed wisely for the benefit of the people.

A logical first step is to amend India's Constitution to incorporate public trust in regard to water in a form that is compatible with the country's cultural history.

nabadip - Sat, 28 May 2005 21:06:55 +0530
Experts probe water scarcity in Puri temple

see article here:

nabadip - Tue, 07 Jun 2005 17:58:08 +0530
Cola ground water can fix ground rules

Pioneer News Service / Kochi

The fight over use of ground water between Perumatty Panchayat in Kerala and a bottling company where Coca Cola is produced could have far-reaching nationwide implications over ownership of water resources.

Hindustan Coca Cola Company, the bottling plant, was set up at Moolathara, Plachimada, after obtaining necessary permissions. However, Perumatty Panchayat refused to allow the plant to operate, forcing it to shut down, claiming that it was drawing huge amounts of ground water, whose ownership it said was vested in the people.

According to the bottling company, it requires 3.75 litres of water to produce one litre of beverage. If the plant operates at maximum capacity, it will annually require 232,010 cubic metre (m3) of water to produce 61,869 m3 beverage.

The dispute went to the Kerala High Court where a single judge bench ruled that underground water belongs to the public and the state and its instrumentalities should act as trustees of this great wealth.

The court added that the state has a duty to protect ground water against excessive exploitation. Hindustan Coca Cola Company and Perumatty Panchayat challenged the order of the single judge bench that had directed the company to stop excessive extraction of ground water and the Panchayat to renew the licence. Subsequently, the division bench of the Kerala High Court has directed the local body to renew the licence of the Hindustan Coca Cola Company.

The division bench ruled that, "A person has right to draw water, in reasonable limit, without waiting for permission from the Panchayat and the government. This alone could be the rule, and the restriction, an exception."

The court said the Panchayat acted "arbitrarily" and "was not justified" in revoking the plant's local license to operate. The court allowed the plant to reopen after an expert committee concluded that drawing 500,000 litres of ground water (five per cent of the available water in the area) a day would not cause drought as claimed by the Panchayat.

Perumatty Panchayat on Monday decided to allow Hindustan Coca Cola Company to resume production for a period of three months.According to the company, the plant was drawing 460,000 litres of water a day at the time of its closure and water supplies continued to decline even after the facility was shut down a year ago. The company attributes falling water tables to drought and truant monsoons. It also claims to have installed the best rainwater harvesting system in the state.

Within two years of its inauguration, and especially since April 2002, protests had become a regular feature in front of the Coca Cola bottling unit, as people living in several neighbouring villages, including 10 colonies of Dalits and tribal people, began experiencing a severe drinking water shortage. Residents claim that indiscriminate extraction of ground water has dried up many wells and polluted several others.

Perumatty Panchayat now plans to take the legal battle to the Supreme Court where proceedings will be closely followed by bottling plants across the country. The ramifications of the Supreme Court's judgement will be phenomenal. There are several water-based industries in the rural area. Cola manufacturers, mineral water bottlers and distilleries that depend on ground water could be affected by the judgement.

A judgement against the Panchayat would mean that the people stand to lose control over common natural resources like ground water. Most legal experts favour a wider interpretation of Article 21 guaranteeing clean air and unpolluted water to be the rule rather than exception.

"Local bodies should have more power on the scarce natural resources for the larger interest of the society. The right to clean air and unpolluted water forms part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India," advocate Sreedharan Pillai said. At present, there are no laws governing ground water usage. New laws and regulations have to be made to keep pace with changing realities, feel experts.

On the other hand, a judgement favouring Perumatty Panchayat will be a setback for several industries in rural areas. It could be interpreted by panchayats as arbitrary power to cancel licences of companies when any conflicts arise over ground water usage.

"The government should have thought about such things long back and formulated regulations to this effect," advocate Philip T Vargheese said. An apex body like the Pollution Control Board that can monitor and decide in such situations has to be set up for governing ground water usage, he added.
Kulapavana - Tue, 07 Jun 2005 22:56:00 +0530
drawing such huge amounts of water from the underground aquifer will most certainly drastically lower the local water table. big companies can afford to drill deeper and deeper wells chasing the receeding water while the surrounding area slowly turns into desert.
nabadip - Mon, 18 Jul 2005 12:07:08 +0530
Cola behind empty pots? Coke thirsts for a fight
- No water, no problem?

photo:The billboard with the Coke logo

Even as trouble brews over the supply of water to the Coca-Cola plant in Plachimada in Kerala, leading to allegations that it is creating severe water shortage in the area, the multinational has slapped a notice on an Indian photographer for using the Coke logo in the background of a photograph depicting water scarcity.