5.7 billion people could face water scarcity by 2050: UNESCO

NEW DELHI: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a report showing that the water crisis will be intensified in India by 2050. North India will face major water scarcity as groundwater depletion was extremely severe in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. “Ground water depletion carries with it the risk of salinity,” SK Sarkar, who heads the water resources division at policy think-tank TERI, said.

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis presented its report, according to which South and Central India will experience high levels of risk from poor water quality in its river basins by 2050.

There is growing evidence to show that groundwater aquifers gets contaminated with E-coli bacteria due to dumping of faecal matter in the ground. “There is metallic contamination but also contamination from improper disposal of human excreta,” SWA Naqvi, a scientist at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and NIO director, said.

The Unesco report said that over 2 billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water but almost twice that number of people do not have access to safe sanitation. The demand for water is expected to increase by almost one-third by 2050 compared to 2010 levels. Around 3.6 billion people are estimated to be living in areas with a potential for water scarcity for at least one month per year, and this number could rise to as many as 5.7 billion people by 2050.

At present India, China, Russia, United States and Pakistan are the largest consumers of water.

According to report, today 1.2 billion people are exposed to flood risk and number of people will exceed 1.6 billion in 2050.

The report recommends nature-based solution that mimic nature, citing the example of small-scale water harvesting structure in Rajasthan that quenched the water demand of 1,000 villages. Another example of this is the underground taming of floods for irrigation (UTFI) project that is being piloted in the Ganga river basin.

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