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India is facing its worst water crisis in generations

14 Mar 2017

India is facing a perfect storm in managing water.

Centuries of mismanagement, political and institutional incompetence, indifference at central, state and municipal levels, a steadily increasing population that will reach an estimated 1.7 billion by 2050, a rapidly mushrooming middle class demanding an increasingly protein-rich diet that requires significantly more water to produce—together, these are leading the country towards disaster. On top of that, there is an absence of serious and sustained attempts at the central or state levels to manage water quantity and quality, a lack of implementation of existing laws and regulations, and pervasive corruption and poor adoption rates of new and cost-effective technologies.

Despite this sad state of affairs, there are no signs of politicians waking up to the situation, or those willing to take hard but essential political decisions. Actions are mostly cosmetic. Policies are primarily ad-hoc, incorrect, incoherent, and rarely properly implemented.


Asit K Biswas is the distinguished visiting professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

Cecilia Tortajada is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

Udisha Saklani is an independent policy researcher working in association with the Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.

This article was first published on Quartz on 15th March 2017.

Udisha Saklani

Udisha Saklani

An independent policy researcher working in association with the Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.

Cecilia Tortajada

Cecilia Tortajada

senior research fellow at the Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

Asit K Biswas

Asit K Biswas

Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. National University of Singapore, Singapore