Rewind 2018: Is India’s head above water?

Here’s a lowdown on how India struggled to get its act together as its groundwater levels dipped and water bodies diminished

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 31 December 2018
Credit: Getty Images

Rewind 2018

While the Composite Water Management Index released by Niti Aayog warned India of its worst water crisis, the state of polluted rivers, lakes, groundwater contamination and depletion dominated the news headlines. The Supreme Court, high courts and the National Green Tribunal too are contesting on the subject of water.  

Here we list all the ups and downs the Indian water story took in the last one year


Groundwater levels dip

The Central Ground Water Board survey said exploitation of groundwater severely impacted its levels and quality in Maharashtra, with nearly 20 districts showing presence of heavy metals in excess of the maximum acceptable concentration. The levels of heavy metals, including lead, cadmium and chromium, were found to be exceeding the maximum acceptable concentration.

Kerala water contaminated

Water in almost 83 per cent of open wells and most of the rivers in Kerala is highly contaminated, revealed a study conducted by the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM), Kozhikode, which periodically monitors the 44 rivers and examines the groundwater sources in the state.

West Bengal rivers unfit for bathing

According to the latest State of Environment Report, published by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), in 17 major rivers of the state, including the Ganges, the levels of coliform bacteria (found mainly in human faeces) are much higher than the permissible limit of MPN (most probable number) per 100 ml. The permissible limit as per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guideline is 500. These means the river waters in the state are not even fit for bathing.

To prevent pollution

The Tamil Nadu government decided to implement a Rs 150-crore project to prevent pollution of Noyyal river in Tirupur. Making a suo motu statement in the state assembly, the chief minister said compound walls would be constructed along the banks of the river in the Tirupur Corporation limits.


Great loss

Gurgaon lost as many as 389 water bodies in the past 60 years, revealed a study compiled by the Gurgugram district administration and submitted in the National Green Tribunal in January.

Survival, a struggle

Mansar Lake, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the Shivalik range of the Jammu region, faced an existential threat due to human intervention and climate change. It was being ruthlessly exploited for water along its catchment area, creating hostile conditions which, according to scientists, could pave way for its demise.


Daily wastage

According to Thane Municipal Corporation, roughly 37 per cent or around 177 million litres of Thane's potable water is wasted daily. The punctures in the water distribution networks of the corporation that is going unchecked for years is reportedly leading to  wastage of water equal to the daily requirement of over 8 lakh residents

Theft, leakages mar supply

The parched Himachal Pradesh capital is daily losing more than five million litres (MLD) of potable water because of various reasons, including leakages and theft, noted the Himachal Pradesh high court on June 10 and asked for the steps initiated by the government and the municipal corporation in modernising the system of collection, pumping and uplifting and distribution of water in Shimla town.


Tamil Nadu in turmoil over Cauvery Water Management Board

In April, protests against the Centre’s failure to set up the Cauvery Water Management Board hit Tamil Nadu in April. In February, the Supreme Court reduced Tamil Nadu’s share of Cauvery water from 177.25 thousand million cubic feet (TMC), which was less than the 192 TMC allocated by a tribunal in 2007. Karnataka’s share of water was increased by 14.75 TMC.

Tamil Nadu against Mekedatu project

Tamil Nadu has objected to Karnataka’s plans to build a balancing reservoir at Mekedatu across the Cauvery river and has approached the Supreme Court to pour oil on troubled water


Composite water management index| June 2018| Niti Aayog

This Composite Water Management Index released by Niti Aayog in June is a useful tool to assess and improve performance in efficient management of water resources. It consists of 9 broad sectors with 28 different indicators covering various aspects of ground water, restoration of water bodies, irrigation, farm practices, drinking water, policy and governance.

Performance Audit on National Rural Drinking Water Programme in Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation| August 2018| Comptroller and Auditor General Of India

The national rural drinking water programme, despite spending 90 percent of Rs 89,956 crore over five years to 2017, has “failed” its targets, according to this CAG audit report.

23rd report on socio-economic impact of commercial exploitation of water by Industries: Standing Committee on Water Resources (2017-18)| August 2018|Lok Sabha Secretariat

According to this report, 2,552 m3 of groundwater is extracted per day by 18 units or blocks in 'semi-critical' areas in nine states. These are Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Inventory and revival of springs in the Himalayas for water security| August 2018| Niti Aayog

Nearly 30 per cent of springs crucial to water security of people are drying and 50 per cent have reported reduced discharge, stated this report.

Report on National Projects: Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation| July 2018| Comptroller and Auditor General of India

National river projects lag target by 99 per cent, cost up by Rs 50,000 crore, revealed this audit. Administrative delays, poor contract management, and lack of monitoring have been the major reasons for this delay.

Water productivity mapping of major Indian crops | June 2018 | ICRIER

With India staring at a water crisis, this new study has called to put a price on water used for irrigation to at least recover operating and maintenance costs of structures like canals.

Guidelines to regulate and control ground water extraction in India| December 2018| Central Groundwater Authority

These guidelines have been notified to regulate and control groundwater extraction. This step, taken by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, overrides the earlier set of rules which were in effect from November 2015.

Hydro-Meteorological Data Dissemination Policy, 2018 | November 2018| Ministry Of Water Resources

This policy provides details on access to hydro-meteorological data and pricing. It also provides list of river basins and concerned chief engineers of Central Water Commission (CWC).

Guidelines for sediment management in hydropower and water resources projects| September 2018| Central Water Commission

It details guidelines on planning of structures of hydropower projects on sediment management for sediment management in hydropower projects.

The Draft River Basin Management Bill, 2018| October 2018| Ministry of Water Resources

It proposes optimum development of inter-state rivers by facilitating inter-state coordination ensuring scientific planning of land and water resources.

Maharashtra Groundwater (Development and Management) Rules, 2018: Draft| July 2018| Government of Maharashtra

It suggests involving farmers in the panchayat in crop water budgeting for preparing groundwater use plan and crop plan.


Real time water quality monitoring system to be set up for Bellandur, Agara and Varthur lakes: NGT

The National Green Tribunal on December 6 ordered that no polluted waste will be discharged into the water bodies at Bengaluru—Bellandur lake, Agara lake and Varthur lake and encroachments from catchment areas removed.            

SC directs Delhi government to avert water crisis| July 2018| Supreme Court

Drawing attention to report of the Niti Aayog on ‘Composite Water Management Index’, the apex court directed Delhi Government to find out possible solutions to deal with the crisis and act.

Supreme Court approves Centre’s draft scheme for Cauvery water distribution| May 2018

The Supreme Court on May 17, 2018 approved the Centre’s draft Cauvery Management Scheme for smooth distribution of water among four southern riparian states.

NGT Refuses to vacate 2015 order against construction on Yamuna floodplains in Agra| October 2018

The National Green Tribunal has refused to vacate its 2015 order restraining construction and transfer of possession of flats on Yamuna floodplains in Agra after two builders sought lifting of the ban.

NGT directs states to act on river pollution | September 2018

On September 27, 2018, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed all states and Union territories to prepare action plans within two months. This was in response to the CPCB report on status of river pollution in India.

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