Assam is flooding and there is water scarcity in Mumbai and many places in Maharashtra. These are two extreme conditions that India suffers. Assam is critical affecting a population of nearly 43 lakhs in 33 of its 35 districts. Just air-dropping of food and other relief materials is not enough; the country needs disaster management in place. Such situations occur every year. People lose their lives, wealth and health but they still live with it and government has no solution to stop this.
The death count in the ongoing flood and landslides in Assam increased to 73 on Monday. The dead included two policemen, including an officer-in-charge of a police station in the Nagaon district that had gone to help marooned people but was swept away. Their bodies were fished out in the early hours of Monday. News anchors and media are displaying the utmost painful footage to garner TRP and government officials issuing statements but no one is talking about the lack of will or government failures.
Assam is reeling under devastating floods for the past week with 127 revenue circles and 5,137 villages affected in 33 districts, according to a bulletin of the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA). Nearly 1.90 lakh people have taken shelter in 744 relief camps. Relief materials have been distributed from 403 temporary centres to affected people who have not moved into the camps. The NDRF, SDRF, police and other agencies have evacuated about 30,000 people so far. In Kaziranga National Park (KNP) eight animals – seven hog deers and a leopard have died due to drowning and a vehicle hit. Forest officials have rescued ten others, including eight hog deers and a python.
India suffers from two extreme conditions; one is heavy and another is drought. At least 330m people are likely to be affected by acute shortages of water. As the subcontinent awaits the imminent arrival of the monsoon rains, bringing relief to those who have suffered the long, dry and exceptionally warm summer, the crisis affecting India’s water resources is high on the public agenda.
Monsoon has approached; the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) took stock of the current drinking situation and concluded that water can be supplied for around 160 days or five months from the seven lakes. BMC was on the verge of announcing a water cut as the overall water level in seven lakes was just 17%. However, by July 22, the water level had crossed 50%, followed by 60% on July 24 and 70% on July 28. Every year; Mumbai gets sufficient rainfall between July and August, which provides relief from any water shortage. Previously, BMC had to announce water cuts during the low rainfall season.
Also, in August 2022, water supplies in the city’s western and eastern suburbs were affected when BMC carried out repair work on one of its seven water reservoirs, which affected areas like Kurla, Andheri, Ghatkopar, Ram Mandir and Goregaon. The BMC supplies 3,850 million litres of water daily against the city’s demand for 4,200 million litres.
Bhatsa dam in Thane, which supplies 55% of the total annual water requirement of the city, has 45% water stock, which was at 42% last year. For Upper Vaitarna, the water level is 40% as of Monday. Last year at this time, the level stood at 53%. Middle Vaitarna has 41% of water stock as opposed to 23% last year.
The civic body supplies 3,850 million litres of water daily against the city’s demand for 4,200 million litres. In order to meet the shortfall, BMC has been exploring several ways to increase the water supply. Meanwhile, in June 2021, the civic body had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with an Israel-based firm for the city’s first desalination project at Manori in Malad, which is expected to be ready by 2025.
There is a need for an integrated approach, which addresses source sustainability, land use management, agricultural strategies, demand management and the distribution and pricing of water. With growing pressures because of climate change, migration and population growth, creativity and imagination, they needed governance to manage this precious resource.
India’s monsoon season lasts from June to September. It sees heavy rains, which refill the country’s water reservoirs and are vital for agriculture but cause immense destruction and loss of life. Dozens died in floods in India every year, particularly in the eastern states of Bihar and Assam, last month, with the inundation causing heavy losses to farms, homes, and infrastructure. All because of rising deforestation, poor urban planning, and increased urbanization reason behind the rise in the intensity of the floods. Unprecedented drought demands unconventional responses, and there have been some fairly unusual attempts to address this year’s shortage. The need to shift water on this scale sheds light on the key issue that makes water planning in the Indian subcontinent so challenging.