New Delhi: Delhi, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Amritsar and 26 other Indian cities could face a very high water risk in the next few decades according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature’s Water Risk Filter released on Monday. WWF’s new water risk scenarios estimate that hundreds of millions of people in cities across the globe could face dramatically increased water risks – unless urgent action is taken to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
The filter is a tool to various risks including physical scarcity of water due to say aridity; water depletion; pollution etc, fragmentation of river ecosystems; projections for flooding, regulatory and policy risks, climate change etc. Overall, the entire India is at high risk due to various factors as per the assessment’s mapping. By 2050, many parts of India including north, west and peninsular India are likely to experience extreme water risk.
WWF Water Risk Filter’s country profile for India states that major environmental problems like deforestation; soil erosion; overgrazing; desertification; air pollution from industrial effluents and vehicle emissions; water pollution from raw sewage and runoff of agricultural pesticides impact water quality in India.
Sejal Worah, Programme Director, WWF India, said “The future of India’s environment lies in its cities. As India rapidly urbanises, cities will be at the forefront both for India’s growth and for sustainability. For cities to break away from the current vicious loop of flooding and water scarcity, nature-based solutions like restoration of urban watersheds and wetlands could offer solutions. This is our chance to re-evolve and re-imagine what the future of the cities could be.”
“Although in their upper reaches most rivers are of good quality, the importance of water use for cities, agriculture and industries, and the lack of wastewater treatment plants in the middle and lower reaches of most rivers, cause a major degradation of surface water quality,” the country profile states.
According to the scenarios in the WWF Water Risk Filter, 100 cities that are expected to suffer the greatest rise in water risk by 2050 are home to at least 350 million people as well as nationally and globally important economies. Populations in areas of high-water risk could rise from 17% in 2020 to 51% by 2050. China accounts for almost half of the cities at high water risk. Beijing, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Mecca and Rio de Janeiro are also in the list.
“Indian cities are at very high water risk because in the landscape planning high rises and industries but there is no holistic planning. Ecological factors are not properly considered during city planning. So the water catchments and flow lines change due to urbanisation. There is a very fragile equilibrium which has to be maintained. This is particularly true for new cities that are coming up with little planning,” said Shashank Shekhar, assistant professor, department of geology, Delhi University.