water crisis


Looking at the water quality spat through a critical lens.

The quality of tap water was found to be the worst in the national capital. Union Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, on Saturday, released the much-awaited report of the study of samples of drinking water taken from 20 states across the country, including Delhi. However, Mumbai topped the ranking released by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for quality of tap water. Delhi finished at the bottom, with 11 out of 11 samples failing on 19 parameters out of 28.

Even as the political discourse on this matter bubbles and boils, a trade organisation of Reverse Osmosis (RO) purifier makers has knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court against a ban on the use of RO filters in several parts of Delhi. The Water Quality India Association has moved the Supreme Court against a ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on the use of RO filters in Delhi as they “unnecessarily result in rejecting 80 percent of potable water”. The NGT in its order on 20th May had directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests to frame rules for manufacturing and sale of RO filters, and banned the use of RO in areas where the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in water was already low.

City water systems are typically required to comply with the national standard for drinking water IS 10500:2012, but most obviously feel no compulsion in doing so. The lack of motivation, or initiative exhibited by them can be attributed to various factors such as the expanding reach of packaged drinking or mineral water in populous urban cities as well as the high dependence on groundwater, where the State provision of piped water systems does not exist. Moreover, most residents in urban areas do vastly rely on the water purification installation in their homes for this purpose.

On paper, the pipe water has to pass many tests such as absence of viruses, parasites, microscopic organisms and toxic substances. In practise, the lack of accountability of official agencies, lack of quality testing and the absence of legitimate data on the matter, have resulted in these specifications being far from realised.

Making it legally binding on agencies to achieve standards and empowering consumers with rights is the need of the hour, since this would not only address the issue of water quality in both urban and rural centres, it would also allow the State governments to look at four important health verticals – housing, water supply, sanitation and waste management, in a holistic manner.

Moreover, a scientific approach to water management is crucial keeping in mind that 21 cities of urban India – including many having unfit tap water – could run out of groundwater as early as 2020, as per a report by the NITI Aayog.


Featured Image Credits: Mir Suhail for News18


Bhavya Pandey 

[email protected] 

Indian political discourse manages to stay off climate change. Read on to find out the reasons and implications of this ignorance. 

In India, there is a water crisis in several states. Case in point: Chennai. We are a leading country in population, and have leading cities in pollution- to the effect that being a non-smoker in Delhi is no longer possible, as we all breathe in toxic fumes. Ghaziapur garbage dump is as tall as Qutub Minar, among other dumps in Kolkata, Mumbai, and Chennai. One-third of Himalayan ice caps will not survive this effect of climate change; the melting of glaciers has doubled in the last two decades. It will only increase in some time. There is close to no rain in Delhi, but the regular floods in Mumbai, Assam, and Bihar are not unheard of. 

Despite the deteriorating situations, climate change and environmental policies were still not a priority during the elections. Jobs, corruption, and security have always remained popular ideas in the country’s political discourse. This sadly reflects on what the voter-base wants to hear, and shows that we still have a long way to go. Among various reasons for this ignorance, poverty and illiteracy become major factors. For a starving family of unemployed seven or eight people, living in a makeshift tent under a flyover, a square meal will be more important. But who will be affected immediately, and to the worst effect in this situation of climate change? The majority of our population includes people with no homes, who barely make their ends meet, and they will all face the brunt of this (ignorance) the most.

The image of mother, or Maa in Hindi, is highly glorified. The mother, who is called the backbone of the family—in line with the pedestalised notions of motherhood—is only talked about when there is a need to evoke a sense of nationalism or to emphasise the proverbial self-sacrificing nature of women. But between the loud traffic and noises blaring on news channels, all the screaming voices in our country hardly say anything for our ‘Mother’ Earth. 

The crux of the matter is that India needs more environmental policies and laws to be enacted and strictly enforced. Class twelfth Political Science books talk about how after the British drained our resources, it took several years for us to realise the problem, and only much later were we able to rectify them—we are heading down this path again. It is not the time to convince people if climate change is real, because it is. 

The Ministry of Environment and Forests needs to be seen as the highest profile allotted in any cabinet. Simply because currently, environmental issues are not the focus point; our existing policies do not suffice and many of our policies allow industrialists to cut down trees in bulk, and we are ill-equipped to manage any natural disasters. 

Recently, the Garbage Café in Chhattisgarh has acknowledged an important concern. It will open next month, and take certain kilograms of garbage to provide food to people. This café will open in Ambikapur, India’s second cleanest city. A similar story was heard about a school in Assam, which provides schooling to children in exchange of plastic waste. Another revolutionary idea was the Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals having been made from 80,000 tonnes of recycled electronics and mobiles. 

Theories on the world ending in 2012 gained a lot of traction, but scientists telling us how to protect this Earth—an act for which we pointedly have time till 2030—is yet to make as big of an impact as a movie. These ideas that have been proposed are unique solutions to fighting multiple problems together. But they are yet to gain the social mileage that they deserve. The Indian political discourse needs to change and reflect today’s problems to fight the real enemy. 

Feature Image Credits: MIT Technology Review

Shivani Dadhwal

[email protected]