26 thoughts on “India and water scarcity”

  1. This is the primary reason I tell my extended family and friends to get out of Pakistan when they can. Things are likely to become much, much uglier over the next few decades.

  2. Ali

    What’s the reason of this chronic water tanker issues in Karachi? Shouldn’t;t being a port city help? I remember in the 90s, India having that, but it has been overcome largely in the cities. In rural drought ridden areas there is still water tankers and water trains run there.

    If you ask me frankly i am not sure how much of this “water running out” is true and how much of this is alarmist. To give you an example, i have some folks in Chennai, and i have read number of news articles about how Chennai is running out of water and this is the end, and stuff. As much as i would like to believe this, my folks have not faced any issues.

    1. It’s also worth noting that most of the water (80-90%) is used for agricultural purposes. The agriculture sector and irrigation for it needs to be improved and made more efficient. Even more importantly, there needs to be laws in place (and enforcement) to ensure that people are not growing water intensive crops (or raising livestock) in drought prone areas. Water needs to be taxed, too, so farmers are incentivized to care about efficient water use.

      In a state like TN, there really shouldn’t be much of an agricultural sector, except for value-added / rare agricultural products with geographic indicators and such, which are important for the overall economy.

      I think desalination has a lot of potential if we’re able to figure out uses for the brine or sustainable ways to dispose of it. Simply pumping that back into the ocean is fine if you just have a handful of desalination plants for a city, but if it’s more of a large-scale plan, we need to figure out what to do with the brine.

      1. That’s a strange things to say. The Kaveri delta has been one of the prime agricultural areas of the subcontinent since, well, forever. The Cholas back in the early centuries after Christ had some pretty nifty techniques for damming and storing water (it isn’t known if they were in touch with the Romans.) In fact, water storage was pretty standard public service for the ruler throughout the peninsula.

        1. The Cholas back in the early centuries after Christ had some pretty nifty techniques for damming and storing water (it isn’t known if they were in touch with the Romans.) In fact, water storage was pretty standard public service for the ruler throughout the peninsula.

          Or learnt the techniques from the Sinhalese.
          Sinhalese have been building tanks/reservoirs since at the very least since recorded 300 BC. Indications that it was much older, done by pre Buddhist/Mahavamsa peoples.

          There are 30,000 all built before 11AD. Chola Pandyan invasions and Tamil Kings did not build reservoirs.

          The dry zone is about 2/3rd of SL. ie 40K km2. That is roughly 1 tank per sq km. Most if not all in use and over 1000 years old.

          A small below average reservoir/tank is about 1km x 500m. The larger ones over 5km wide.

          Many are fed by canals and cascade from one reservoir to another.


          hat this paper argues is still one conjecture but creates sound and good imagination of important relationship in terms of technological transfers from Sri Lanka to Japan via China. This author believes that there are plenty of circumstantial evidences but yet exists solid evidence to support this conjecture. However this area of studies is very much worth trying and investigating, then establishing the proof in order to connect this missing link of civilizations.

          1. sbarrkum, thanks for sharing.

            This is more evidence that Sri Lanka had an advanced culture and civilization pre Buddha.

            I need to read the Mahavamsa!

            I think the pre Buddha Sri Lankans were Arya!

        2. @Numinous

          1. Yes the Kaveri delta is fertile, but there are obviously many issues with sharing the Kaveri river. The demands for use upstream have made it challenging for farmers and others to secure water. I’d rather ease up on the agricultural use than go to war and conquer the Kannadigas (lol jk).

          2. South India in general has suffered from extensive droughts which have caused famines. South India is completely reliant on monsoon-fed rivers. I think it contributes to why it’s more urbanized than the North.

          There’s a book called Famine: As a Geographical Phenomenon which goes into great detail about pre-British famines in South India. It provides a chart on page 78 that summarizes some of the data they’ve gathered. Can’t copy+paste, but I’ll jot down what it says.

          1390-91 – Famine due to drought
          1396 – Famine due to drought
          1472 – Famine due to drought
          1540 – Famine due to drought
          1614 – Famine due to civil war
          1648 – Famine due to drought
          1659 – 1662 – Famine due to warfare and drought
          1677 – Famine due to flood
          1709-21 – Famine due to drought
          1733 – Famine due to neglect of irrigation works

          The book states:
          “Famine had long been a part of life in that part of southern India which became the Madras Presidency in the nineteenth century. The area has always been prey to natural disaster — drought, flood, tropical cyclone, insect infestations — and warfare between major kingdoms and empires was relatively common, particularly after 1400 AD. Although a complete account of the pre-European period of Indian history is nonexistent, the evidence suggests that a major famine took place every forty years (Dando 1980). What evidence we have from Madras Presidency suggests that from the twelfth century onwards, the incidence of famine may have been more frequent than this, but certainly nowhere near as often as in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

          From the twelfth century to the sixteenth century, the study area [South India] averaged two to three major famines each century. All of these can be attributed to natural causes, either drought or flood. We should note that the prevalence of famine in the Deccan in the late fourteenth century, and none of the Deccan famines (1412-13, 1423, and 1472) of the fifteenth century are included in this counting.”

      2. @Hoju

        This is very true. A lot of simple, low cost technological fixes exist for the agricultural sector (drip irrigation, more efficient rainwater capture etc) — they just need to be appropriately incentivized.
        The declining water table in the NW IS a huge problem and needs to be addressed ASAP. However, just like the runaway population explosion that wasn’t (TFR expected to hit replacement levels in the next few years) and the impending AIDS pandemic that wasn’t (late 90’s, early aughts), all the alarmism right now is a necessary prelude to action on the ground and could very well seem quaint to readers ten years down the line. Various government agencies have taken this up as a priority, but this is all within the context of present climactic conditions. Medium term climate change (especially if we go past 4 degrees warming) could make this the least of the subcontinent’s problems…

    2. There are water tankers in Bangalore, where I live. There were water tankers in Delhi, where I used to live.

      Every summer, before the monsoons, we get news items about water levels in the reservoirs reaching critically low states, the states getting lower each year. One of these years, we will hit Day Zero.

      And you must be kidding about Chennai. They’ve had water problems for 2 generations now. People were digging wells in their backyards when I used to visit back in the 90s. I imagine the water table’s gone a lot further down since then.

      1. Yes, grew up a bit in Delhi, as i said it this issues were ther in the 90s. Also we had “water timings” . But last time out didn’t have those. Bangalore i visit once a while , perhaps the areas i visited didnt have the issue. Even with Chennai as i said , i was expecting this issues, but somehow my folks have not faced it. Even i was a bit puzzled.

        Over the years i feel in the 90s somehow the water problems (with electricity problems) was much more acute. Don’t know what to make of it.

  3. I will not opine on the specifics of hydrology because it is well outside my wheelhouse.

    I will, however say that exporting sugar is basically exporting water. There are a lot of low-hanging fruit we can grab to help matters.

  4. Water problems are soluble (npi*) . We have the tools. We have the technology. Israel has already solved their water problems, and they will sell their technology and their expertise. They have even offered them to the Iranians.

    “How Israel swims against tide of worldwide water crisis: A visit to the country’s largest desalination and wastewater-treatment plants reveals smart technologies and policies to keep the water running.” By Abigail Klein Leichman on January 6, 2019

    “Israel’s groundbreaking water technology exported worldwide: A look at how JNF is helping Israel be at the forefront of revolutionizing how water is treated, and many countries are lapping up that knowledge” By Noa Amouyal on December 12, 2017

    “How Israel Is Solving the Global Water Crisis” by David Hazony

    “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World” by Seth M. Siegel

    Let There Be Water illustrates how Israel can serve as a model for the United States and countries everywhere by showing how to blunt the worst of the coming water calamities. Even with 60 percent of its country made of desert, Israel has not only solved its water problem; it also had an abundance of water. Israel even supplies water to its neighbors-the Palestinians and the Kingdom of Jordan-every day.

    * npi=no pun intended

  5. As long as monsoon holds, India should do fine. But the issues are:
    1. Poor situation of irrigation and watershed maintenance. Big multi-purpose hydro electric projects are great but the best bet is making sure all that monsoon rain reaches underground and raises ground water table.
    2. Potable water supply has phenomenal amount of losses due to poor infrastructure maintenance.
    3. Poor agriculture practices drawing lot of ground water and sending it out in evaporation. Greed for fish and prawn farms ruining the fresh water table at coastal locations.
    4. Land grabbing and built up areas in flood plains… all that water wasted as flood.
    India doesn’t need desalination technology if it maintains distributed water works.. but then, when did people ever follow steady, sensible and incremental solutions?

  6. Thanks for the WSJ link where we could see the city of Leh. It is very amazing for me and I am seeing this with mixed filings. It is amazing for me this time when my ancestors left Europe and Russia to reach unfriendly and waterless landscapes and heights of Kashmir, Tibet, Afghanistan, Pakistan. I mentioned yesterday that they left many toponyms over there. I mentioned yesterday Pakistani toponyms (Lahore, Miran Shah with Lor. of Arabia, Razmak, Mast, Baka, etc). I also mentioned Serbian toponyms in Kashmir – Ladakh, Shyok river, Drass Valley and river. Leh is not on my list (where are together with Tibet, Nepal) but I think that it is also Serbian because it is a common name among Slavics, especially Polish (eg. Leh Walesa). Shyok is the root of Serbian surnames – Šijok (or Šijak) i.e. Šijokovic.

  7. Milan Todorovic,

    You don’t add value here. You spread conspiracies, lies, and false claims.

    1. Says who?

      Can be more specific, what is the lie, what conspiracy, what is a false claim?

      Toponym information I presented were published in a book 140 years ago. I can provide you if you are interested. I already offered to researchers thousands of SA toponyms because none is currently studying them. They are still on offer. There are toponyms from Hindustan, Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asia, Tibet, China, Asia Minor, etc. If Aryans came to SA in large numbers and remained there, is it normal and expected that they left some toponyms? Do you know any Aryan toponym? There are for e.g. hundreds of toponyms identical to modern Serbian surnames (former tribes) or toponyms in Serbia. The most of them were taken from old colonial and medieval maps. I can provide you references for these maps if you or someone else is interested to research.

      What is conspiracy? What is a false claim? Please point one to discuss publicly. I am sorry If you don’t appreciate the value I am adding. You can just ignore my comments. If you are related to admins, please send me an email and I will make some conclusions accordingly. If my contributions simply do not fit in your paradigm (i.e. you are for e.g. oit or islamist or a former Serb) I feel sorry for you. In any case, if you want to say something or to discuss or to ask – just put arguments on the table.

      I can refer (and I often do) any fact which I presented here. I don’t know local geographies and I offer my toponyms for locals to check their truthfulness. Some of them were changed or localized but the most is unchanged from ancient times. If you find one made up toponym, please make it public. Depending on the further development I will present toponyms, for example, from Central Asia (or India) with references. They should be known to some BP readers and they can easily find a false claim and report this.

      As I said before, I write under my real name. What is your? I don’t mind if other use pseudonyms. I have a certain reputation among the people who know me. I would not be writing stupidities to blame them and myself.

      1. PS: Before I suggest the resolution of the previous baseless attack, just to say for those interested to research that previous mentioned toponyms are taken from the book with maps: British Empire in India, written by Swedish General Lieutenant Bjornstern – Russian translation, edited by Platon Vasilyevich Golubkov, Moscow 1847.

        In addition, BPs can discuss if really does exist something as ‘Aryan toponyms’? The fact is that sizeable number of people permanently migrated to SA. Have they named any toponym (river, mountain, gorge, city, bay…)? Why is this a taboo topic and none is researching this? Maybe because even a couple specific toponyms (out of thousands) would be enough to confirm their existence, to trace their origins and where they came from?

        Anyway, considering that I am sure that Brown_Pundit_Anonymous will not come again because he does not have any argument and considering that he is known by admins, I will right here stop contributing to BP until I receive an email from admins that the Anonymous is not affiliated with them (or one of them). All BP readers will be aware of the outcome. Thanks to all, including those who were in constant disagreement with me.

    2. Brown_Pundit_Man,

      Milan is very intelligent, knowledgeable and valuable. Milan, thanks for your contribution.

      Traditionally Hindus (or the “Arya” or noble ones) have believed that Yayati’s son Turvasu (ruler of the Yavanas) is an important contributor to their culture. Many ancient texts are believed to be Yavana influenced. One of the ancient texts on astrology is called “Yavana Jataka”.

      Yavana “MIGHT” be a reference to ancient Serbs. It is widely regarded by traditional scholars as a reference to ancient (pre 1000 BC or pre 4000 BC) Europeans.

      There is evidence of advanced Vinča civilization in Europe from 5700 BC. The Serbs regard this as their mother civilization.

      It is worth exploring how deep the similarities are between Vinča culture and Arya culture and Eastern philosophy.

  8. Maybe, South India can emulate Sri Lankas ancient (and still in use) water management systems

    The Cascaded Tank-Village System (CTVS) is described as a connected series of tanks organized within a micro-catchment of the dry zone landscape, storing, conveying and utilizing water from an ephemeral rivulet. It is an ancient, widely used and unique traditional agriculture system mainly found in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. The system has evolved over a period of nearly two millennia. It provides water for irrigation, domestic purposes, animals and ecosystems.

    The CTVS takes dominance over all other systems due to its expansive coverage, unique technology, sustainability, and resilience to natural disasters (such as droughts, epidemics, floods, cyclones, and external invasions), high biodiversity and many other beneficial characteristics. Indeed, this system has helped rural people in the dry zone of Sri Lanka to survive in isolation for several centuries of negligence due to unstable socio-political situations.



    To quote Edward Goldsmith The evidence from Sri Lanka, however, firmly refutes that argument: not only did villages run their own irrigation systems quite independently of the state but and this is critical they continued to do so even after the state effectively collapsed Instead, insists Tennent, the destruction and final abandonment of the tanks should be seen as the inevitable outcome of social decay and in particular, the disruption of the local communities by whom they were so long maintained. With that disruption came an end to that concord and union which Tennent held to be so critical to the running of the irrigation works. The consequences were undoubtedly disastrous

    1. Probably if rural areas were left alone, water management of older system would have been fine.

      But irrigation and water works departments got a lot of government push to build big dams, irrigation canals and check-dams.
      In the end most of the current crop of established politicians made money over irrigation projects of lining those canals and building those sub-par check-dams that failed with each 1 in 10 year flood and in the process disrupting any watershed management practices.
      Not to talk about “internal-relocation” money for the inundated villages due to backwaters of dams.

      Sometimes “modern” solutions to complex problems end up causing more complex problems.

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