Chapter 3 - You already know that three-fourth of the...

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You already know that three-fourth of the earth’s surface is covered with water, but only a small proportion of it accounts for freshwater that can be put to use. This freshwater is mainly obtained from surface run off and ground water that is continually being renewed and recharged through the hydrological cycle. All water moves within the hydrological cycle ensuring that water is a renewable resource. You might wonder that if three-fourth of the world is covered with water and water is a renewable resource, then how is it that countries and regions around the globe suffer from water scarcity? Why is it predicted that by 2025, nearly two billion people will live in absolute water scarcity? Water: Some facts and figures • 96.5 per cent of the total volume of world’s water is estimated to exist as oceans and only 2.5 per cent as freshwater. Nearly 70 per cent of this freshwater occurs as ice sheets and glaciers in Antarctica, Greenland and the mountainous regions of the world, while a little less than 30 per cent is stored as groundwater in the world’s aquifers. • India receives nearly 4 per cent of the global precipitation and ranks 133 in the world in terms of water availability per person per annum. • The total renewable water resources of India are estimated at 1,897 sq km per annum.
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24 C ONTEMPORARY I NDIA – II associate it with regions having low rainfall or those that are drought prone. We instantaneously visualise the deserts of Rajasthan and women balancing many matkas ’ (earthen pots) used for collecting and storing water and travelling long distances to get water. True, the availability of water resources varies over space and time, mainly due to the variations in seasonal and annual precipitation, but water scarcity in most cases is caused by over- exploitation, excessive use and unequal access to water among different social groups. Fig. 3.1: Water Scarcity • By 2025, it is predicted that large parts of India will join countries or regions having absolute water scarcity. Source: The UN World Water Development Report, 2003 W ATER S CARCITY AND THE N EED FOR W ATER C ONSERVATION AND M ANAGEMENT Given the abundance and renewability of water, it is difficult to imagine that we may suffer from water scarcity. The moment we speak of water shortages, we immediately Water, Water Everywhere, not a drop to drink: After a heavy downpour, a boy collects drinking water in Kolkata. Life in the city and its adjacent districts was paralysed as incessant overnight rain, meaning a record 180 mm, flooded vast area and disruted traffic. A Kashmiri earthquake survivor carries water in the snow in a devastated village.
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25 W ATER R ESOURCES requirements but have further aggravated the problem. If you look into the housing societies or colonies in the cities, you would find that most of these have their own groundwater pumping devices to meet their water needs. Not surprisingly, we find that fragile water resources are being over- exploited and have caused their depletion in several of these cities.
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Chapter 3 - You already know that three-fourth of the...

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