A troubling new study released this month by an Indian government think tank finds that 21 cities, including New Delhi, will run out of groundwater by 2020, and by 2030, about 40 percent of the population will have no access to clean drinking water.
Roughly 600 million Indians are facing high to extreme stress over water, the report said, and at least 200,000 people die every year because they do not have access to uncontaminated water. Experts say that rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns are part of the problem, and so are poor choices — crops that need a lot of water are being planted in unsuitable areas, waste is being dumped in canals, and buildings are going up over bodies of water.
The report warns that without enough water, conflicts will erupt and there will be a "significant food security risk." Already, India is fighting with China, Pakistan, and Bangladesh over sharing water from rivers that cross their borders, and people in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have died in protests over Cauvery River water. The focus needs to be on sustainability, water conservationist Rajendra Singh told Al Jazeera, not charging more for water, as some are suggesting. Catherine Garcia