Thursday, 28 November 2019

India’s ominous future: too little water, or far too much

The monsoon is central to Indian life and lore. It shapes the fortunes of millions of farmers who rely on the rains to nourish their fields. It governs what you eat. 
  • Climate change is now messing with the monsoon, making seasonal rains more intense and less predictable. Decades of short-sighted government policies are leaving millions of Indians defenseless in the age of climate disruptions, especially the poor.
  • The lakes that once held the rains in the bursting city of Bangalore are clogged with plastic and sewage. 
  • The rains are more erratic today. Extreme rainfall is more common and more extreme. The number of days with very heavy rains has increased, with longer dry spells in between. Less common are the sure and steady rains that can reliably penetrate the soil. This is ruinous for a country that gets the vast share of its water from the clouds.
  • Global warming has destroyed the concept of the monsoon. 
  • India’s insurance policy against droughts, the Himalayas, is at risk, too. The majestic mountains are projected to lose a third of their ice by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at their current pace.
  • Climate change isn’t the only culprit to blame for India’s water woes. Decades of greed and mismanagement are far more culpable. The lush forests that help to hold the rains continue to be cleared. Developers are given the green light to pave over creeks and lakes. Government subsidies encourage the over-extraction of groundwater. Groundwater is drawn faster than nature can replenish it.
  • By 2050, the World Bank estimates, erratic rainfall, combined with rising temperatures, stand to “depress the living standards of nearly half the country’s population.”
  • Since 1950, annual rainfall has declined by 15% in Marathwada. In that same period, cloudbursts have shot up threefold. But during that same period, Marathwada, along with the rest of India, has seen a boom in the production of one of thirstiest crops on earth: sugar cane.
  • In India, one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, the government subsidizes electricity, encouraging farmers to pump groundwater for their fields, as well as fertilizers, which are used in vast quantities. State-owned banks offer cheap loans, which are sometimes written off.

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