When did Water Scarcity Start in India?

Water scarcity has been a growing concern in India for several decades now. The country may seem blessed with its abundance of water resources, including rivers, ponds, and lakes, but the truth is that water scarcity has become a serious issue that affects millions of Indians. In this context, it is essential to explore the history of water scarcity in India and identify when this problem started to emerge. This will help us understand the root causes of the issue and come up with workable solutions to tackle it.

Understanding Water Scarcity

Water scarcity is a global problem, and India is no exception. But what is water scarcity, and how does it impact a nation? Water scarcity occurs when the demand for water exceeds the available supply. It is a complex problem that affects the quality of life, economic growth, and the environment. In India, water scarcity has been a persistent problem for decades. It has affected both rural and urban areas, and its impact is felt across sectors.

The Impact of Water Scarcity

Water scarcity has far-reaching consequences. It affects agriculture, household chores, and industry. When water is scarce, farmers cannot grow crops, and food production declines. In turn, this leads to food shortages and price hikes. Households suffer as well. Without water, people cannot cook, clean, or maintain hygiene. In urban areas, industries suffer. Without water, manufacturing units cannot function, and businesses suffer losses. Moreover, water scarcity leads to environmental degradation, affecting biodiversity, and ecosystem services.

Historical Context

India’s water scarcity problem did not start overnight. It is a problem that has been brewing for centuries. Historically, India has been an agrarian society, and water has been an essential resource for farmers. The country has a rich tradition of water management techniques, including rainwater harvesting, reservoirs, and tanks. However, with the advent of colonial rule, water management practices changed. The British introduced Western water management techniques that favored large-scale irrigation projects, dams, and canals. These projects were designed to increase agricultural productivity and meet the growing demand for food. But they had unintended consequences.

One key takeaway from this text is that water scarcity in India has been a persistent problem for decades and has far-reaching consequences, affecting agriculture, household chores, industry, and the environment. Historical and current policies have attempted to address this issue, but challenges such as depletion of groundwater resources and lack of proper water governance still need to be addressed.

The Green Revolution

In the 1960s, India embarked on what is known as the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution was a period of rapid agricultural growth fueled by the use of high-yielding crop varieties, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides. The Green Revolution was successful in increasing food production, but it came at a cost. The intensive use of water and chemicals led to soil degradation, water pollution, and depletion of groundwater resources. The Green Revolution also favored the cultivation of water-intensive crops like rice and wheat, leading to overexploitation of water resources.

Post-Independence Water Management Policies

After India gained independence in 1947, the government introduced several policies to address water scarcity. The first Five-Year Plan (1951–1956) focused on building irrigation infrastructure, including dams, canals, and tube wells. This policy was continued in subsequent plans, which saw the construction of large-scale irrigation projects like the Bhakra-Nangal Dam and the Indira Gandhi Canal. The government also introduced water pricing policies to encourage conservation and efficient use of water. However, these policies were not always effective in addressing water scarcity. The construction of large dams displaced millions of people and led to environmental degradation. Moreover, water pricing policies were often not enforced, and water theft was rampant.

Current Situation

Today, India is facing a severe water crisis. According to a report by NITI Aayog, a government think tank, 21 Indian cities will run out of groundwater by 2020. Moreover, 40% of India’s population will have no access to drinking water by 2030. The situation is particularly dire in rural areas, where farmers are facing acute water shortages. The government has introduced several policies to address the water crisis, including the National Water Policy 2012 and the Jal Shakti Abhiyan. The Jal Shakti Abhiyan is a government program that aims to raise awareness about water conservation and promote water harvesting. The government has also launched the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, a scheme to improve irrigation facilities in rural areas.


Despite these efforts, India’s water crisis is far from over. There are several challenges that the government must address to ensure water security. One of the biggest challenges is the depletion of groundwater resources. India is the largest user of groundwater in the world, and its aquifers are being depleted at an alarming rate. The government must promote sustainable groundwater management practices to ensure that aquifers are recharged and replenished.

Another challenge is the lack of proper water governance. Water is a state subject in India, and each state has its own water policies and regulations. This has led to a fragmented approach to water management, with different states competing for water resources. The government must adopt a more integrated approach to water governance and promote inter-state cooperation to address water scarcity.

FAQs for the topic: When did water scarcity start in India?

What is water scarcity?

Water scarcity is a condition where the demand for water exceeds the available quantity. It is a critical issue that threatens human health, food production, and economic development.

When did water scarcity start in India?

Water scarcity in India can be traced back to the early 20th century when the country started witnessing a significant increase in population growth. However, the problem escalated in the 1970s, with the Green Revolution, which introduced high-yielding crop varieties requiring more water.

What are the causes of water scarcity in India?

Water scarcity in India is mainly caused by overpopulation, rapid urbanization, and industrialization. Other factors such as climate change, inefficient use of water resources, poor water management practices, and inadequate infrastructure also contribute to the problem.

How severe is the water scarcity problem in India?

Water scarcity is a severe problem in many parts of India, affecting millions of people. According to the NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) report, 21 Indian cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, and Chennai, will run out of groundwater by 2020. Moreover, almost 600 million people are facing high to extreme water stress.

What are the impacts of water scarcity in India?

Water scarcity has significant impacts on the Indian economy, social development, and public health. It affects agricultural production, industrial growth, and energy generation. Moreover, it results in malnutrition, water-borne diseases, and poor hygiene practices, especially among the urban poor.

What measures are being taken to address the water scarcity problem in India?

The Indian government has initiated several measures to address the water scarcity problem in the country. These include water conservation programs, rainwater harvesting, and watershed management. The government is also promoting the use of water-efficient technologies and is planning to build more water storage infrastructure. Moreover, the government is trying to raise awareness among the people about the importance of preserving water resources and adopting sustainable water management practices.

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