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Thirsty Giant: India's growing water crisis (NYT special)

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In Teeming India, Water Crisis Means Dry Pipes and Foul Sludge

Somini Sengupta, New York Times
Conflicts over water mirror the most vexing changes facing India: the competing demands of urban and rural areas, the stubborn divide between rich and poor, and the balance between the needs of a thriving economy and a fragile environment.

New Delhi’s water woes are typical of those of many Indian cities. Nationwide, the urban water distribution network is in such disrepair that no city can provide water from the public tap for more than a few hours a day.

An even bigger problem than demand is disposal. New Delhi can neither quench its thirst, nor adequately get rid of the ever bigger heaps of sewage that it produces. Some 45 percent of the population is not connected to the public sewerage system.
(28 Sept 2006)

India Digs Deeper, but Wells Are Drying Up

Somini Sengupta, New York Times
If groundwater can be thought of as a nation’s savings account for dry, desperate drought years, then India, which has more than its share of them, is rapidly exhausting its reserve. That situation is true in a growing number of states.

Indian surveyors have divided the country into 5,723 geographic blocks. More than 1,000 are considered either overexploited, meaning more water is drawn on average than is replenished by rain, or critical, meaning they are dangerously close to it.

Twenty years ago, according to the Central Groundwater Board, only 250 blocks fell into those categories.
(29 Sept 2006)

Often Parched, India Struggles to Tap the Monsoon

Somini Sengupta, New York Times
India’s average annual rainfall rate hovers at an abundant 46 inches, as much as Ireland’s. Yet growing water scarcity threatens both farms and cities. With the population hitting 1.1 billion, the amount of water available to each Indian is roughly the same as the amount available to the average Sudanese, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

India’s rains tend to come in short, furious bursts, meaning that much of that water escapes as untapped potential, washing into the sea and wreaking havoc on the fragile villages and flourishing cities that stand in its way.

India is likely to become even more vulnerable, environmentalists warn. Global climate change threatens to make weather patterns even more erratic. Steadily shrinking Himalayan glaciers will inexorably melt and rush down the flood plains.
(1 Oct 2006)
Great series of articles. See the originals for links to related video presentations. -AF

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