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High risk of poor water quality in India’s river basins by 2050: UNESCO report

High risk of poor water quality in India’s river basins by 2050: UNESCO report


A new report released by UNESCO ahead of World Water Day on March 22 shows that the water crisis will be intensifying across India by 2050. Central India is staring at deepening water scarcity that means withdrawal of 40% of the renewable surface water resources.


  • More than half of our rivers are heavily polluted.
  • Contamination is a problem with groundwater resources also, which have been found to contain both metallic contamination and also contamination from improper disposal of human excreta.
  • The report relies on a study done by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis for its estimations in future scenarios.
  • There is growing evidence to show that because of dumping of faecal matter in the ground -- either because of open defecation or soak-pits toilets with improper disposal of faecal matter -- leads to contamination of groundwater aquifers with E-coli bacteria, according to experts.
  • Over 2 billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water but almost twice that number of people does not have access to safe sanitation. The demand for water is expected to increase by almost one-third by 2050 compared to 2010 levels.
  • China, India, United States, Russia and Pakistan are the largest consumers of water at present and they will continue to be top water guzzlers in 2050.
  • The water scarcity to population growth and climate change, which were not just fuelling water scarcity but also flooding in areas that are not historically flood-prone. According to the report, the number of people exposed to flood risk surged from 1.2 billion today to 1.6 billion in 2050, and assets valued at US $45 trillion will also be at risk.

The report recommends nature-based solution that mimic nature, citing the example of small-scale water harvesting structure in Rajasthan that quenched the water demand of 1,000 villages.