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What will Modi’s second term mean for the Indian water crisis?

Urban water Fresh water Water security Water India

India faces dangerous levels of water scarcity. Groundwater, which accounts for 40 per cent of the water used in India, is being exploited at a dangerously unsustainable rate, while surface water resources are often too polluted to be used for drinking or agriculture. While climate change is sometimes blamed as the main cause of the water crisis, India’s current situation is due more to mismanagement, weak governance and agricultural policies that encourage heavy water use. Successive Indian governments have failed to address the country’s increasingly scarce and polluted water and Narendra Modi’s government has been equally inadequate in tackling the water crisis. In the early months of his second term, Modi has created a new ministry to deal with water-related issues and has announced plans to provide piped water to every Indian household. Although Modi has promised to make water a priority during his second term, there has been no budgetary increase to support this promise, and the government’s latest water-related programmes have failed to address the root causes of the water crisis. With Modi’s re-election, it seems likely that little will change and the Indian water crisis will continue in the near- to medium-term, at least.

Key points:

  • India faces a major water crisis; it is already water scarce and will become even more so without major intervention.
  • The crisis is largely due to years of mismanagement, fragmented governance frameworks and contradictory policy.
  • The Modi government failed to enact policies that would ease the water crisis in its first term and in some cases made the situation worse.
  • Modi’s second term is not likely to be much better than his first as his administration seems set to continue ignoring the root causes of the crisis, despite promising to make water a second term priority.
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