India's Water Crisis is here & Entrepreneurs Need to Come Up with Solutions Quickly
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India might just be on the verge of a water crisis. In a wake up call, Chennai has gone 'dry' with the Central Water Commission reporting a rainfall deficit of 41 per cent in Tamil Nadu. Further adding to the blaring alarms was a weak northeast monsoon, due to which city’s four main reservoirs — Red Hills, Chembarambakkam, Cholavaram and Poondi have shrunk and dried up.
These resources contribute 60 per cent of Chennai’s water requirements. Not just one city or state but the entire nation is severely affected by water scarcity. A recent report by WaterAid states that India has the lowest access to clean drinking water with close to 163 million Indians suffering from this scarcity.
According to a recent study by government think tank NITI Aayog, nearly 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress, with about two lakh people dying each year because of inadequate access to safe water. The government data has suggested the average annual per capita water availability fell drastically between 2001 and 2011, from 1.8 million litres to 1.5 million litres.
The numbers are expected to further go down with only 1.3 million litres and 1.1 million litres of annual per capita water being available in the years 2025 and 2050 subsequently. Talking about the ‘composite water management index’ at the India International Centre, NITI Aayog’s special secretary, Yaduvendra Mathur also admitted that water conservation is a big challenge before the country.
The Extreme Crisis
Addressing the serious water concerns the nation is currently facing, the Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Shekhawat proposed promoted steps for water conservation and curbing extraction of underground water in the Rajya Sabha. Joining the discussion, other members suggested a slew of steps like river interlinking, a district-specific blueprint for water conservation.
It is needed to be addressed that we are facing a ‘national’ emergency and government alone can’t solve it. Luckily, many social enterprises and even the corporate giants have come forward to help the nation fight this battle. Tata Power recently introduced a new module on Water Conservation in the form of a nationwide movement, ‘Club Enerji’.
Intended at sensitizing the future citizens of India, the movement imparts knowledge and understanding of natural resources and energy conservation to the young minds of the nation. With a vision to transform by adopting a holistic and robust approach towards water and energy conservation, the module aims to educate young minds on the importance and methods of saving water & energy.
Along with educational support, the nation needs real-time solutions to conserve water. “The water crisis is deadly for Indian farmers because it endangers their livelihood. Moreover, traditional water conservation solutions, like concrete tanks, are unaffordable for them,” understands Maithili Appalwar, the CEO of Avana, a social initiative of Emmbi Industries Ltd for the conservation of water.
Avana has developed over 5000 affordable artificial ponds across Maharashtra and Rajasthan. “Our flagship offering, Jalasanchay, is an end-to-end water conservation solution that has saved over 200 billion litres of water and increased farm income by 98 per cent,” Appalwar shared. Their Perco+ has been used in multiple percolation tanks for increased groundwater availability.
Becoming of Saviours
Over the years, various social startups have developed solutions using emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence and more. This could be their moment to rise and save the country from an extreme water crisis. Entrepreneur lists startups that are leveraging technology to provide the much-needed water solutions to India.
AMRIT, Arsenic and Metal Removal by Indian Technology if extended, is a nanoparticle-based water technology that is making arsenic-free water a reality in India. The water purifier is in use in several places in West Bengal. The Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation is reportedly recommending its usage in all states that are affected by arsenic contamination.
Kheyti, a Hyderabad-based startup that provides technology solutions for small farmers by developing a “Greenhouse-in-a-box” – an affordable, modular greenhouse bundled with full stack services that use 90 per cent less water, grows 7 times more food and gives farmers a steady dependable income. The good thing, the model works regardless of any government subsidy.
WaterWalla, a cleantech startup works on a franchise business model where it helps entrepreneurs to establish micro-businesses that sell and distribute POU technologies from companies such as Bajaj, Eureka Forbes and TATA. On a mission to improve access to clean water for underserved communities worldwide, WaterWalla is a go-to platform for clean water entrepreneurs to scale their impact.
Vassar Labs, a Hyderabad-based startup offers technology-based solutions in crucial sectors such as agriculture, water management, education and smart city planning, using new-age technologies such as machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT). The platform enables its customers to gain real-time visibility into last mile processes and have actionable insights through decision support.
NextDrop, a startup that tackles the problem of water scarcity by tracking water supply for utilities. The Bangalore-based platform informs its users at what time water will be supplied in their area, if there are any delays, and most importantly if there is a cancellation by using basing mobile phone. Consumers can accordingly plan appropriately.