Water Scarcity in Mumbai: Assessment of Issues and Proposed Strategies
Today, the world is facing many problems among which water scarcity is the biggest problem faced by many countries. Though India has not being listed among the world ‘s top 10 water scarce countries, India may face water scarcity in future due to increasing population, pollution and climate change. Many villages in India are rated as water deficit areas. Not only the villages but the cities are also facing water scarcity. 2015 was the year when Maharashtra received less rain fall and faced high evaporation rate due to high temperature. The condition leads to drought and water scarcity in many rural and urban areas in Maharashtra. Mumbai is one of the cities affected in Maharashtra. The paucity of rainfall and the high evaporation rate owing to very high temperature led to water buts in Mumbai.
The objective of this paper is to analyze the various causes of water scarcity in Mumbai and the methods adopted to deal with the same. The paper attempts to provide some concrete suggestions to tackle with the problem of water scarcity at regional as well as personal level. Water is lifeline for all ecosystems. And it is true, “Life can possible without oxygen but not without water”. Every creature on the earth requires water for survival. But today the world is facing water scarcity which involves water shortage, water stress and water crisis.
- Water shortage is unavailability of water due to many reasons like climate change, such as altered weather-patterns (including droughts or floods), increased pollution, and increased human demand and overuse of water.
- Water crisis labels a situation where the available potable, unpolluted water within a region is less than that region’s demand. It affects every continent and more than 1.2 billion people lack access to clean drinking water.
- Water stress relatively new concept which means difficulty in obtaining sources of fresh water for use during a period of time. It may result in further depletion and deterioration of available water resources. 
- Water scarcity can result from two mechanisms:
- Physical (absolute) water scarcity results from inadequate natural water resources to supply a region’s demand.
- Economic water scarcity results from poor management of the sufficient available water resources.
To overcome problem of water scarcity is the biggest challenge which world is facing today. Many countries including India is struggling to cop up with water scarcity. Though India has not been listed among the world’s top 10 water scarce country, India may get listed as water scarce country in future due to increase in population, pollution and climate change. Many cities and villages of India are facing water scarcity and Mumbai is one of them.
“Mumbai is the city of dreams which never sleeps” well describes life in Mumbai and why it attracts many people around the world. After the 19th century Mumbai became the land of Industries like textile, chemicals, vehicles, electronics, paper making etc. it started evolving as financial Centre of India and became the hub of many National and private banks. This results in increase in job opportunities and labors demands in Mumbai city. Many people migrated to Mumbai for job and settled in the city. Increase in population and expansion of the city occurred due to migration towards Mumbai. This expanding city is facing many problems like housing, overcrowding, unemployment, slums, pollution, solid waste management, transportation and water scarcity etc. Among these water is one of the basic necessities and we required it daily and many strategies are adopted to deal with water scarcity in Mumbai city.
Sources of Drinking water in Mumbai
Modak Sagar, Tansa, Tulsi, Vihar, Middle Vaitarna, Upper Vaitarna and Bhatsa lake are the 7 lakes which supply water to Mumbai city. Out of 7 lakes only 2 lakes are located in Mumbai and other 5 lakes are located in neighboring Thane district. Total demand for water in Mumbai city is 4200 million liters per day while only 3500 million liters of water being supplied to city every day.
Causes of Water Scarcity in Mumbai
- Population: Growing population is the cause root of all the environmental problems. Mumbai is also burdened by growing populations resulting in increased water demand. As per provisional reports of Census India, population of Mumbai in 2011 is 12,442,373. And it is predicted that it can exceed 20.7 million by 2016.
- Pollution: Growing population demands leads to expansion of Mumbai city. Sub- urban area of Mumbai used to be lavish green now have been converted in concrete jungles. Developments, constructions, transportation facilities and increase in vehicle numbers increase the pollution in Mumbai. Water pollution has reduced the available water resources. There are five rivers in Mumbai and all the rivers are highly polluted. Mumbai even has ground water resource which is also polluted by sewage and industrial effluents. BMC & Government of Maharashtra have banned the use of water from wells and ponds in Mumbai.
- Uneven distribution & Wastage of Water: According to Indian Standard Code of Basic requirement for water supply, drainage & sanitation Only 150 to 200 liters per head per day water is allowed; out of which 45 liters per head per day may be taken for flushing requirements and the remaining quantity for the other domestic purpose.  Indian Water Standard has allowed only 150 liters per person per day though in many areas water consumption is exceeded to 400 liters per person. Newspapers have reported about the disparity in water cut in suburbs and South Mumbai. Pipelines are leaked and more water is being wasted due to leakage problem in slums. People are very careless while using the water and keep on wasting drinking water. Many Societies in Mumbai are accepting the fact that many a time society members forgot to close the tap properly which causes water wastage.
- Water Theft: This is one of the major problem contributing in Mumbai water scarcity. Slumlords and unsocial elements are involved in this. There were many complaints filed by the citizens about illegal access to the water given to the slums and the tax payer are facing water scarcity..
- Climate change: The climate of Mumbai is a tropical wet and dry. Mumbai’s climate can be best described as moderately hot with high level of humidity. Since 2005 when Mumbai faced the biggest water logging problem due to unusual heavy rainfall, the climate change impacts were becoming more visible. Unusual heavy rainfall followed by rise in temperature and shifting of seasons. Temperature in Mumbai region is increasing due to fast urbanization, industrialization and pollution. Due to global warming, climate change rainfall pattern in Mumbai is changing and due to increase temperature evaporation rate is also fast. This affects the water stored in lakes which supply water to Mumbai. In summer Mumbai face water cut off up to 20 to 30 % because of less rainfall and high evaporation rate. Due to which Mumbai face water stress.
- Limited percolation Area: Ground water storage is comparatively limited in Mumbai. Mumbai city doesn’t have more percolation area is concretized which doesn’t allow water percolation. Even though Mumbai receives high rainfall, it can’t store the water due to unavailability of catchment and percolation area.
- Strategies to Deal with Water Scarcity in Mumbai
- Awareness Campaign: Mumbai is facing water scarcity and it can be controlled by creating awareness among the citizens. Government and NGOs are taking effort to reach maximum citizens and make them aware about the facts about water shortage. Flashing advertisements on TV, Radio, newspapers about water scarcity help to awaken the civic sense of citizens which can help to conserve water.
- Rainwater Harvesting: As Mumbai doesn’t have catchment area, Government is promoting Rainwater Harvesting in Mumbai. Mumbai gets heavy rainfall and all the water became waste when it flow to drainage. Society roofs can be used as catchment area and this water can be stored underground and also can be used to increase Ground water level if proper percolation area is available. The state government has made rainwater harvesting mandatory for all buildings that are being constructed on plots that are more than 1,000 sq m in size. The deadline set for this was October, 2002. New constructions and redeveloped projects will have to follow the norm. In 2007, the BMC had made it mandatory for new buildings above 300 square meters of plot area to install rainwater harvesting system. Between June 2007 and December 2015, 1,848 new buildings have got the systems on their premises. But according to BMC estimates, at least 5,000 new constructions were approved during the same period. It means only 36% of the new buildings have followed the norms. But the only problem is that the civic body has no mechanism to find out how many of the 1,848 buildings (residential/commercial) actually use the rainwater harvesting system.
- Eco-restoration of water reservoirs: Water reservoirs like ponds, lakes and rivers of Mumbai are highly polluted and so can’t use their water for domestic purposes. Mumbai has 5 rivers out of which 4 are highly polluted and now they are only known as ‘Nallas’. Cleaning of these ponds and rivers are not just sufficient but they need to be ecologically restored so that these can be utilized as the fresh water resource. Many NGOs have taken initiatives in cleaning and restoring the lakes and ponds in their areas. The survey was conducted during September and October, 2008 and March, 2009. The study considers only the fresh water lakes which were accessible and saline water impoundments have not been considered. A total of 129 sites were identified as potential lakes. All these lakes are used for ‘Ganesh Visarjan’ during ‘Ganapati Festival’ in Mumbai. Government supported the activity of restoration in 2009-2010 & chosen 6 lakes for action in Phase I. restoration is long process and takes 5-10 years depending upon the water body and its pollution level. Even citizens should take initiative in this project by not dumping household waste and other garbage in these water bodies.
- Citizen’s Action and Civic Sense: This is the time for citizens to take action at individual level to reduce water wastage and water pollution. Children always follows the elder members in family so now its duty of family member to induce civic sense in children and make them great citizens. Every day we require water for Bathing: 55 liters, Toilet flushing: 30 liters, Washing of clothes: 20 liters, Washing the house: 10 liters, Washing utensils: 10 liters Cooking: 5 liters, Drinking: 5 liters. If each citizen will stick to these requirement and use water in prescribe quantity water wastage can be reduced. Many people throw the store water considering it get old and stale which is a myth. Even maximum water is being wasted during festival like ‘Dahi Handi’ & ‘Holi’. Citizens themselves are taking initiatives in creating awareness and give a call for conserving the water. This awakening call is taken by many citizens and followed during the festival and day to day life.
- Strict actions against illegal water supply and water theft should be taken by the BMC. Citizens should support BMC by reporting such cases to them and cooperate in their action plan.
It is very important to save existing water bodies and conserve water. Government is promoting water conservation and adopted many methods to deal with water scarcity in Mumbai. But to deal with water scarcity is being difficult task with increase in population and its requirements of water. Indian has also taken steps to deal with climate change and its impacts on rainfall and rise in temperature. It is our prime duty to support these policies by adopting at personal level and contributing in it. We should use our civic sense to deal with water scarcity. Government and citizen’s action unanimously can overcome the problems of water scarcity in Mumbai.
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