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Water

A government report released on Thursday said that India was experiencing the worst water crisis in its history, threatening millions of lives and livelihoods. Some 600 million Indians, about half the population, face high to extreme water scarcity conditions, with about 200,000 dying every year from inadequate access to safe water, according to the report. By 2030, it said, the country’s demand for water is likely to be twice the available supply.
- Maria Abi-Habib and Hari Kumar, Deadly Tensions Rise as India’s Water Supply Runs Dangerously Low, NYT, June 17, 2018


The future is ominous for India’s 1.3 billion people. By 2050, the World Bank estimates, erratic rainfall, combined with rising temperatures, stand to “depress the living standards of nearly half the country’s population.” ...
Water is so precious that the women of his family said they drank half a cup if they wanted a whole one. ...
Every day, four government trucks came down the muddy lane to fill the village water tank, which met a fraction of what the village needs. Most people bought drinking water from far away. ...
Since 1950, annual rainfall has declined by 15 percent across Marathwada.... ...
But here’s what’s shocking. Also during that same period, Marathwada, along with the rest of India, has seen a boom in the production of one of thirstiest crops on earth: sugar cane.

Down the road from Mr. Mohammed’s village, on land that gets water from an upstream dam, farmers had planted acres and acres with sugar cane. Why? Because sugar mills had sprung up across the state, some owned by politicians and their friends. They were ready to pay handsomely for cane.

Bizarrely, the taxpayers of India, one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, have aided sugar producers handsomely. The government subsidizes electricity, encouraging farmers to pump groundwater for their sugarcane fields, as well as fertilizers, which are used in vast quantities for sugar. State-owned banks offer cheap loans, which are sometimes written off, especially when politicians are courting farmers’ votes. This year, the government has approved nearly $880 million in export subsidies for sugar mills.

With all those perks, sugar cane production has grown faster than any other crop since independence from British rule in 1947, making India the world’s biggest sugar producer, according to an analysis by Ramanan Laxminarayan, a researcher at the Princeton Environmental Institute. Three-fourths of irrigated sugar cane production takes place in areas under “extremely high water stress,” the World Resources Institute found.
- Bryan Denton and Somini Sengupta, India’s Ominous Future: Too Little Water, or Far Too Much, NYT, Nov. 25, 2019


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