More than six decades after independence, India’s urban water quality is worse than before. Admittedly, the population has grown tremendously. Equally, agricultural and industrial activities and the levels of urbanization were not issues to consider. However, even though population of the country is well over one billion at present and industrial activities and urbanization have increased very significantly during the post-independent period, the country’s economic development has also accelerated substantially, as also have its knowledge, experience and technology. At present, there is absolutely not a single good reason as to why the urban population of India cannot have access to clean water which can be drunk without treatment from the taps, wastewater cannot be property treated before being discharged to the rivers, and monsoon rains cannot be promptly drained so transportation systems are not paralyzed. The problems have been known for centuries, solutions have been known for at least five decades, and financial and management needs can be successfully met. Yet, the problems continue to persist. Analysis of the current situations and trends indicate that there is no realistic possibility that the problems will be solved during the next 30 years in any meaningful way for the most of urban India. The question thus arises why it has not been possible for India to solve its urban water problems.
By Asit K. Biswas, 2010. An invited contribution. GIST Convention and exhibition on Scientific and Technological Approaches for Sustainable Use of Water Resources, Pune, India, 2010.