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The Editorial Analysis: Water Management Needs a Hydro-Social Approach


Hydro-Social Approach: Relevance

  • GS 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Water crisis in India: Context

  • Global Water System Project embodies global concern about the human-induced transformation of fresh water and its impact on the earth system and society.

संपादकीय विश्लेषण: जल प्रबंधन को एक जल-सामाजिक दृष्टिकोण की आवश्यकता है

Depleting freshwater resources in India

  • Freshwater resources are under stress due to various human activities.
  • If present practice continues, the gap between demand for and supply of fresh water may reach up to 40% by 2030.
  • 2030 Water Resource Group in 2008 also recognises this problem and help achieve the SDG 6.
  • The latest UN World Water Development Report, 2021, titled ‘Valuing Water’, has laid stress on the proper valuation of water by considering five interrelated perspectives
    • water sources;
    • water infrastructure;
    • water services;
    • water as an input to production;
    • socio-economic development, and sociocultural values of water.
  • In this context, a hydro-social cycle approach provides an appropriate framework.


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What is a hydro-social cycle?

  • Hydro-social cycle repositions the natural hydrological cycle in a human-nature interactive structure and considers water and society as part of a historical and relational-dialectical process.


Freshwater issues

  • Inter-basin transfer projects
    • Human intervention has influenced the freshwater systems through irrigation, river channel engineering and land use change, change in aquatic habitat.
    • The intra- and inter-basin transfer (IBT) of water is a major hydrological intervention to rectify the imbalance in water availability due to naturally prevailing unequal distribution of water resources within a given territory.
    • There are several IBT initiatives across the world.
    • The National River Linking Project of India is one of those under construction.
    • These projects, if executed, will create artificial water courses that are more than twice the length of the earth’s equator.
  • Budget 2022 mentions the Ken Betwa River link project.
    • This decision raises larger questions about hydrological assumptions and the use and the management of freshwater resources in the country.
  • The agriculture sector uses around 90% of total water use in India. And in industrial plants, consumption is 2 times to 3.5 times higher per unit of production of similar plants in other countries.
  • The discharge of untreated grey water and industrial effluents into freshwater bodies is cause for concern.
    • It is estimated that 55% to 75% of domestic water use turns into grey water.
  • Apart from the inefficient use of water in all sectors, there is also a reduction in natural storage capacity and deterioration in catchment efficiency.


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Water crisis in India: Way forward

  • It is important to include less predictable variables, revise binary ways of thinking of ‘either or’, and involve non-state actors in decision-making processes.
  • A hybrid water management system is necessary that includes individual, community and society with definite roles in the value chain.
  • The challenge is not to be techno-centric but anthropogenic.


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