Water Ignorance

The design classes (LA301, LA302) in the last two quarters have explored many dimensions of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and its watershed. The extensive research and detailed analysis of several issues faced by the LA aqueduct have been very beneficial to understand water, water needs and water supply. We studied various cases throughout the last two quarters and also got the opportunity to actually visit the Owens Valley region and get to know the tension caused by the diversion of water into the LA Aqueduct. I strongly believe that water is one of the main resources to contribute to a nation’s well being and development. The main reason I decided to come to the United States and pursue a degree in Landscape Architecture, was to learn advanced techniques and possible design solutions to the upcoming hurdles related to landscapes and water  systems. Since the last two quarters, I have been gaining more and more knowledge about aqueduct systems, and the grave problem of water shortage in the future. I have been able to develop a better understanding of such issues and feel the need to explore other water systems and issues faced by different countries.

I was able to do a  short research on the water situation and water systems in India and the information gathered was very surprising and shocking. There are a number of challenges that are faced by India today: the increase in population that could be anywhere between 1.4 and 1.65 billion in 2050. Food grain demand could go up to 450 million tons per year. The per capita water demand will increase for industries and cities almost on a daily basis and power demands will be three to four times of what they are today. Pollution, climate change, droughts and floods will get more destructive and get more frequent at unusual places and unusual times. India has the largest irrigation infrastructure in the world, and yet performance-wise ranked as one of the poorest in the world. The clearest sign of how poorly India is dealing with water resources development and management is the growth of water-related conflicts and drought conditions declared every year. India has the largest number of dams under construction today, more than any other country,yet, does not satisfy the water needs of almost 1/8th of its population. I believe that the reason behind these issues are the politicians and policy makers for whom ignorance seems a bliss. There is hardly anything done about India’s water problem and the government seems more interested in giving away drought relief packages worth a total of more than $4 billion rather than making changes to its water systems. In the years to come, the water requirements for Indian urban and industrial use are going to increase considerably due to the increasing population, increasing per capita demands, increasing urbanization and industrialization. This will further add to pollution in rivers and aquifers, which will be affected even more and diminish soon over the years. I feel bad about the fact that the Ganges river which would flood two – three times a year and provided water to more than 800 million people, is being used up and polluted extensively resulting in a drop in water level and quality to almost half of what it used to be a decade ago.

I think this is the right time to take a step back and explore other opportunities which will reduce the impact of water shortage and drought conditions all over India. The big unexplored options in this area include sustainable landscape solutions, pollution control, reuse of water after adequate treatment and local water supply solutions like rainwater harvesting and decentralized water treatment. There are several international firms who are trying to solve this problem by implementing multi-billion dollar projects to create water awareness and restore water systems however, not much is being implemented at site scale. It is clear that India has a large number of technological and institutional options, however, no one is willing to take the initiative and make a difference. I hope that my education and knowledge in this field enables me to explore all the possible solutions for India in the future and join the worldwide initiative of conserving water and re-establishing water systems.

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