World Water Week: India revives traditional methods to tackle water scarcity

Local people living alongside the River Champavathi have helped to restore old water reservoirs to protect their crops in times of drought and flooding. As a new digital tool developed by GIZ shows, however, water is becoming increasingly scarce all over the world.

Water reserves are declining all over the world. By 2050, it is estimated that water poverty will affect two thirds of the global population.

Water Scarcity Clock is an interactive website that monitors this worldwide trend. 2.3 billion people already suffer from water scarcity, and that figure is rising. The app was developed by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in collaboration with the World Data Lab on behalf of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It provides data on water scarcity all around the world and calculates the number of people who suffer or will suffer from water scarcity in individual countries up to the year 2030. The app is based on the highly regarded World Poverty Clock previously developed by the same partnership.

India is just one of the countries that is exhausting almost all its available water resources. For some years, the monsoon season has been arriving later and later in certain regions and is now shorter and less intense. This makes it impossible to build up sufficient reserves. To counter the impending threat of water scarcity, GIZ is supporting the Indian Government in reducing water losses. The focus is on promoting sustainable water use – particularly in the agriculture sector, which is responsible for around 70 per cent of all water consumption.

The Champavathi delta lies in the east of the country. Here, for example, with GIZ support, a traditional water storage system has been reactivated. The system consists of over 3,500 reservoirs and a network of channels alongside the river. Droughts, floods and cyclones had caused severe damage to the reservoirs over the previous 30 years, and eventually they were unable to capture and hold enough water. In turn, this led to smaller, poorer-quality harvests.

Since the reservoirs were repaired and modernised, local people in the Champavathi delta have seen a big improvement in their crops. They can store more rainwater over a longer period, and the reservoirs act as a natural defence in the event of flooding. As in the past, rice farmers can now harvest two crops per year instead of just one. Furthermore, the reconstruction work created jobs for 64,000 local people, all of whom received special training in the methods used to restore the old reservoirs.

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