UPSC SOCIOLOGY MAINS SYLLABUS
(vii) Challenges of Social Transformation:
(a) Crisis of development: displacement, environmental problems and sustainability.
(b) Poverty, deprivation and inequalities.
(c) Violence against women.
(d) Caste conflicts.
(e) Ethnic conflicts, communalism, religious revivalism.
(f) Illiteracy and disparities in education
Water stress or scarcity occurs when demand for safe, usable water in a given area exceeds the supply. On the demand side, the vast majority—roughly 70 percent—of the world’s freshwater is used for agriculture, while the rest is divided between industrial (19 percent) and domestic uses (11 percent), including for drinking. On the supply side, sources include surface waters, such as rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, as well as groundwater, accessed through aquifers.
Over two billion people live in countries where water supply is inadequate.
Half of the world’s population could be living in areas facing water scarcity by as early as 2025.
Some 700 million people could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030.
By 2040, roughly 1 in 4 children worldwide will be living in areas of extremely high water stress.
WATER AND GENDER
Without safely managed water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, women and girls are more vulnerable to abuse, attack and ill-health, affecting their ability to study, work and live in dignity. Water is treated as a woman’s business. It is primarily the woman who performs the household chores – cooking, doing laundry, washing the dishes, cleaning the house – most of which include the use of water. For everyone else in the household, the need for water is only felt as far as their personal hygiene and hydration goes. Thus, during a water crisis, the responsibility and the stress falls almost entirely upon the women of the house. According to water.org, “women around the world spend a collective 200 million hours each day collecting water. In addition to time spent collecting water, millions may also spend significant amounts of time finding a place to go. During times of water crisis, the amount of time spent by women collecting and essentially managing water increases exponentially.
WATER AND CASTE
Dalit narratives, autobiographies, and testimonies often carry painful memories of their experience of the lack of access to water and water sources. In a 2015 article published in the Journal of Comparative Economics, Bros and Couttenier highlight that murders against the ‘ex-untouchables’ are related to the way water is distributed. Titled Untouchability, homicides and water access, the article examines the case of ‘untouchability’ rules in India that forbid sharing of water with the ‘lower’ castes. The report says that homicide rates of ‘lower’ caste members at the district level are significantly correlated with the public access to water, showing that access to water, ‘untouchability’ norms and violence is closely interlinked. Several stories have been reported of Dalits being beaten up, assaulted and killed because they attempted to collect or drink water.
WATER CRISIS AND IMPLICATIONS ON PUBLIC HEALTH
Prolonged water stress can have devastating effects on public health and economic development. More than two billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water; and nearly double that number—more than half the world’s population—are without adequate sanitation services. These deprivations can spur the transmission of diseases such as cholera, typhoid, polio, hepatitis A, and diarrhea. At the same time, because water scarcity makes agriculture much more difficult, it threatens a community’s access to food. Food-insecure communities can face both acute and chronic hunger, where children are more at risk of conditions stemming from malnutrition, such as stunting and wasting, and chronic illnesses due to poor diet, such as diabetes. The COVID-19 pandemic heightened the need for safe water access. Handwashing is one of the most effective tools for combating the coronavirus, but health experts noted that three in ten individuals—2.3 billion people globally—could not wash their hands at home at the pandemic’s onset.
WATER STRESS AND TENSIONS IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Roughly three hundred international water agreements have been signed since 1948. Finland and Russia, for example, have long cooperated on water-management challenges, including floods, fisheries, and pollution. Water-sharing agreements have even persisted through cross-border conflicts about other issues, as has been the case with South Asia’s Indus River and the Jordan River in the Middle East. Transboundary water disputes can also fuel intrastate conflict. Moreover, water stress can affect global flows of goods and people. For instance, wildfires and drought in 2010 wiped out Russian crops, which resulted in a spike in commodities prices and food riots in Egypt and Tunisia at the start of the Arab uprisings.
MEASURES FOR MITIGATION
Water has to be treated as a scarce resource. Integrated water resources management (IWRM) provides a broad framework for governments to align water use patterns with the needs and demands of different users, including the environment. IWRM can control water stress by measures such as reducing losses from water distribution systems, safe wastewater reuse, desalination and appropriate water allocation. IWRM depends on: good quality data on water resources; water-saving, green and hybrid technologies, particularly in industry and agriculture; and awareness campaigns to reduce the use of water in households and encourage sustainable diets and consumption. Exploring, protecting and sustainably using groundwater will be central to surviving and adapting to climate change and meeting the needs of a growing population.