The book was compiled by experts at the United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), UNU Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Conventional water sources which rely on snowfall, rainfall and rivers – are not enough to meet growing freshwater demand in water-scarce areas.
WHAT ARE UNCONVENTIONAL WATER SOURCES?
Enhancing Rain via Cloud-Seeding:
Global research on cloud-seeding technology indicates that precipitation can be increased up to 15% of the annual norm, depending on the available cloud resources and technical systems used.
However, it was acknowledged that greater research was needed on the variability of the technology in different areas.
Fog Harvesting and Micro-Catchment Rainwater Harvesting:
Efficient fog harvesting systems wherein moisture in fog is collected through rocks, flora or mesh nets can yield within 20 litres per square metre per day, for a decade. Only 70 sites have shown to be viable for fog harvesting.
Micro-catchments have also shown potential for households or farmlands in dry environments with low rainfall.
Role of Icebergs:
Icebergs, the world’s largest source for freshwater, have also been gaining attention in recent years.
Climate change is causing polar ice caps to melt and break, and scientists, scholars, and leaders have discussed "towing" polar ice caps to countries with water shortages.
In 2017, faced with massive water shortages, the United Arab Emirates proposed a plan to tow an iceberg into the country, but no action was taken on this front.
Ballast water is another transportable resource - freshwater or saltwater held in the ballast tanks and cargo holds of ships to provide stability and maneuverability during a journey.
Around 10 billion tonnes of ballast water is discharged globally every year in accordance with international norms, this water needs to be desalinated.
When desalination is used to treat ballast water, the end product (desalinated water) is free of invasive aquatic organisms and unhealthy chemical compounds, making it usable for public water supply and irrigation as well.
Proper treatment of municipal wastewater — already underway in several countries is a major resource of water for agriculture.
Several countries have launched successful initiatives to treat wastewater to meet demand.
Drainage water used in irrigation agriculture also has potential for reuse, but is hindered due to its high salinity.
Careful management and promotion of salt-resistant crops can be the solutions for this.
Research has shown that continental shelveshave around 5 million cubic km brackish water and 300,000-500,000 cubic km freshwater within their sedimentary deposits.
Development of brackish water resources is already underway in countries in West Asia, Africa, Europe and the US and India.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE OF WATER SCARCITY?
Only 3% of the world’s water is freshwater, and two-thirds of that is tucked away in frozen glaciers or otherwise unavailable for our use.
As many as 87 countries are projected to become water-scarce by 2050.
One in four people on Earth face shortages of water for drinking, sanitation, agriculture and economic development.
Water scarcity is expected to intensify in regions like the Middle East and North Africa region, which has 6% of the global population but only 1% of the world’s freshwater resources.
Although India has 16% of the world’s population, the country possesses only 4% of the world’s freshwater resources.
In recent times, the water crisis in India has become very critical, affecting millions of people across India.
As many as 256 of 700 districts in India have reported ‘critical’ or ‘overexploited’ groundwater levels according to the most recent Central Ground Water Board data (from 2017).
Three-fourths of India’s rural families lack access to piped, drinkable water and must rely on unsafe sources.
India has become the world’s largest extractor of groundwater, accounting for 25% of the total. Some 70% of our water sourcesare contaminated and our major rivers are dying because of pollution.
Recently, the Supreme Courtdirected that every protected forest, national park and wildlife sanctuary across the country should have a mandatory eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of a minimum one km starting from their demarcated boundaries.
The judgment came on a petition instituted for the protection of forest lands in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu.
WHAT ARE THE KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF JUDGEMENT?
The Centre had while coming out with February 2011 guidelines on ESZ had prescribed a 10-kilometre boundary based on responses received from states and UTs.
The Court was conscious of the fact that a uniform ESZ for all national parks and sanctuaries would not be feasible as it noted special cases such as Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai and Guindy National Park in Chennai which are situated very close to the metropolis.
If the existing ESZ goes beyond the 1 km buffer zone or if any statutory instrument prescribes a higher limit, then such extended boundary shall prevail.
Mining within the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries shall not be permitted.
The judgement would apply in all such states/UTs where the minimum ESZ is not prescribed.
The minimum width of ESZ may be diluted in the overwhelming public interest.
The state or UT concerned shall approach the Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) and MoEFCC (Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change) and both these bodies shall give the respective opinions or recommendations before this Court based on which this Court shall pass appropriate order.
The Court directed the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) of each state and UT to submit a report in three months to the Court providing a list of activities continuing in the ESZ of every national park or wildlife sanctuary.
The Court entrusted the PCCF to ensure that no new permanent structure comes up within ESZ and those already carrying out any activity will have to apply for permission afresh from the PCCF within six months.
The purpose of declaring ESZs around national parks, forests and sanctuaries is to create some kind of a “shock absorber” for the protected areas.
These zones would act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to those involving lesser protection.
Commercial mining, saw mills, industries causing pollution, establishment of major hydroelectric projects (HEP), commercial use of wood.
Tourism activities like hot-air balloons over the National Park, discharge of effluents or any solid waste or production of hazardous substances.
Felling of trees, establishment of hotels and resorts, commercial use of natural water, erection of electrical cables, drastic change of agriculture system, e.g. adoption of heavy technology, pesticides etc, widening of roads.
Ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy sources, adoption of green technology for all activities.
Minimize the impact of development activities
To minimize the impact of urbanization and other developmental activities, the areas adjacent to protected areas have been declared as Eco-Sensitive Zones.
ESZs help in in-situ conservation, which deals with conservation of an endangered species in its natural habitat, for example the conservation of the One-horned Rhino of Kaziranga National Park, Assam.
Minimize Forest Depletion and Man-Animal Conflict
Eco-Sensitive Zones minimize forest depletion and man-animal conflict.
The protected areas are based on the core and buffer model of management, through which local area communities are also protected and benefitted.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES TO ECO-SENSITIVE ZONES?
Activities such as construction of dams, roads, urban and rural infrastructures in the ESZ, create interference, negatively impact upon the environment and imbalance the ecological system.
Governance and new laws:
The Environmental Protection Act 1986 and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 ignore forest communities' rights and fail to stop poaching of animals. This is in order to support development activities in ESZs.
To cater to the increasing demand for eco-tourism, land around parks and sanctuaries is being cleared through deforestation, displacement of local people etc.
Introduction of exotic species:
Exotic species like Eucalyptus and Acacia auricularis etc., and their plantations create a competing demand on naturally occurring forests.
Climate change has generated land, water and ecological stress on the ESZs. For example, frequent forest fires or the Assam floods which badly affected the Kaziranga National Park and its wildlife.
Shifting cultivation, pressure of increasing population and the rising demand for firewood and forest produce, etc. exert pressure on the protected areas.
The States should act as a trustee for the benefit of the general public in relation to natural resources so that sustainable development can be achieved in the long term.
The government should not confine its role to that of a facilitator of economic activities for the immediate upliftment of the fortunes of the State.
Afforestation and reforestation of degraded forest, regeneration of lost habitats, promoting carbon footprints can be done.
Propagating Conservation techniques and creating awareness about overexploitation of resources and its adverse impacts among masses.