It is said that if the world’s water is compared to 1 gallon (3.8 liters), freshwater would make up only 4 ounces (118 milliliter) and readily accessible freshwater would make up just 2 drops! To top it, Asia with over 60 per cent of the world’s population has just 36 per cent of this global freshwater runoff and 80 per cent of that occurs in floods! And it is estimated that by 2050, about 4,000 million (60 per cent) shall reside in areas of severe water shortage.
Let us take the case of India. The country is undergoing an interesting climatic phenomenon this year where many areas in the eastern part are reeling under floodwaters due to excessive rainfall, overfilling of channel capacities and lack of proper runoff. Contrastingly, the northern and western part of the country is recording huge shortage of rainfall. The issue is not the shortage of rain or water, but the fact that this is a repeated feature to which we wake up every year. Factually, the UN World Water Development Report ranks India 120th among 122 nations in the world in terms of quality and 133rd among 180 nations in terms of availability. An estimation states that 160 million Indians live without direct access to drinking water. A recent report by Asian Development Bank on water issues for different Asian countries also portrays alarming facts in similar tunes.
Just the existence of water doesn’t render it useful for all purposes in a civilisation. Cost effective treatment, quantity, quality, availability, accessibility and preservation are all equally important issues for water. And they are something very basic to the concept of development. Isn’t there a path henceforth? Do the mapping and GIS community have a role to play?
Let us start by mapping water – every drop of it.
…and not wait till the last drop exhausts!