India’s rivers are undergoing a drastic change. Due to the pressures of population and development, our perennial rivers are becoming seasonal. Many of the smaller rivers have already vanished. Flood as well as drought are becoming increasingly frequent, as rivers turn unruly during the monsoon, and vanish once the rainy season is over.
- 25% of India is turning into desert.
- In 15 years, we may have only half the water we need for our survival.
- The Ganga is one of the most endangered rivers in the world.
- The Godavari was dry along much of its length last year.
- The Kaveri has lost 40% of its flow. Krishna and Narmada have lost around 60%
In every state, perennial rivers are either becoming seasonal or totally going dry. In Kerala – the Bharatpuzha, in Karnataka – the Kabini, in Tamil Nadu – the Kaveri, Palar and Vaigai, in Odisha – the Musal, in Madhya Pradesh – the Kshipra. Many smaller rivers have already vanished.
Most major rivers are the subject of interstate water disputes.
How This Affects You
- Estimates say 65% of our water needs are met by rivers.
- 2 out of 3 major Indian cities already deal with daily water shortage. Many urban residents pay ten times the normal amount for a can of water.
- We consume water not just to drink or for domestic purposes. 80% of water is used to grow our food. Each person’s average water requirement is 1.1 million liters a year.
- Flood, drought and rivers turning seasonal are increasingly leading to crop failure across the country.
- Climate change is expected to cause worse floods and droughts within the next 25-50 years. During the monsoon, rivers will flood. The rest of the year, drought will follow. These trends are already beginning.
Know Our Dying Rivers
Where Do You Live?
This is a crisis affecting the entire nation. Some snapshots from across the country:
In October 2009, the state moved from drought to flood as the Krishna recorded its highest flood levels in a century, marooning 350 villages and leaving millions homeless.
In May 2016, the Ganga went so dry, people were walking across the river bed. Three months later, record floods submerged many places in the state.
With the Narmada not reaching the ocean many months of the year, the sea is moving in, leading to salinity, soil degradation and losses to industries.
The Kaveri went dry at its source as rainfall fell by 40-70%, halving crop production.
Suffered its worst drought in 115 years in 2017. Farmers suffered crop failures as rivers went dry.
60 of the Narmada’s 101 tributaries have gone dry.
In 2016, the Krishna and the Godavari, among the largest rivers in the country, went dry at their very source.
Water scarcity swept Manipur in 2014, as drought-like conditions prevailed and rivers dried up in 2009, and again in 2014.
Suffered its worst drought in 140 years in 2017. Crop failures resulted.
In 2015, as the Manjeera river went dry, crocodiles entered villages in search of water.
The completely dry Yamuna has led to concerns that the Taj Mahal could start sinking because of lack of moisture in its foundations.
A third of over 800 perennial streams have become seasonal or vanished. Water levels have dropped by over 65%.
The situation is grim. But with a comprehensive policy and resolute government action, our rivers can be nurtured so that they nourish future generations as well. Read more about the proposed solution to revitalize our rivers.
References and Credits
- Charting our water future
- Wastelands Atlas 2011
- World’s top 10 rivers at risk
- Quiet chokes the Godavari: River turns into trickle in Maharashtra
- The remains of our rivers
- Godavari goes dry
- Case study of large Asian rivers
- Bharathapuzha is dry much ahead of summer
- Kabini dries up, farmers hit
- Well drying up: Mysuru,Bengaluru worried
- Unsung sisters of Vaigai
- Rivers run dry: northern and Central Tamil Nadu run
- Dring Shipra, Ujjain
- Perennial river Musal dries up
- River water disputes
- 22 of India’s 32 big cities face water crisis
- Impact of Deforestation in Developing World
- Deforestation and soil erosion in Himalayas
- Deforestation drives worsening flooding in Kashmir
- South India’s Drought
- Water resources of India
- The water footprint of humanity