A new official research report suggests that India will face acute shortage of usable water1 within few decades. Last year, N.K Garg of IIT Delhi warned against water crisis and now Mr. T. N Narashimhan, a professor of University of California claimed that Indian government has seriously overestimated the available and utilizable water resources. His report issued by the Indian Academy of Sciences says that optimistic projections made by India’s Planning Commission as late as in 2007 are incorrect.2
We discussed what causes water crisis and how it can be solved3 , yet here we will look further into the matter and how is government looking forward to solve the issue.
The major issue of water crisis as the government claims is droughts, environmental changes and increasing population. Obviously, all the causes aforementioned are irreparable. Neither we can control droughts, nor the nature change can be monitored nor can we curb the population increment unless we allow mass murders.
If we believe in what government claims, then India is sure marching towards a drastic situation. Yet, is that all the truth or government just try to hide out the real cause?
Water crisis is a looming problem, the only reason for the problem is governmental intervention in form of subsidies on water and electricity, and India is facing electricity crisis and water crisis simultaneously.
One may say that water is a natural resource much dependent on snow and rainfall and hence a scarcity of water can be natural. Yet that is not the case, almost every resource our lives rely upon is a natural resource, be it wheat or diamond.
Scarcity is not because a resource is natural, scarcity always occurs because of misuse and wastage of resource. In any governmental plan, wastage is quite natural and the reason is, government denies applying for the only possible solution.
By subsidizing water, or better say by price control, government never let the users, especially the farmers realize the actual worth of water.
When onion prices go high, what do we do? We reduce the consumption of onions as we can not afford, we reduce any wastage of onions to save our money and efforts, we use onions as little as possible and only there where it is necessary.
The increasing prices suggest us that for some reason or other, there is scarcity of onions and hence we should use it carefully.
Prices are the only possible indicator of a scarce resource and free market pricing is the only way to manage and solve the scarcity.
The major issue with Indian water crisis is, water resources are yet not privatized. As government controls the water resources and water supply, there is no check on wastage.
Yet here we will discuss about the issue of ground water. The level of ground waters is constantly decreasing in planes of North India. Farmers have devastated ground water to such an extent that it is devastating the country now.
With the dropping level of water table, farmers are investing heavily, often they borrow money to bore deeper wells and install powerful pumps.
As farmers enjoys free or hugely subsidized electricity for agricultural usage, they never realize the actual danger of the depletion of ground water bed, also the misuse of electricity causes electricity crisis, and all this wastage occurs with the help of the tax payers hard earned money.
Does this help Indian farmers and poor?
Indian tax payers generally approve hugely subsidized electricity for farmers, assuming it will help agriculture and hence will help in progress. Yet that is not what actually happens. With no knowledge of actual price of electricity and water, farmers get no idea of managing their resources well; this inability further eludes them to waste more. As they harvest more ground water than what the earth can replenish, the water bed goes down and the land goes barren. To provide further water, they need to install further powerful pumps to draw water for which they take loans and borrow money. Thus, whatever economical help they get in the form of subsidized electricity is wasted upon electric pumps and digging up the tube-wells further deep.
Now the ground water level in northern planes is extremely low and it is hard to get water at deeper levels too, thus even the costly new electric pumps also fails in helping farmers anyhow. On the other hand, the extra burden on electricity grids is not only a problem and burden for the tax-payers it also causes depletion of transmission lines and hence induces further electricity wastage. Unbridled usage of electricity further adds up in water crisis, as the electricity production in India is highly dependent on thermal or hydroelectric plants.
The depletion of ground water beds not only makes the farm lands go barren, it also hurts the ecological niche as the trees dependent on ground water fails to survive.
Last year, some government planners suggested providing new improved free electric pumps for farmers.4 The idea was to save farmers from wasting their money to buy new electric pumps. Such incentives further cause wastage of electricity and water.
Government on one hand keep warning about water crisis and electricity crisis, on the other hand it avoids the only possible solution.
Almost all major economists have suggested government to let Indians pay for the water and electricity according to actual prices and avoid providing subsidies.
Politicians say it is impossible to expect farmers pay for electricity for further 50 years more. Obviously, they suggest reservation in education and governmental jobs for further 100 years.
Why will a farmer even think of reducing water and electricity consumption when he will have no indicator to suggest him that he is wasting the resources and hence causing burden? In fact, by providing subsidies, free electricity, free electric pumps, government provides farmers an incentive to waste water and electricity furthermore.
On short term, it may seem as an idea of helping the farmers, but what will happen when even the new pumps will fail?
Government always tries to subvert higher prices, assuming that higher prices are evil, yet it is not so. Prices are indicators of scarcity.
If government decides to stop intervening in agriculture, electricity production and distribution and water resource management, things will be better.
Higher market prices will increase competition and supply and will encourage natural rationing of resources. Due to higher prices, the private producers of electricity, the water resource managers will get incentive to better their services for avoiding any wastage; it will provide incentive to the common users and farmers too to avoid any wastage or extra usage and will make them thrifty. Now that is the only way to avoid any scarcity.
In addition, the higher prices will force the individuals, innovators, enterprises to provide alternative ways to produce electricity, to harness usable water and increase ground water levels too.
Government monopoly and free market system have this main difference, while government have no way to acknowledge what the consumers demand, rather it dictates and directs the consumers according to the government planning, the free market acknowledges the consumers demands as supreme.
If government really want to solve the electricity and water crisis, all it has to do is to clear the market of all government interventions and let the individuals conserve themselves for their own cause at their own pace.
Yet, for the sake of vote bank and desire of power to rule, government at present allows subsidies and provides incentives to use and waste more and more water, and when the conditions will be depleted beyond the reparable limits, government will be forced to ban usage of water, dictate public and install curfews.
There is no way government monopoly can bring any good.