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Why India can’t fix water scarcity without fixing agriculture

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India’s water woes have been a familiar story for some years now. And yet, the fact that they continue to worsen speaks volumes about the policy apathy. The latest report on global water scarcity by WaterAid estimates that a billion Indians live with strained access to water during at least one part of the year, while 600 million live in areas of high- to extreme-water stress. The report terms this India’s worst water crisis ever. At 3,000 litres (including the water used in manufacturing of different products, or ‘virtual’ water) per person per day, India’s water footprint is less than 40% of the US, the worst per capita water guzzler. Also, India sources 97% of its water requirement (including virtual water) from its own resources while a water-stressed US imports nearly 20% of its water requirement. And yet, between 2000 and 2010, India was the third largest exporter of groundwater, accounting for 12% of the total groundwater exported across the globe; this is likely to have gone up since with water-heavy agricultural exports increasing their share in the overall pie. A 2017 study by Carole Dalin and others points out that nearly 11% of........

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