As the largest country in South Asia, India covers an area of about 329 million hectares with a wide range of geographical features. These features impact the climate and, in turn, the water resources in the country. Precipitation, particularly during the monsoon seasons, is the primary source of freshwater in India. However, precipitation distribution varies over the country from over 2500mm in the North-East to less than 100mm in western Rajasthan. The strong influence of the monsoons on the country’s water sources makes it vulnerable to floods and droughts due to the variability of the distribution of the monsoons in space and time (seasonality and reliability), which is exacerbated by climate change.
Only a part of the country’s total available water resources can be utilised due to uneven distribution and topographical constraints, thereby classifying India as a “water stressed” country. Due to continued population and economic growth as well as urbanisation, the demand for water is increasing while per capita water availability is reducing. These socio-economic changes are leading to over-exploitation of groundwater, particularly in cities, and water pollution due to discharge of insufficiently treated/untreated waste into water bodies. Moreover, the increasing demand for water in the face of water scarcity and insecurity has led to intensification of inter-state water disputes.
India has been making efforts to address its water challenges with a focus on water quality, availability and safety, but its socio-economic growth and changes make it challenging. However, India is collaborating with other countries and institutions, including the Netherlands, to address its water challenges. Relations between the Netherlands and India are continuously improving with the 2018 Netherlands Trade Mission to India which included the Prime Minister Mark Rutte; the 2019 state visit of the Royal Couple to India alongside a Netherlands Trade Mission, and the 2021 Netherlands Virtual Trade Mission to India with water being a topic of importance throughout. A number of Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) have been signed between Indian and Dutch organisations with the 2017 MoU between the Ministry of Water Resources in India and the Netherlands intensifying the cooperation between the countries.
Water-related priorities and opportunities in India lie in waste and wastewater treatment with a focus on circular economy, integrated water management, river and lake restoration, flood and drought management particularly in urban and agricultural setting, drinking water supply and WASH.
NWP hosts the Partners for Water Programme’s India Country Platform. The Platform brings together Dutch organisations who are active or interested in working in India to share knowledge, expertise and experiences. With its network, NWP helps provide information and updates on the developments in the water sector in India and brings potential partners together to actively seek ways to jointly develop and execute initiatives and projects in India. Would you like to join the platform? Please contact our colleague Anusha Mehta.