Water Crisis in South India

water crisis


The low water levels in key reservoirs in the southern states of India, namely in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, have resulted in a catastrophic water crisis.

What is the Current Situation of Water Crisis in the Southern States?

  • Current Water Situation
    • The majority of Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh’s largest reservoirs are just 25% or less full, according to the Central Water Commission.
    • Remarkable dams like Karnataka’s Tungabhadra and Telangana’s Nagarjuna Sagar on the border between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are just five percent full.
    • Less than 30% of the Mettur dam in Tamil Nadu and Srisailam on the border between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are both suffering low levels.
  • Comparison of Water Levels Across Regions
    • With reservoirs full to only 23% of capacity overall—much less than last year and the 10-year average—the southern area is worst hit.
    • Reservoir levels in other areas, such as northern, central, western, and eastern India, are more in line with their 10-year averages.
  • Exception in Kerala
    • Kerala is unique among the southern states in that the majority of its large dams are operated at least half full.
    • There are reports that the water levels in reservoirs like Idukki, Idamalayar, Kallada, and Kakki are comparatively better.

What are the Reasons for the Water Crisis in South India?

  • Rainfall Deficiency and El Niño Effect
    • El Niño occurrences have resulted in lower rainfall, which has generated drought-like conditions and protracted dry spells in the region.
    • El Niño is a climatic trend that is defined by an increase in sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. This phenomenon has the potential to disturb regular weather patterns worldwide, resulting in less precipitation in specific areas.
  • Delayed Monsoon and Post-Monsoon Deficiency
    • The decrease in water levels in reservoirs has been mostly attributed to the lack of rainfall during the monsoon and post-monsoon seasons.
    • Things have gotten worse because the monsoon arrived later than usual and there wasn’t enough rain when it was needed.
    • More than half of the country’s regions saw insufficient rainfall between October and December of 2023, following the monsoon season.
  • Increased Temperature and Evaporation
    • Global warming-related rising temperatures quickens the rate of evaporation, which accelerates the loss of water from reservoirs and other bodies of water.
    • In addition to making the drought worse, rising temperatures raise the amount of water needed for industrial, agricultural, and residential use.
  • Groundwater Depletion
    • Groundwater depletion is a result of excessive groundwater extraction for irrigation, especially in areas with insufficient surface water supplies.
    • The main crops grown in South India are rice, sugarcane, and cotton, all of which need a lot of water.
  • Pollution of Water Bodies
    • Water sources have been degraded by pollution from industrial discharge, untreated sewage, and solid waste disposal, making them unsafe for human consumption and further limiting the amount of water that is accessible.
    • According to research by the Environmental Management & Policy Research Institute (EMPRI), solid waste dumping, sewage, and industrial effluents contaminate nearly 85% of Bengaluru’s water bodies.
  • Mismanagement and Inequitable Distribution
    • The degree of the region’s water scarcity situation is exacerbated by ineffective water management techniques, such as leakage, waste, and uneven resource allocation.

What are the Implications of the Water Crisis in India?

  • Health Issues
    • Infections, illnesses, dehydration, and even death can result from not having access to clean drinking water.
    • According to NITI Aayog research, poor water delivery causes almost 2 lakh deaths annually in India.
    • India boasts 18% of the world’s population, yet just 4% of its inhabitants have access to enough water, according to the World Bank.
    • Approximately 91 million Indians will not have access to clean water in 2023.
  • Ecosystem Damage
    • India’s natural environments and animals are also in danger due to water shortage. Additionally, it upsets the ecosystems’ biological equilibrium and biodiversity.
    • In their quest for water, many wild animals must enter populated areas, which can result in confrontations and endangerment.
  • Reduced Agriculture Productivity
    • The agriculture industry, which uses around 80% of the nation’s water resources, may suffer from a lack of water.
    • Lack of water can lower agricultural output, impact food security, and make farming more impoverished.
  • Economic Losses
    • Lack of water can have an impact on industrial output, lower energy production, and raise the price of water treatment and delivery. Trade, social welfare, and tourism can all be impacted by water scarcity.
    • The World Bank (2016) highlights in its research, “Climate Change, Water and Economy,” that nations experiencing water scarcity might experience a significant decline in economic development by 2050.

What are the Government Initiatives To Tackle the Water Crisis in India?

  • MGNREGA for water conservation
    • One of the largest government-funded employment programs in the world is the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
    • Water conservation has been introduced by the government as a project under the Act thanks to the vast workforce engaged under the MGNREGA.
    • Through MGNREGA, the government hopes to enhance groundwater collection and create systems for water storage and conservation.
  • Jal Kranti Abhiyan
    • The government is actively working to implement block-level water conservation programs to transform cities and communities. One initiative, the Jal Gram Scheme, is part of the Jal Kranti Abhiyan and aims to create two model villages in water-starved regions, which will serve as a model for other villages to follow in terms of water preservation and conservation.
  • National Water Mission
    • Through integrated water resource development and management, the Indian government hopes to save water, reduce waste, and ensure more fair distribution both between and within states. This is the goal of the National Water Mission.
    • A primary goal of the Mission is to achieve a 20% increase in water usage efficiency.
  • Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY)
    • The Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY) is a Rs. 6,000 crore central government program designed to manage groundwater sustainably while involving the community.
    • The Ministry of Jal Shakti, formerly the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation, is in charge of carrying it out.
    • The World Bank and the Indian government are contributing 50 percent each to the program’s funding.
    • For the scheme’s implementation, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh have been recognized as overexploited and water-stressed regions.
  • Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)
    • By the end of 2024, the JJM hopes to have connected every rural family to a clean drinking water source via a tap. It has also established a goal of providing 55 liters of water per person per day to every household in areas where residents have been experiencing water shortages.
    • The action plans in Rajasthan for accomplishing the mission’s goals are predicated on the availability of water, the pattern of rainfall, the state of the drought, the level of groundwater, the harvesting of water, the prevalence of water-borne illnesses, and the state of each village’s water resources.
    • The Gram Sabhas’ presentation and approval of the district and village action plans have also been crucial in addressing the various regions’ water demands.
  • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)
    • The NMCG was registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act, of 1860 on August 12, 2011.
    • The National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), which was established by the terms of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA), 1986, was implemented by it.
    • Reducing pollution and ensuring the Ganga River’s revitalization are the goals of the NMCG.
    • This may be done to ensure water quality and ecologically sustainable development by encouraging intersectoral collaboration for comprehensive planning and management and preserving the river’s minimal ecological flow.

Way Forward

  • A comprehensive strategy is needed to address the water crisis in southern India. This strategy should include public awareness campaigns, conservation measures, infrastructure investment for water storage and distribution, sustainable water management practices, and water-efficient technology promotion.
  • Encourage farmers to use agroforestry, crop rotation, drip irrigation, precision agriculture, and other water-efficient agricultural techniques.
  • To lessen the effects of water shortage and guarantee sustainable water resource management for future generations, concerted actions at the federal, state, and municipal levels are required.


The water crisis in South India demands urgent attention and coordinated efforts at various levels of governance. With reservoirs at alarmingly low levels due to factors like rainfall deficiency, pollution, and mismanagement, immediate action is imperative. Government initiatives like MGNREGA, Jal Kranti Abhiyan, and Atal Bhujal Yojana provide frameworks for conservation and management. However, sustained commitment to public awareness, infrastructure development, and adoption of water-efficient practices is crucial for mitigating the crisis and ensuring water security for future generations.

Frequently Asked Question(FAQs)

  • What are the main reasons behind the water crisis in South India?

    The water crisis in South India is primarily caused by factors such as groundwater depletion, poor water management practices, and the impacts of climate change.

  • How does the water crisis affect agriculture?

    The water crisis has resulted in reduced crop yields, loss of livelihood for farmers, and economic hardships in rural communities.

  • What steps is the government taking to address the issue?

    The government has launched initiatives such as water conservation projects, rainwater harvesting schemes, and policy interventions to promote sustainable water use.

  • Are there any innovative solutions being implemented?

    Yes, innovative solutions such as desalination plants, water purification technologies, and efficient irrigation systems are being deployed to address the water crisis in South India.


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