New Delhi: Curbing wastage, reducing pollution and forming joint platforms to assess geological changes were among the urgent steps needed to tackle the growing conflicts on water between countries and within their own boundaries, say experts.
The issue was debated at length by various experts, including filmmakers, columnists, academics and activists, at a roundtable on Water at War at the Alliance Francaise here Wednesday. Water had led to tensions between countries and caused fights within cities, the participants noted.
Curbing wastage was key, said senior journalist B.G. Verghese, pointing out that over 80 percent of water was supplied for irrigation but there was enormous wastage due to practices such as flood irrigation.
He recommended changes in the cropping pattern in the country and said practices such as drip irrigation should be encouraged.
"We need to have a whole battery of incentives. Merely looking at supply side is not going to give us answers," he said.
Anita Inder Singh, professor at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said international treaties had helped reduce water conflicts but there was a possibility of countries using water as a weapon when there are shortages.
"Unless you take climate change into account, how do you honour your treaties," said Joydeep Gupta of the Third Pole Project, India, observing that water was getting more scarce due to impact of climate change.
Francois S. of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) referred to the conflict in Middle East and said the dispute between Israel and some of its neighbours involved issues concerning water.
The issue had come to such a pass, said filmmaker and activist Sanjay Mitra, that people bought mineral or bottled water to quench their thirst and had no faith in supply from municipal services.
He also spoke of urban apathy towards water pollution.
According to Verghese, who answered many of the questions from the audience, the Indus treaty between India and Pakistan was one of the most successful agreements that had withstood wars. However, he said "partitioning of water" under the treaty had led to complaints. "Pakistan feels India is stealing water," he said.