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Composite Water Management Index’ report

  • Published
    6th Nov, 2023

NITI Ayog weighs discontinuing key water report launched 5 years ago. It brought India’s water challenges into spotlight and ranked states in terms of efficacy based on 28 parameters.

What is Composite Water Management Index’ report (CWMI)?

  • NITI Aayog has developed the CWMI to enable effective water management in India and states in the face of this growing crisis.
  • The CWMI is envisioned to bring about much-required improvements in water resource management and conservation in India as it provides an annual snapshot of the water sector status and the water management performance of the different states and UTs in India.
  • It will measure both the overall progress made by states in water management and the incremental improvement in performance across time. 
  • The Index comprises nine themes (each having an attached weight) with 28 different indicators covering groundwater and surface water restoration, major and medium irrigation, watershed development, participatory irrigation management, on-farm water use, rural and urban water supply, and policy and governance.
  • The report was prepared in association with three ministries — Water Resources, Drinking Water & Sanitation, and Rural Development.
  • The first edition launched five years ago in June 2018 and the second edition launched in August 2019 was for 2017-18.

Why this index was launched and what its significance?

  • India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat. Currently, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
  • The crisis is only going to get worse. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual ~6% loss in the country’s GDP.
  • As per the report of National Commission for Integrated Water Resource Development of MoWR, the water requirement by 2050 in high use scenario is likely to be a milder 1,180 BCM, whereas the present-day availability is 695 BCM.
  • The United Nations University – Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), had warned that India is close to reaching its groundwater risk tipping point. Environmental tipping points are critical thresholds in the Earth’s systems, beyond which abrupt and often irreversible changes occur.
  • Thus, there is an imminent need to deepen our understanding of our water resources and usage and put in place interventions that make our water use efficient and sustainable.

What are latest observations?

  • The latest report maps the performance of states for 2018-19 and 2019-20, and points out that water scarcity is a “national problem”. The average annual per capita water availability is expected to reduce to 1,486 cubic meters per person per year by 2021 from 1,545 cubic meters per person per year in 2011.
  • As per the annual water availability norms, the availability value of less than 1,700 cubic meter/person/year indicates water shortage. Water availability below 1,000 cubic metre/capita/year is considered as “scarcity”.
  • In the 2019-20 report, Gujarat leads in performance, with Rajasthan improving significantly and Goa dropping from fourth to tenth place. Punjab's rank has also declined.

The need for water governance in India and How such Index helps?

  • Water governance refers to the management, regulation, and distribution of water resources in the country. It encompasses policies, institutions, and practices that ensure sustainable and equitable water use.
  • Scarcity issues due to uneven distribution, over-exploitation, and pollution of water sources.
  • Growing population and an increasing demand, sectors such as agriculture, industry, and urban areas, compete for water resources.
  • Pollution of rivers and groundwater sources further necessitates governance to ensure water quality and protect public health.
  • Changing weather patterns, increased droughts, and floods due to climate change require adaptive water management strategies and governance.
  • Thus a sustainable and equity based water governance is required.
  • The Index to promote the spirit of 'competitive and cooperative federalism' in the country, and ensure sustainable and effective management of water resources. 
  • The index was meant to foster “a culture of evidence and data-backed policy-decisions for efficient management of water resources”.

Why the index is weighing to be discontinued?

  • CWMI is not widely used or applied in Planning, Decision making, Policy Formulation or Research by public or private stakeholders concerned with water sector.
  • One view regarding the continuation of CWMI was that other channels also need to be explored to undertake the task of indexing rather than relying only on CWMI.
  • On the other hand consultations are ongoing regarding next round of release or its efficacy. A consultation in December 2022, chaired by NITI Aayog member and Jal Shakti Ministry officers, discussed the release of a combined report for CWMI rounds 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, and 6.0.
  • It was also felt that the coverage should be extended to districts. Finally, on the continuation of CWMI itself, there was a view that other channels also need to be explored to undertake the task of indexing.
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