Context: Nearly a third of the 100 cities in the world susceptible to ‘water risk’ are in India, according to the WWF Water Risk Filter. 

More on news:

  • WWF Water Risk Filter is an online tool, co-developed by the WorldWide Fund for Nature that helps evaluate the severity of risk places faced by graphically illustrating various factors that can contribute to water risk.
  • Water risk is defined as losses from battling droughts to flooding.

Key takeaways:

  • Global cities at water risk: The global list includes cities such as Beijing, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Mecca and Rio de Janeiro. China accounts for almost half the cities.
    • Indian cities: Jaipur topped the list of Indian cities, followed by Indore and Thane. Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi also featured on the list.
  • Risk factors: Other than droughts and floods, the city’s risk levels were scored by evaluating several factors, including aridity, freshwater availability, climate change impact, the presence of regulatory laws governing water use, and conflict.
  • Population explosion: The cities would face a ‘grave water risk’ by 2050 due to a dramatic increase in their population percentage from 17 per cent in 2020 to 51 per cent by 2050.
  • Data shortage for planning: The data available currently was at least a decade old and the reality of water availability and usage now was much different than that presented in the data.
  • Urban watersheds and wetlands were critical for maintaining the water balance of a city, flood cushioning, micro-climate regulation and protecting its biodiversity.

Way forward: The future of India’s environment lies in its cities. As India rapidly urbanises, cities will be at the forefront both for India’s growth and for sustainability. 

  • Managing GHGs: Cities also needed to support greater global efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to avoid reaching these scenarios.
  • Restore wetlands: For cities to break away from the current vicious loop of flooding and water scarcity, nature-based solutions like restoration of urban watersheds and wetlands could offer solutions.
  • The Smart Cities initiative in India could offer an integrated urban water management framework combining urban planning, ecosystem restoration and wetland conservation for building future- ready, water smart and climate resilient cities. 
  • Community efforts: There are many initiatives across the country that could be scaled up where groups have come together and revived wetlands such as Bashettihalli wetland in Bengaluru and the Sirpur Lake in Indore. 

While a lot of initiatives taken by the government were based on old data, the simulation that WWF had designed could help cities plan better. Urban planning and wetland conservation needed to be integrated to ensure zero loss of freshwater systems in the urban areas.

WorldWide Fund for Nature (WWF)

  • It is an international non-governmental organization for conserving the world’s biological diversity. 
  • It was founded in 1961 and is the world’s largest conservation organization.
  • Headquarter — Gland (Switzerland).
  • It publishes ‘Living Planet Report’ every two years which  is based on a Living Planet Index and ecological footprint calculation.

Image source: WorldBank.org