Did we ever stop to think if cancelling the matches will help solve Maharashtra’s water problem, in any way?

Why understanding water-usage not silly IPL outrage will solve Maharashtras water woesImage: PTI
Voices Water Crisis Friday, April 08, 2016 - 20:07

By V Vinay

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has been under pressure to move its matches from Maharashtra because of the water crisis. Activists are demanding that the matches be cancelled, and petitions have been filed in court. There has been considerable support for cancelling the matches in public discourse too.

But, did we ever stop to think if cancelling matches will help solve Maharashtra’s water problem, in any way?

Let us understand the numbers involved. We are told by the petitioners that a total of 60 Lakh litres of water will be used by these cricket stadiums in Mumbai, Pune, and Nagpur for the IPL matches.

The average consumption of water per person in India is about 150 litres per day. It is higher in urban Indian and lower in rural India. At least, this is the recommendation. I will conservatively assume a person uses 100L per day.

This means in a year, a person consumes 36,500 L of water. It just takes 175 persons to exceed the 60 lakh litres in question. To put this in perspective, the population of Maharashtra is about 11 crores.

If you had 10 Lakh litres of water at your disposal, the IPL would consume 1.6 Litres! As a percentage of the water spent on people in MH water spent on IPL is 0.0001590909%. It is seriously unfunny that this is the number that is occupying our activists and courts.

So where is the problem?

Maharashtra has been hit by a water crisis for the third consecutive year. Lack of monsoons account for some of the crisis but it really is a crisis caused by mismanagement by successive governments.

Roughly 75% of the water is used for irrigation. Of this about 60% is used to grow sugarcane, a water hungry crop. Incidentally, sugarcane cultivation constitutes only about 4% of the cropped area of Maharashtra. And it is grown in areas of Maharashtra which are not water rich.

The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) in its report on sugarcane for 2015-16 says that it takes 822 litres of water to produce one kilogram of sugar in Bihar. In contrast, it takes 2104 litres of water in Maharashtra and 2245 in Tamil Nadu.

What does this mean? It means that if Maharashtra was as efficient as Bihar in its use of water to grow sugarcane, what could be grown with 100L of water can now be grown with just 40L. That is a huge saving.

Let us understand what these savings translate to. As I have already said, 45% of the water in Maharashtra goes towards growing sugarcane. By being efficient, it can cut down the water consumption to just 18%, saving a whooping 27% for other things. Even if it does not achieve the Bihar levels, this effort will still yield significant savings.

But there is hardly any movement in this direction. This is a governance tragedy, dictated by political clout of certain lobbies. And this problem will not be solved by wishing IPL away.

So why are we not getting this? The problem is that we are largely an innumerate society. We hear 6 million and think it is a large number, forgetting the context. And this is adequate to file cases and outrage. The government of the day is usually happy as this provides a convenient distraction away from their failures.

If IPL is shifted, it would just be an empty gesture, and nothing would have changed to the parched people of Maharashtra.  Instead demand answers from the government. And make them act. Why is there no water supply to the people of Latur? If tankers can get water, why not the government. And where exactly do tankers get water from?

It is time we got serious about our country. For this, we have to make our citizens numerate.

Dr. V. Vinay is chairman, LimberLink Technologies Pvt Ltd.  Under the brand Jed-i, he focuses on changing the quality of education, especially among children.

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