Global warming: Find out what exactly is causing water crisis in India

Lessening water levels are having a bearing on agriculture and food security, both politically critical issues in India.

The heating up of the Indian Ocean is responsible for falling groundwater levels in India, a study by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) has found. The findings of the IIT-Gandhinagar study are crucial as they link global warming to crippling water shortages in the world’s second most populous country.

The study reported that rising ocean temperatures is the reason behind changing rainfall pattern, which has in turn affected the groundwater levels in India. Most of India’s agriculture depends on groundwater and monsoon rains for irrigation, in a country whose large part is affected by drought.

According to a report published in May 2016, 266 of India’s 700-odd districts, across 11 states faced drought as of 2016. Just on Tuesday, the government of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu declared the whole state as “drought-hit”.

According to the IIT report, groundwater level in the northern part of India had been falling at the rate of 2 cm every year during the period between 2002 and 2013. However, the water table has increased in the southern part by 1-2 cm an year over the same period. The study results were published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The lower groundwater levels directly impact agriculture production and play a major role in rising food prices in the country, where food inflation is treated as political issue during the elections.

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“Groundwater plays a vital role in food and water security in India. Sustainable use of groundwater resources for irrigation is the key for future grain production,” Vimal Mishra, an IIT-Gandhinagar researcher behind the study, was quoted as saying by The Economic Times.

Rising demand for food and reducing rainfall have also resulted in ten-fold increase in groundwater withdrawals since 1950s.

India is a seen as a major player in the international effort to tackle climate change. Present Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi ratified the Paris Climate Deal last year, after years of negotiations by major world powers to reach an agreement over emission cuts.