Water Pollution in India
An Economic Appraisal
M.N. Murty and Surender Kumar
Water pollution is a serious problem in India as almost 70 per cent of its surface water resources and a growing percentage of its groundwater reserves are contaminated by biological, toxic, organic, and inorganic pollutants. In many cases, these sources have been rendered unsafe for human consumption as well as for other activities, such as irrigation and industrial needs. This shows that degraded water quality can contribute to water scarcity as it limits its availability for both human use and for the ecosystem. In 1995, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) identiﬁed severely polluted stretches on 18 major rivers in India. Not surprisingly, a majority of these stretches were found in and around large urban areas. The high incidence of severe contamination near urban areas indicates that the industrial and domestic sectors’ contribution to water pollution is much higher than their relative importance implied in the Indian economy. Agricultural activities also contribute in terms of overall impact on water quality. Besides a rapidly depleting groundwater table in diﬀerent parts, the country faces another major problem on the water front—groundwater contamination—a problem which has aﬀected as many as 19 states, including Delhi. Geogenic contaminants, including salinity, iron, ﬂuoride, and arsenic have aﬀected groundwater in over 200 districts spread across 19 states. Water as an environmental resource is regenerative in the sense that it could absorb pollution loads up to
certain levels without aﬀecting its quality. In fact there could be a problem of water pollution only if the pollution loads exceed the natural regenerative capacity of a water resource. The control of water pollution is therefore to reduce the pollution loads from anthropogenic activities to the natural regenerative capacity of the resource. The beneﬁts of the preservation of water...