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Indian businesses show concern about water scarcity: Survey

New Delhi : Top businesses in India have shown significant concern about current and future impacts of climate change, with most of them feeling the effects of recent droughts, which have increased prices and reduced water availability, a survey has found.

The survey was conducted with senior decision-makers from several top businesses in India, with annual revenues of up to $10.5 billion and was released in CarbonCopy, a fortnightly environment, energy and climate newsletter by a French multi-media platform specialising in the environment sector.

The businesses were from several sectors including mechanical goods, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, beverages and other consumer goods, and have rolled out measures to adapt to water scarcity.

Climate change presents a growing threat to Indian businesses. Human activities have warmed the planet by more than 1°C since the 19th Century. Temperatures in India rose by 0.5°C in 50 years alone. These temperature increases resulted in changes to the summer monsoon in India.

In the second half of the 20th Century, monsoon rainfall became both less frequent and more intense - increasing the risk of both drought and flood damage to crops. Changes to rainfall have reduced India’s rice yields since the 1960s. In 2014 and 2015 India experienced weak rainfall during the monsoon, and in 2016 a drought led to water shortages and agricultural difficulties that affected a quarter of the population, the survey quoted the Indian Government as saying.

It listed other effects like a 12 per cent drop in tea production in south India in 2016, due to drought, with the drought in Tamil Nadu being the worst in 140 years. Also, a coal power plant in West Bengal had to shut most of its power-generating capacity for 10 days in 2016 because it did not have enough water for cooling - the first time it had done so in its 30-year history.

Water storage in India’s reservoirs is currently 55 per cent of total capacity, according to the Central Water Commission - compared with 84 per cent on average during the same period over the last 10 years, the survey said.

Survey participants linked drought, fossil fuel use and climate change, and were concerned about the future effects of climate change on their operations and customers. Several of them expressed a desire for the government to introduce regulations and incentives to reduce emissions, and to ensure that water supplies continue to be available.

Further climate change is likely to mean these problems will worsen. For example, the 2030 Water Resources Group, an international organisation, warns that India “faces a looming water crisis where demand is set to outstrip supply by 50 per cent by 2030”. Studies suggest climate change will make India’s summer monsoon much more unpredictable.

A IANS news report cited the case of food manufacturer Kellogg’s, which depends on agricultural produce, and said change in climatic conditions and poor monsoon is said to have caused it additional costs in procuring raw material. Last year saw the highest ever price of corn.

Kellogg takes climate change seriously and has increased its water storage capacity at its manufacturing units. “We are committed to addressing the critical issues of climate and food security, and we’re helping tackle the inter-connected issues of hunger and robust food systems,” Kellogg’s Asia Pacific President Amit Banati was quoted as saying.

The survey had asked the Indian companies about the impacts of drought and climate change on their business, their understanding of the causes of droughts, what measures their company was taking to address climate change and their views on the government’s measures to manage climate change.

The interviews for the survey were conducted confidentially, so companies were not identified.

“The two consecutive years of poor monsoons, water shortage in reservoirs, as well as lowering of groundwater table impacted businesses at large ... poor monsoons impacted the overall production of crops, mainly rice and corn. This impacted the procurement cost for all manufacturers including us", said an executive from a food company.

“Shortage of water in India is arising more out of mismanagement of available water and unplanned urbanization", said a glass manufacturer.

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