Mumbai, Pune among 30 cities to face water risk within decades

WWF's (World Wide Fund) new water risk scenarios estimate that hundreds of millions of people in cities across the globe could be at danger
About 30 Indian cities will face increasing water risks
About 30 Indian cities will face increasing water risksImage source: Unsplash

Thirty India cities, including Jaipur, Amritsar, Kolkata, Mumbai, Kozhikode could dramatically face increased water risks -- unless urgent action is taken to mitigate and adapt to climate changes, a World Wide Fund study says.

With water crises already plaguing many of the world's cities, the WWF's new water risk scenarios estimate that hundreds of millions of people in cities across the globe could be at danger.

According to the scenarios in the WWF Water Risk Filter, the 100 cities that are expected to suffer the greatest due to rise in water risk by 2050 are home to at least 350 million people, including important national and global economies.

Globally, populations in areas of high-water risk could rise from 17 per cent in 2020 to 51 per cent by 2050. The list includes cities such as Beijing, with China accounting for almost half the cities, besides Jakarta, Johannesburg, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Mecca and Rio de Janeiro.

About 30 Indian cities including Jaipur, Indore, Amritsar, Pune, Srinagar, Kolkata, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kozhikode and Vishakhapatnam among many others have been identified as cities that will face increasing water risks in the next few decades.

"The future of India's environment lies in its cities. As India rapidly urbanizes, cities will be at the forefront both for India's growth and for sustainability," Sejal Worah, Programme Director, WWF India, said.

"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. This is our chance to re-evolve and re-imagine what the future of the cities could be," Worah said.

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. Urban watersheds and wetlands are critical for maintaining the water balance of a city, flood cushioning, micro-climate regulation and protecting its biodiversity. The future of our cities and sustainability lies in the efficiency in closing the loop by integrating water supply, demand management.

"Cities across the world have paid a high price in recent years due to worsening water risks. From acute risks that have seen historic floods to chronic risks that have seen their taps running dry, the water challenges cities are facing are only going to increase in the coming decades because the impacts of climate change will primarily be felt through water," said Alexis Morgan, WWF Global Water Stewardship Lead.

Multi-stakeholder engagement and ownership involving local communities is key in creating and conserving sustainable water infrastructure and rejuvenating urban freshwater systems.

There are many initiatives across the country that can be scaled up where multi-stakeholder groups have come together and revived wetlands such as Bashettihalli wetland in Bengaluru and the Sirpur Lake in Indore. Urban planning and wetland conservation needs to be integrated to ensure zero loss of freshwater systems in the urban areas.

While improving urban water infrastructure and cutting water consumption will help reduce water risks, Nature-based Solutions - such as restoring degraded watersheds, reconnecting rivers to their floodplains, and restoring or creating urban wetlands - are critical to avoiding the worst-case scenario and to safeguarding economies and human wellbeing.

Public funds will be needed in some cases, but bankable water solutions also offer effective ways to invest in projects that can enhance the health of freshwater ecosystems, reduce water risk and generate returns.

Private sector companies and financial institutions also have a vital role to play in reducing water risk to their operations and assets as well as cities, which are the main engines of sustainable economic growth. By working together with cities, they can collectively distribute the load of enhancing basin level resilience.

Launched in October, the new climate and socio-economic pathway-based scenarios for 2030 and 2050 are available in the WWF Water Risk Filter - the leading online tool for assessing, valuing and responding to water risk.

The scenarios are aligned to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) recommendations and can help companies, and cities, better understand future water risks and drive more effective corporate action on climate and water resilience.

"Companies, cities, and investors - even ministries of finance, are finally waking up to the growing water risks facing the economy and the need to take urgent action to reduce their risks and tackle shared water challenges," said Morgan.

"By harnessing the new scenarios in the Water Risk Filter, companies, cities and investors can better assess, respond and plan for climate and water resilience - helping to reduce water risks to their own operations as well as cities."

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