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The world economic forum has identified water as one of the top five risks for the world in next ten years and 2nd largest risk for India that can have catastrophic effect on the country.

Industry stalwarts, technocrats, academia, and key decision makers from the government bodies converged to attend the two day forum WaterEX World Conference 2013 themed as 'Managing Water... Together Making the Difference' organised during the 26th edition of CHEMTECH World Expo in Mumbai from 15th to 18th January 2013.

"Water is an important element to maintain the sustainability vision and will make a big difference to the survival of people and industries at large in the country," said Ajay Popat, CEO Ion Exchange Waterleau Ltd and Chairman, Central Advisory Board (CAB), WaterEX World Expo 2013 during the inauguration of the 2nd edition of the international conference.

"If water issues are addressed, almost two third of health related issues will be addressed since most of the diseases are water borne, which can be a strong setback to the pharma industry," quipped Suresh Prabhu, Former Union Minister, Government of India and Global Brand Ambassador, CHEMTECH World Expo 2013 during the inauguration of the international conference. He said that WaterEX was the first international forum post the announcement of country's water policy, which has been adopted by most of the states.

Expressing his concern over the worst water crises that the country is facing in the last 50 years, he commented that though the policy laid a brilliant framework but three key issues of ideologies towards building water infrastructure, enhancing efficiencies in water distribution and augmentation of water resources for meeting the exponentially increasing needs of the population and industry needed to be addressed methodically to meet the growing future demand.

In his key note address, P D Samudra, Executive Director, Sales & Member of the Board, Uhde India and Senior Vice President - Business Development, ThyssenKrupp Uhde for India & MENA pointed out that as India is being professed as a super power by 2050, Oil & Gas, Refining, Chemicals & petrochemicals, Steel, Power and Paper & Pulp etc are some of the water guzzling industries, which are going to revolutionise the Indian economy and increase the demand of water manifolds in the years to come. Mahesh Zagade (IAS), Commissioner Food & Drug Administration, Government of Maharashtra expressed "Water is one of the limiting factors in growth of GDP of the country and we are experiencing the ill effects of pre-stages of water stress, which is not natural but man made, since we have not invested into the nitty-gritty of how to make use of water. As an implementer, we have faltered and failed miserably by not taking cognizance of the enormity of problem, is in 3-R's - Recycle Reuse & Recover."

India possesses 5 per cent of worldÊs fresh water, but is home to 16 per cent of global population; and addressing the water conservation challenge would require all encompassing approach involving leakage reduction, sanitation, judicious water allocation, rainwater harvesting, clean flow in the rivers, groundwater recharge aquifer storage and recovery, and recycle and reuse of water.

Water resources is kind of silent sector and has been taken for granted in India. Those who have access to clean water do not value this important commodity and as their mindset indicates, they think India is abundant with water, which has resulted in misuse of available water resources in the country. However the reality is in stark contrast and thus water resources cannot be taken for granted and people have failed to realise.

River Ganga is a classic example where the untreated sewage water is disposed into the receiving bodies, which is spoiling the natural water resources in the country. Preliminary estimates suggests that nearly Rs 50,000 crore (USD 10 billion) is required to be invested over the next 25-30 years to improve the water quality and sanitation situation in the Ganga Basin alone.

Dr P K Tiwari, BARC expressed that India was a unique market and that the issues were very different than from rest of the world and emphasised on the integrated water management, which would require to address the issue holistically on quantity and quality aspects as well as waste water treatment.

Availability of water is a restraining factor for industrial development since it is the raw material for most of the industrial processes. Growing scarcity is a point of major concern for the industry, which is paying heavy water costs and thus industrial water and waste water treatment has gained significant momentum in the past 5-7 years. A recent study says that only 10-15 per cent of industrial waste water is getting recycled, barring another 10-15 per cent that may not be recyclable there is huge potential in this field, which can be conserved. Many states are making it mandatory for the industries to have Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) as a strategic approach to reduce water stress, a trend pioneered by the state of Tamilnadu which depends completely on the neighboring states to meet the water demand. Water losses during distribution are perhaps most neglected area in all the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) where major portion of water is lost during distribution. According to estimates, of 4000 million liters of water generated in Mumbai per day, 1000 million liters is lost every day which is sufficient to meet the water demand in a small city.

Growing urbanisation has called for the need of efficient sewage systems in the country. Though municipal waste water treatment technologies are available but the rate of implementation is very low and is of the order of only 5 per cent in India. Post implementation of JNNURM, lot of cities is implementing sewage treatment plants. One may look at CPCB statistics which horrifyingly indicate that despite the increase in sewage treatment capacities in the last 7-8 years, even today less than 30 per cent of waste water generated in cities gets treated. Contribution of urban areas to IndiaÊs GDP is set to increase from 30 per cent in the 1970s to 75 per cent in 2030 which necessitates the creation of urban infrastructure on an on-going basis.

There has been a dramatic rise in investments in the urban sector. Prior to JNNURM the investments stood at around Rs 4000 crore during the period 1980- 2005, which increased to Rs 79617 crore during JNNURM from 2005- 2012 in water. Government has earmarked Rs 5000 crore for water and sanitation sector under the 12th five year plan, and envisages investments in waste water infrastructure of approximately Rs 563000 crore from 2012- 2031 that would offer enormous scope for the technology and services providers in the municipal sector.

Environmental protection and growth, however, are impossible without modern plant and technology. The high demands set on water and wastewater technology call for a continuous adaptation and development of existing technologies which have to be able to meet the challenges in the arid regions of this world.