NEW DELHI: With 31 cities exposed to serious water security risks, India has run into a greater challenge than entire continents of Africa or Europe, data from a study by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) show. Consequently, India faces the second highest basin risk in the world, only better than Palestine.
The analysis, ‘Water Risk Filter’, focuses on two things — water stress cities face now and the projected increase by 2050. “If you go just by water risk now and that projected for 2050, Indian cities dominate the list of cities facing very high water risk,” Ariane Laporte-Bisquit, international lead on the project, told TOI.
On a scale of 1 to 5, anything over 3 is high risk and over 4 is very high risk. Of the 31 Indian cities that are under water stress, 26 scored over 4, meaning they face ‘very high risk’ right now. The second worst placed region in the world, the Middle East, has only six such cities. Asia (barring China) has five, North America has three, China has two, central America has one. None of the other continents (Africa, Europe, South America and Oceania) has any city facing very high water risk.
Globally, the steepest escalation has been projected for Alexandria in Egypt, with a 16% spike by 2050, followed by Mecca and Tangshan (15% each). China has 30 cities set to see surges of 10% or more and, with 46 cities, makes up nearly half the list.

The highest increase in risk among Indian cities has been projected for Jaipur (11%) and Indore (10%). “Other cities in India do not feature on the global list (of 100) because their percentage increase in water risk is lower. But they still face very high water risk both now and in the future,” Laporte-Bisquit said. “The percentage increase in the risk (for Indian cities) is not as great as some of the other cities because their current water risk is already so high.”
For instance, Ludhiana already scores 4.9 now, the worst among Indian cities, followed by Chandigarh (4.8), Amritsar (4.7), and Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Gwalior (4.6 each). At its worst, Ludhiana will cross the scale of 5 (as projected by the report) by 2050. However, the rate of change will only register as 5%.
But if both the present stress and increase in risk are factored in, Jaipur faces the biggest challenge in the world — with its score projected to go from 4.5 now to 4.9 by 2050 — followed by Alexandria and Indore.
Globally, the population in areas of high water risk could rise from 17% now to 51% by 2050. “These are how water risks will look like in the pessimistic pathway,” Lapore-Bisquit said, “A world with unequal and unstable socio-economic development and high greenhouse gas emission levels, a pathway which will lead to an increase of global mean surface temperature of approximately 3.5°C by the end of the 21st century.”

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