Freshwater withdrawal today by steel, cement, aluminium, fertiliser, paper and power sectors is equivalent to the total domestic water demand (around 42 billion cubic metres per annum).
Freshwater consumption (water that is lost through evaporation, products and wastes in industries) equals the total drinking and cooking water needs of India (5.6 billion cubic metres per annum). The difference between freshwater withdrawal and consumption is the wastewater discharged by industries, which pollutes our rivers, lakes and groundwater.
By 2030, freshwater withdrawal by these six sectors will increase by 40 per cent and freshwater consumption by more than three-fold. A three-fold increase in consumption means less water will be available downstream for other users. There is already a growing conflict between industry and local communities on water scarcity and pollution. This will exacerbate in future.
Currently, around 0.7 million hectares (ha) of land are occupied by these six sectors – 0.4 million ha to mine coal, iron ore, limestone and bauxite, and 0.3 million ha for the plants. In an 8 per cent growth trajectory, another 1-1.3 million ha will be required by these six sectors – which means the amount of land needed in the next 20 years will be far higher than what they have acquired in last 60 years.
It is important to understand that India has an adverse land-population ratio (per capita land availability is a mere 0.25 ha)