Problems arising out of over-extraction of groundwater, encroachment of water bodies and contamination of clean water supplies were raised during a meet organised on the occasion of World Water Day here on Saturday.

Some of the speakers spoke about the neglect of water sources and improved disposal of dirty water. “The Capital has 60 per cent of untreated sewage and 40 per cent sewage remains unutilised. The official government list also shows 700 ponds but their condition is not known. If these ponds were to be filled with enough water, we would not need to harvest water on rooftops. Harvesting water from these ponds would solve much of our problem,” said Suresh Babu, director River Basins and Water Policy, WWF.

WWF-India CEO Ravi Singh spoke about how “in Delhi maximum water is extracted from the ground with pumps which has resulted in sinking of the water table. This is resulting in high amount of pollution level in river waters which in turn is adversely affecting the bio-diversity.”

Mr. Singh said that in the absence of fresh water, polluted water is being used for irrigation. He cautioned about its effects and said: “Such water contains high amount of metallic/chemical content. So everything we eat or drink – be it fruit, milk, vegetable – all contain high levels of toxins.”

Noting that “tomatoes, red chilli and pomegranate have the highest amount of chemical elements”, he cautioned that “in future consuming polluted water and food material will lead to low mental health in children and youth. It will affect their success rate and hence, directly affect the GDP of the country.”

To address the problem of water sanitation and conservation, WWF-India has also partnered with HSBC and environment NGOs Water Aid and Earth Watch. Speaking on the occasion, Naina Lal Kidwai, director HSBC Asia-Pacific and Country Head, India, said: “Access to safe water and sanitation is the first step out of poverty for individuals; managing water resources effectively sustains ecosystems, industries and communities by protecting the vital water resources they depend upon. We have prioritised the need to develop awareness and create change towards water sanitation, conservation and management and look forward to seeing its compounded positive impact on society.”

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