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The initial forecast that India will get a normal monsoon this year is a relief. However, the next few weeks could be very difficult for the peninsular states. Reservoir levels in states such as Tamil Nadu have fallen far below their averages over the past decade. In a recent column published in The Hindustan Times, Gopalkrishna Gandhi has compared the water stress in Tamil Nadu to the terrible famine of 1876, when what the colonial authorities called the Deccan riots shook the country.
The protests by Tamil Nadu farmers in New Delhi have not got the attention they deserve. The looming water crisis in many southern states should be seen as an example of a deeper problem that Indian public policy needs to address. The demand on water resources will continue to grow. The public policy response has been inadequate. Countries such as Israel have shown that every drop of water can be made to count through good national policy, community cooperation and the use of technology. The prospects of a good monsoon should not make us forget the broader water challenge.