New Delhi: India is facing the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat, federal policy think tank Niti Aayog said.

About 600 million face high to extreme water stress and about 200,000 people die every year because of inadequate access to safe water, a crisis that will only get worse, the think tank said in a document that ranked states in their efforts at optimal use and management of the resource.

“By 2030, India’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual 6% loss in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP)," said the document, titled Composite water management index’, released on Thursday by water resources minister Nitin Gadkari and Niti Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar.

The document, which ranked Gujarat as the best performer in water management in 2016-17 and Jharkhand as the worst, also said the water requirement by 2050 in a high use scenario is likely to be 1,180 billion cu. m (BCM) while the availability of water in the country is likely to be lower than this projected demand at 1,137 BCM. “Thus, there is an imminent need to deepen our understanding of our water resources and usage and put in place interventions that make our water use efficient and sustainable," said the document.

The present-day water availability is 695 BCM, it said.

India is placed 120th among 122 in the water quality index, as nearly 70% of the water is contaminated, said Amitabh Kant, chief executive officer, NITI Aayog in his forward to the document.

The index prepared by the think tank is an attempt to nudge states towards efficient and optimal utilisation of water with a sense of urgency, said Kant.

In the water management index, Gujarat is followed by Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra as the best performers. In the northeastern and Himalayan states, Tripura has been adjudged as the top state in 2016-17, followed by Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Assam.

The ranking is based on various aspects of ground water, restoration of water bodies, irrigation, farm practices, drinking water, policy and governance. Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are among the worst performing states in water management after Jharkhand.

PTI contributed to this story.

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