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Tea Without Sugar More Effective Than IPL Ban

Yogesh Upadhyaya,
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Mumbai can save 150% more water by drinking tea without sugar for a day than can be saved by banning a season of Indian Premier League (IPL)—India’s professional cricket tournament—matches in three Maharashtra stadia, our calculations reveal.


The Bombay High Court suggested that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) reconsider its decision to hold IPL matches in Maharashtra because of a widespread drought (read IndiaSpend drought reports here, here and here), but refused to stay the first match to be played at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai on Friday.


Maharashtra’s three stadia–at Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur–would use 6 million litres of water for the twenty matches, according to the petitioner, an advocacy called the Loksatta Movement.



While this seems like a lot of water, there are more effective ways of saving water than not watering cricket grounds, if we use the concept of embedded water–the water used in production of a product.


Agriculture consumes almost 85% of water consumed in India, according to India Infrastructure Report 2011. We consume water for drinking, bathing, cooking and even washing cars, but we consume much more water through food. This is because large quantities of water are used to grow and process that food. For example, this estimate by National Geographic says more than 1,500 litres of water are used to produce half a kg of chicken, and nearly 1,000 litres to produce a bottle of wine.





“(The real culprit) is the state’s policy that encourages production of the water-guzzling sugarcane,” Sunil Jain wrote in this column in the Financial Express.


National Geographic also tells us that more than 1,500 litres of water is used to produce a kg of sugar. Now, even if we assume that approximately 20% of Mumbai’s population, or 2.5 million people, drink a cup of tea every day with a teaspoon of sugar, that comes to nearly 10,000 kg of sugar.


This sugar has 15 million litres of water embedded–meaning, it has cost us 15 million litres of water to produce this much sugar. That is 2.5 times the water to be used in the three IPL venues in Maharashtra.


Of course, this calculation has many approximations. For one, estimates of how much water is embedded in different foods vary widely, and can be different in different places. For another, we have no way of knowing how many cups of tea (or coffee or cold coffee or milk or aerated drinks) are consumed every day in the city. However, the calculation is an indication that intuition may not serve us well when it comes to issues such as water conservation.


One may point out that not consuming sugar for a day will only reduce the demand for sugar infinitesimally, and will most probably not reduce the production of sugar even next year. Obviously, it will not have any impact on the water situation in Marathwada today. But then, so wouldn’t using less water in Wankhede stadium. After all, the water not used in Wankhede would not be transported more than 400 km away to Latur in the crisis-ridden Marathwada region in Maharashtra.


The High Court probably knows this, but its intention is to focus the attention of people on what is happening to fellow citizens. Focusing on sugar consumption is a much better way of doing that because unlike cricket, growing sugarcane is a significant part of the water problem in large parts of Maharashtra and India.


Sugarcane uses a disproportionately high amount of water, this Current Science study explained.


Of 650 billion cubic metres (BCM) of water available for irrigation nationwide, 15%, or 100 BCM of water, is used by sugarcane (the crop uses water from reservoirs as well as groundwater), which is planted on no more than 2.5% of India’s farmland, as IndiaSpend recently reported.


In the Marathwada region, the number of sugar mills has gone up from 40 in 2009-10 to 52 in 2014-15.



Agriculture and other sectors compete for the same water, and overuse, as with sugarcane, affects Indians in many other ways, such as shortage of drinking water, electricity generation, etc. Enabling farmers to grow alternative crops has to be part of the solution, as many experts have explained.


Additional research: Abhishek Waghmare


(Upadhyaya is a founder of AskHow India, a collective committed to increasing the quality of public debate in India.)


We welcome feedback. Please write to respond@indiaspend.org. We reserve the right to edit responses for language and grammar.



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  1. Satish Rao Reply

    April 8, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    Brilliant analysis. drinking tea without sugar may not help the water crisis in Mumbai. IPL is a national institution copied by all the cricket playing countries but not bettered, At any cost the IPL should be saved.

  2. Suresh Reply

    April 9, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    First, understand that, even by likely inflated numbers provided by IPL, media and Sponsors, the total viewership of this entire tournament was only around 20 crores last year. I will even go to the extent of accepting that this many viewers exist for each and every match, which is a very generous stretch. One of the sites says, this is the total for 59 matches last year. Even at 20 crores for each match, 110 crore are not watching the matches. And if we take the numbers published for last year, match average is 30 lakh, which cannot ask others to make sacrifices for their entertainment and escape from reality.

    I have better proposal which saves even more water in terms of sugar production as well as direct usage of water and many other benefits.

    Let the entire population who will attend or watch any of these games give up consumption of sugar-loaded soft drinks for only the duration of the IPL, including the so-called sports bars which need coke and its ilk to survive. They are also welcome to give up sugar in tea or tea itself for this duration. That is voluntary.

    Soft drinks consume many more times water directly in the making of the drink itself and also the sugar that is the biggest component. And downright unhealthy.

    One liter of coke, which is probably a fraction of what any sports lovers will consume for each game, can directly provide water for five cups of tea, and the sugar in that 1 liter of coke (100+ gms) – in addition to letting people have sugar in their teas (including yourself), will pep up some of the poor children’s milk as well, which is their need and not fancy. This will also indirectly protect the health of the sports lover to ensure that they can watch IPL for many more years.

    Of course, the plastic production that will be reduced will save further water, and transporting and chilled storage will have further benefits. I feel that this could be a good base for PIL in all states, where matches will be played out.

    Let all concerned also give up all the items mentioned in this post, which seem to be water guzzlers like t-shirts and meat. I won’t go as far as to suggest that they stop food from agriculture in India since it consumes local water.

    I am sure the author would love to take this idea to the IPL bosses and sponsors. I am planning to send the idea to SC and any other courts that may take such cases in public interest.

    Let me know what you would be willing to give up for this sake. And please propose the same idea to the people of your home state and see their response, irrespective of their interest in cricket or lack of it.

    I have to thank the author for giving well researched data on why IPL is a bigger burden on the country than just the watering of the grounds, which seems minuscule in comparison.

    Enjoy your IPL Yogesh, but not with such irrational ideas. Why should people who have no link to these matches give up something from their lives for this annual tamasha? Many of my friends and family do enjoy their cricket and I will not begrudge.

    There are enough of us who care about the overall public interest, and who can think slightly better than you. And we will no longer be silent.

  3. Yogesh Upadhyaya Reply

    April 12, 2016 at 10:59 am

    @Suresh, I agree that colas contain a lot of sugar and hence reduced consumption of coals will reduce demand for water guzzling sugar.

    In fact, if you follow our AskHowIndia page on FB you will see a graphic on it in the next two days. Hopefully, you will help spread that graphic.

    The main point is that citizens of Mumbai and other cities contribute to water shortage in places like Marathwada through consumption of ’embedded water’ and not through direct consumption. A point which you seem to agree with.

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