Depletion of Groundwater-The Hindu-10-11-2022

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GS - 3
Conservation of Water Resources, Irrigation


An analysis of water level data done by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) indicates that about 33% of the wells monitored have registered a decline in groundwater levels in the range of 0 – 2 metres. Moreover, a decline of more than 4.0 m has also been observed in a few pockets of metro cities like New Delhi, Chennai, Indore, Madurai, Vijayawada, Ghaziabad, Kanpur, Lucknow, etc.

CGWB is periodically monitoring the groundwater levels throughout the Country including metro cities on a regional scale, through a network of monitoring wells.

Role of CGWB :

Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), a subordinate office of the Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India, is the National Apex Agency entrusted with the responsibilities of providing scientific inputs for the management, exploration, monitoring, assessment, augmentation and regulation of ground.

India is majorly dependent on groundwater for irrigation and is pumping out the lion’s share of the global volume of groundwater. Around 70% of food production in India is done with the help of irrigation wells.

However, this over-dependence on groundwater is leading to a groundwater crisis. There is a need for a holistic action plan for groundwater conservation.

Groundwater Extraction in India:

The UNESCO World Water Development Report, 2018 states that India is the largest extractor of groundwater in the world.

The contribution of groundwater to the national gross domestic product is never measured.

According to the CGWB, with 230 billion metre cube of groundwater drawn out each year for irrigating agricultural lands in India, many parts of the country are experiencing rapid depletion of groundwater.

The total estimated groundwater depletion in India is in the range of 122–199 billion metre cube.

In India, the construction of irrigation wells does not require any clearance and no records are maintained of abandoned wells.

Several hundred wells are constructed in India every day and even more are abandoned when they run dry.

Reasons for Groundwater Depletion:

Increased demand for water for domestic, industrial and agricultural needs and limited surface water resources.

Limited storage facilities owing to the hard rock terrain, along with the added disadvantage of lack of rainfall, especially in central Indian states.

Green Revolution enabled water-intensive crops to be grown in drought-prone/water-deficit regions, leading to the over-extraction of groundwater.

Frequent pumping of water from the ground without waiting for its replenishment leads to quick depletion.

Subsidies on electricity and high MSP (Minimum Support Price) for water-intensive crops.

Water contamination as in the case of pollution by landfills, septic tanks, leaky underground gas tanks, and from overuse of fertilizers and pesticides leads to damage and depletion of groundwater resources.

Inadequate regulation of groundwater encourages the exhaustion of groundwater resources without any penalty.

Deforestation, unscientific methods of agriculture, chemical effluents from industries, and lack of sanitation also lead to the pollution of groundwater, making it unusable.

Steps were taken by the Central Government to Control Groundwater Depletion

Jal Shakti Abhiyan: The government of India launched Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) in 2019, intended to improve water availability including groundwater conditions in the water-stressed blocks of 256 districts in India.

Master Plan for Artificial Recharge to Groundwater - 2020: CGWB in consultation with the state governments has prepared The Master Plan - 2020.

It envisages the construction of about 1.42 crore Rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge structures in the Country to harness 185 Billion Cubic metres (BCM).

In addition, the government has also launched the Catch the Rain campaign to promote rainwater harvesting.

National Water Policy (2012): The policy advocates rainwater harvesting and conservation of water and highlights the need for augmenting the availability of water through the direct use of rainfall.

It also advocates conservation of rivers, river bodies and infrastructure should be undertaken in a scientifically planned manner through community participation.

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