Groundwater Reserves Dwindle to Critical Level Amid Rampant Extraction

Posted in: Drinking Water News
Tags: , ,

Water crisis. Photo credit: India Today

Article courtesy of Akash Vashishta | September 30, 2014 | India Today | Shared as educational material

Groundwater is being extracted in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan at a rate faster than it’s replenished, according to the latest report of the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB).

The status of groundwater extraction – the proportion of water drawn out to annual recharge – in Delhi and the three states is more than 100 per cent. In Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Lakshwadeep, Pondicherry and Daman and Diu, the status of groundwater extraction is more than 70 per cent, while the figure for the rest of the nation is below 70 per cent.

In India as a whole, the status of groundwater extraction is 62 per cent, according to the recent report titled ‘Dynamic Ground Water Resources of India’ based on a 2011 assessment of resources.

‘Massive concern’

 Describing the overall scenario as “highly critical”, a senior CGWB official said, “The data is a matter of massive concern and the situation needs an urgent overhaul. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, (which mandates restraint in the indiscriminate use of groundwater) needs to be thoroughly enforced by the government. Ground water is fast depleting in several new areas. We have 162 notified areas (where extraction is prohibited); we are in the process of adding 45 more, as the situation has worsened,” the official told MAIL TODAY. “Most of the new places are in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.”

According to the CGWB, the annual replenishable groundwater resources have been assessed at 433 billion cubic centimetres (bcm). While the net groundwater available annually is 398 bcm, 245 bcm is withdrawn in the same period.

Agriculture remains the biggest consumer of groundwater, accounting for 222 bcm or 91 per cent of the total extracted in a year. Domestic and industrial uses account for nine per cent.

Out of 6,607 units (including blocks, mandals, talukas and firkas) assessed for groundwater resources by the CGWB, 1,071 units across India have been categorised as “over-exploited” for the annual groundwater extraction in these areas exceeded the net available ground water. A significant decline in the long-term groundwater level was also noted in pre- or post-monsoon periods, or both periods, in these regions.

Besides, 217 units were classified as “critical” as the status of groundwater extraction at these places was more than 90 per cent and a massive decline was observed in both the pre- and postmonsoon periods. As many as 697 units were classified “semi-critical” as the status of extraction here was between 70 and 100 per cent and there was a decline in water level in the pre- and post-monsoon periods.

In addition to this, 92 blocks and firkas were completely underlaid by saline ground water.

The over-exploited areas are mostly concentrated in northwestern, western and peninsular India. In the northwest, including Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and western Uttar Pradesh, there was indiscriminate extraction or overexploitation of ground water.

In western India, especially in Gujarat and Rajasthan, the arid climate has reduced groundwater recharge. In peninsular India, the groundwater availability was lower due to poor properties of aquifers in states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Exploitation
In 2009, the CGWB, while assessing 5,842 units, had found 802 units to be over-exploited. Another 169 units were described as critical. The board found 523 units to be semi-critical. “Eighteen of 27 sub-divisions in Delhi are over-exploited, while in Haryana, 71 of 116 blocks have become over-exploited.

The condition of Uttar Pradesh has worsened with 111 of 820 units over-exploited. Continuous discrepancies are observed in the implementation of environment protection and water laws,” activist Vikrant Tongad, whose petition in the National Green Tribunal led to a ban on commercial extraction of groundwater by realtors in UP’s Gautam Budh Nagar district in 2013, said.

RAJASTHAN

~By Sudhanshu Mishra

Experts have warned that Rajasthan’s groundwater reserves — its main source of water – will soon run out if it continues to be drawn at the current pace. According to the CGWB, groundwater reserves in 140 of the state’s 237 blocks are ‘overexploited’, while they are ‘critical’ in 50 others.

If rainwater harvesting is not taken up in earnest immediately, experts say, the state could find itself in the grips of a severe water crisis in less than 10 years.

The depleting reserves are far from Rajasthan’s biggest worry though, as groundwater here has been found to contain a higher level of toxic elements than WHO guidelines decree permissible. In short, it means the water is unfit for consumption. A CGWB study also detected arsenic, in varying quantities, in over six districts.

NCR IS THE WORST

~By Baishali Adak

THE latest CGWB report brings ominous news for Noida and Ghaziabad as they find themselves in a similar quandary as neighbour Delhi.

According to the report, groundwater reserves in the Bisrakh development block, which covers Noida, have slipped from ‘semicritical’ (as described in CGWB’s 2009 report) to ‘over-exploited’. The story is the same for Ghaziabad’s Bhojpur area, which is infamous for the prevalence of water-borne diseases arising from its polluted groundwater. The ground water situation in Gurgaon, though, remains exactly the same. All four blocks of Gurgaon remain ‘over-exploited’, as they were found to be in 2009.

Water conservation activists have long been waging a battle against powerful builders who employ pumps to de-water basements, and water packaging units that illegally use groundwater.

To curb the exploitation, the National Green Tribunal passed an order last year restraining builders in Noida and Greater Noida from extracting groundwater for construction or any other purpose. Recently, an NGT bench shut down over 30 water packaging units for operating without permission. “However, many industries still draw groundwater, legally and illegally. At least 2 lakh borewells are operating in Ghaziabad alone,” environmentalist Vikrant Tongad said.

PUNJAB
~By Manjeet Sehgal

The depleting water table has pushed India’s food bowl into troubled waters. According to a recent study, groundwater reserves in central Punjab have gone down by over 20 metres in the past decade. What’s worse, the districts of Sangrur, Barnala and Moga, where the bulk of the cultivation of rice and other crops is centred, are the worst hit.

The state requires 52 million acre foot (MAF) or 64.14 lakh crore litres of water to sustain its crops, but only 14.54 MAF (17.93 lakh crore litres) is available owing to a severely depleted water table.

The Punjab government has been advocating direct seeding, with means sowing without prior tillage to prepare the soil, as a way to conserve water. The government will launch a joint venture with a Hyderabadbased private firm soon to promote the initiative described as a “gamechanger” by Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Uttar Pradesh
~By Rajat Rai

Groundwater is overexploited in the central Gangetic plain primarily because it is drawn all-year round for cultivation of various crops. Apart from wheat and paddy, the region also relies heavily on sugarcane, which is known to be one of the thirstiest crops and can be cultivated throughout the year. The scanty rainfall over the past five years has only made matters worse in the region as it heavily dependent on the monsoon for irrigation.

Social worker Saurabh Singh, who has been working for groundwater conservation in the state, described the situation in the stretch “between Varanasi and Gautam Budh Nagar” as particularly alarming.

KARNATAKA
~By Aravind Gowda

Alarmed by its dwindling reserves, the government introduced the Karnataka Groundwater Act, 2011, to regulate use of groundwater.

However, the impact of the law is yet to be felt, as water continues to be overexploited by households, industry as well as the agriculture sector.

Capital Bangalore is one of the worst-hit areas owing to excessive extraction for commercial purposes. In other parts of the state, irrigation needs account for the largest share of groundwater.

According to the Department of Mines & Geology, of the state’s 220 taluks, water is ‘over-exploited’ in 35, while the situation is ‘critical’ in three. A recent study put much of the blame for the depletion on the government as they had incentivised use of groundwater for irrigation.

HARYANA

~By Manjeet Sehgal

With agriculture accounting for 91 per cent of the groundwater drawn annually, it comes as no surprise that Haryana, one of the largest foodgrain producers, finds itself in dire straits.

According to a study, the water table in Haryana is going down by 0.33 metres every year. The Haryana Preservation of Subsoil Water Act, 2009-which prohibits farmers from sowing early maturing rice crop varieties-as an effort towards arresting the depletion. The law also prohibits paddy sowing before May 15 and rice before June 15. Farmers violating the law can be fined Rs.10,000 per hectare under cultivation.

Want to Donate?
Please contact us for gifts in kind - Mail your check to: P.O. Box 545934, Surfside, Fl 33154