Groundwater Extraction in India – CGWB Report

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    • Groundwater extraction in India saw an 18-year decline according to an assessment by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB).
      • Such joint exercises between the CGWB and States/Union Territories were carried out earlier in 1980, 1995, 2004, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2017 and 2020. 

    Major Highlights of the report by CGWB 

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    • Over-exploitation: 
      • Overall decrease in the number of over-exploited units and decrease in the stage of groundwater extraction level have also been observed. 
      • Out of the total 7,089 assessment units in the country, 1,006 units have been categorised as over-exploited.
    • Extractable groundwater resources:
      • The groundwater recharge levels don’t reflect the water that can be actually extracted, called the extractable groundwater resources.
        • In 2020 the extractable groundwater resources amounted to 397.62 bcm which is less than the recharge that year.
    • How was the increase in ground water recharge possible?
      • Increase in recharge from canal seepage.
      • Return flow of irrigation water and recharges from water bodies/tanks & water conservation structures. 

    Do you know?

    • India has about 18 percent of the world’s population, but holds just 4 per cent of the freshwater resources. 

    Causes of groundwater depletion in India

    • Green revolution
      • While the expansion in groundwater-based irrigation helped meet the rising food demands of a large population of India, it has resulted in several environmental implications.
    • Groundwater pumping for irrigation 
      • It remains the primary driver of groundwater depletion, which can further affect food and water security in India under climate change.
    • Pumping groundwater from aquifers
      • Water flows freely through the saturated rocks known as aquifers. There are large and small aquifers, and they are the underground water reserves that absorb water and hold it, enabling us to pump it for use.
    • Climate change 
      • The activities that lead to groundwater depletion come mostly from humans, but a portion of it also comes from changes in our climate and can speed up the process.

    Effects of Groundwater Depletion

    • Groundwater depletion will force us to pump water from deeper within the Earth: The more we extract groundwater right below the Earth’s surface, the further down we have to go in order to get more.
    • Large bodies of water will become shallower from groundwater depletion: A groundwater shortage keeps additional water from flowing into lakes, rivers and seas. This means that over time, less water will enter as the existing surface water continues to evaporate.
    • Saltwater contamination can occur: Groundwater that is deep within the ground often intermingles with saltwater that we shouldn’t drink.
    • Food supply and people will suffer: strict orders are not in place to regulate how much water can be pumped from aquifers which could have a devastating effect on the crops and people who live there.
    • It limits biodiversity and dangerous sinkholes result from depleted aquifers: Wildlife, marine animals, and agriculture continue to suffer because the runoff from industrial farming materials finds its way into the water. 

    Initiatives for groundwater conservation

    • Central Ground Water Board (CGWB): It is the apex organisation of the ministry of jal shakti in dealing with groundwater and related issues.
    • Jal Shakti Abhiyan: The government launched Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) in 2019 in 256 water stressed districts in the country in collaboration with states to improve water availability, including groundwater conditions in the country.
    • National Water Policy: It has been formulated which advocates rainwater harvesting and conservation of water and highlights the need for augmenting the availability of water through direct use of rainfall.
    • Atal Bhujal Yojana: It is for sustainable management of groundwater resources with community participation.
    • National Aquifer Mapping and Management programme (NAQUIM) is being implemented by CGWB as part of Ground Water Management and Regulation (GWM&R) scheme which is a Central Sector scheme.

    Way Forward

    • Proper examination: The adequacy of groundwater monitoring network for shallow and deep aquifers needs to be examined.
    • Human interventions: Better representation of human interventions is needed in the land surface models.
    • Groundwater storage variability needs to be examined under changing climatic conditions.
    • Drip Irrigation: Drip irrigation systems deliver water directly to a plant’s roots, reducing the evaporation that happens with spray watering systems.
    • Drought-Tolerant Crops: Growing crops that are appropriate to the region’s climate is another way that farmers are getting more crop per drop.
    • Compost and Mulch: Compost, or decomposed organic matter used as fertilizer, has been found to improve soil structure, increasing its water-holding capacity. 
    • Going Organic: In addition to keeping many of the more toxic pesticides out of our waterways, organic methods could help retain soil moisture. 
    • Investment in R&D: More comprehensive research and additional funding can help with groundwater depletion.

    Source: TH