Snapshot of India’s Groundwater Situation

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    Recently ,The Union Minister of Jal Shakti released the Dynamic Ground Water Resource Assessment Report for the entire country for the year 2022. 

    About the assessment 

    • The assessment was carried out jointly by Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) and States/UTs, which can be used for taking suitable interventions by various stake-holders.
    •  As per the 2022 assessment report, the total annual ground water recharge for the entire country is 437.60 billion cubic meters (BCM) and annual ground water extraction for the entire country is 239.16 BCM.  
      • Further, out of the total 7089 assessment units in the country, 1006 units have been categorized as ‘Over-exploited’.
    • The 2022 assessment suggests that groundwater extraction is the lowest since 2004, 

    About Importance of Groundwater

    • Water is a fundamental resource for life. Ground water has become an increasingly important natural resource catering to the fresh water requirements of various sectors in India. 
    • Ground water has steadily emerged as the backbone of India’s agriculture and drinking water security.
    • Groundwater is the principal water source for a fourth of the world’s population. India is the world’s largest groundwater user; nearly 250 cubic kilometres was taken out in 2017. 
      • About 90% of this was used for irrigation, the rest went to towns and villages.

    Reasons for overexploitation

    • The problem of groundwater exploitation did not exist in India before the Green Revolution. But that changed completely since the 1970s mainly due to the need for assured irrigation for crop cultivation. 
      • The rapid development of borehole technology in the 1980s accentuated the problem.
    • The exploitation also increased because of faulty minimum support price policies, which did not consider the issue of water consumption of the crops for fixing their prices
      •  Due to this, farmers have been forced to cultivate more water-guzzling crops like paddy, wheat, sugarcane, etc.
    • The demand for water has increased manifold since 1990-91 due to rapid urban agglomeration and industrial development
      • But the supply of water from surface sources like canals, tanks and other small water bodies could not be increased in consonance with the demand therefore the country became over-dependent on groundwater for various purposes since early the 1990s.

    Impacts and Challenges 

    • The over-exploitation has reduced the level of groundwater, creating economic hardships for the farmers. 
    • The reduced water level also shortens the lifespan of the wells. 
    • The increased groundwater exploitation also leads to seawater intrusion into coastal districts, which will cause irreversible damage to the quality of groundwater.
    • With the declining groundwater level, electric motors have to be run for long hours to irrigate the crops, which increases electricity consumption .
      • As many States are providing free electricity to farmers, the subsidy cost on electricity will increase due to falling water levels.
    • Falling groundwater tables will also result in the escalation of irrigation costs for farmers and, thereby, raise the cost of cultivation.
    • The rapid extraction of groundwater could  cause irreparable damage to the environment.

    Initiatives 

    • National Water Policy, 2012 has laid emphasis on periodic assessment of groundwater resources on a scientific basis. 
    • Atal Bhujal Yojana: The focus of the scheme is on community participation and demand side intervention for sustainable groundwater management in identified water stressed areas.
    • Jal Jeevan Mission :Provisions have been made for source recharging like dedicated bore well recharge structures, rain water recharge, rejuvenation of existing water bodies, etc.
    • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana: It aim to enhance physical access of water on farm and for expanding cultivable area under assured irrigation, improve on-farm water use efficiency, introducing sustainable water conservation practices, etc.
    • Per Drop More Crop: It mainly focuses on water use efficiency at farm level through micro irrigation (drip and sprinkler irrigation system).
    • Rejuvenation of Dry Ponds, puddles and wells
      • Water being a State subject, it is for the State Governments to take up rejuvenation of water bodies like formulation of action plan for rejuvenation of dry ponds, puddles and wells in their jurisdiction.
    • National Aquifer Mapping and Management program (NAQUIM) is being implemented by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) as part of Ground Water Management and Regulation (GWM&R) Scheme, a central sector scheme.

    Suggestions and Way Ahead 

    • The groundwater conservation fee (2019) notified by the Ministry of Water Resources to regulate groundwater exploitation needs to be implemented expeditiously without any compromise. 
    • In particular, the exploitation and sale of groundwater by large corporations should be monitored on a continuous basis.
    • Both Central and State governments must take continuous steps to store rainwater in all possible ways to increase recharge. 
    • Rainwater harvesting system must be made mandatory in every household, particularly in big cities where groundwater has been declining alarmingly.
    • Considering the groundwater balance, MSPs for crops should be fixed according to the consumption of water; higher prices for crops that require less water and vice-versa. 
    • Micro-irrigation (drip and sprinkler), which can save about 50 per cent of water in the cultivation of different crops, should be promoted in the over-exploited blocks to reduce the exploitation of groundwater.
    • People from all walks of life must continue to be made aware of water literacy and on the hazardous effects of rapidly declining groundwater.

    Mains Practise Question 

    [Q]What are the consequences of Groundwater overexploitation? Elaborate measures to tackle the problem of Groundwater overexploitation .