India’s groundwater governance is in better shape

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    • India’s groundwater governance is in better shape.

    Key Findings of different Reports

    • India, with nearly 18% of the world’s population, occupies about 2.4% of the total geographical area and consumes 4% of total water resources
    • India is the largest groundwater user
    • India has distinct and varying hydro-geological settings

    Groundwater 

    • About: 
      • Groundwater is the backbone of India’s agriculture and drinking water security in rural and urban areas.
      • It meets nearly 80% of the country’s drinking water and two-thirds of its irrigation needs. 
      • Groundwater is pivotal to India’s water security. 
      • The findings of the groundwater assessment also indicate a positive inclination toward the management of groundwater.
    • Theme of UN World Water Day 2022:
      • It was ‘Groundwater, Making the Invisible Visible’ and is a reflection of the importance given to the resource across the globe.
    • Making groundwater visible:
      • Automated stations: 
        • There are around 65,025 monitoring stations in India, which include 7,885 automated stations. 
        • The numbers are set to go beyond 84,000;
      • Sample checking: 
        • Besides other quality-related exercises, samples from fixed locations are obtained to check for the presence of heavy and trace metals. 
    • Latest Data and trends on Groundwater: 
      • Government App Jaldoot is capturing data on groundwater tables
      • There has been a 3% reduction in the number of ‘overexploited’ groundwater units.
      • A 4% increase in the number of ‘safe’ category units as compared to 2017. 
      • Overall extraction saw a declining trend, of about 3.25% since 2017.

    Threat to Groundwater

    • Degradation from human activities, often associated with poor land, agricultural, and waste management threatens:
      • Current uses of groundwater and 
      • Human and ecosystem health 
      • Limits benefits of future generations
    • The problem is more pronounced in South Asia because much of the groundwater is heterogeneous. Some 70 per cent of groundwater is hosted only in 30 per cent of land cover in south Asia and the rest is hosted in areas covered by Himalayan rivers.
    • Water pollution is another issue as much of the groundwater is polluted by contaminants like arsenic and Fluoride. More than 400 million people are exposed to these pollutants. So, it is not just a quantity issue but also a water quality issue in India.

    Significance

    • Groundwater has become an increasingly important natural resource catering to the freshwater requirements of various sectors in India. 
    • Groundwater 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 were taken out in 2017. 
    • About 90% of this was used for irrigation, the rest went to towns and villages.

    Concerns

    • India is a rapidly growing economy and the population is straining the country’s groundwater resources.
    • India will need adequate groundwater resources to manage anthropogenic pressures. It is important to ensure source sustainability to provide safe drinking water to all rural households by 2024, under the Jal Jeevan Mission.
    • Communities will have to manage their groundwater resources better with the help of various government agencies and non-governmental organizations. 
    • In the context of climate change, uncertainties will increase with connection with groundwater resources. 

    Actions Taken

    • The central government is working to achieve the goal of sustainable groundwater management in collaboration with States and Union Territories. 
      • Certain important deliverables have been identified that include a reduction in groundwater extraction to below 70%
      • Increasing the network of groundwater observation wells, 
      • Installing digital water level recorders for real-time monitoring, 
      • Periodic monitoring of groundwater quality, 
      • Aquifer mapping and data dissemination, 
      • Having better regulation of groundwater extraction by industries, and 
      • Promoting participatory groundwater management and even periodic groundwater resource assessment.
    • In May 2019, a much-needed step of policy reform was done under the leadership of the Prime Minister with the creation of the Jal Shakti Ministry. 
      • It was to give impetus to the management of water resources with special focus on demand and supply management. 
    • Realizing the importance of community participation, the Jal Shakti Abhiyan was launched subsequently to transform Jan Shakti into Jal Shakti through asset creation, rainwater harvesting (‘Catch the Rain’ campaign) and extensive awareness campaign.
    • Initiatives have also been taken for the effective management and regulation of groundwater, like
      • The Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABY): 
        • With the goal of “participatory groundwater management”, ABY looks to inculcate behavioural change made possible by incentivisation.
      • The National Project on Aquifer Management (NAQUIM):
        • NAQUIM, which is nearing completion, envisages the mapping of sub-surface water bearing geological formations (aquifers) to help gather authentic data and enable informed decision-making. 
        • Around 24 lakh square kilometres of the country has been mapped from the available mappable area of nearly 25 lakh sq. km. 
        • A heli-borne based survey (state-of-the-art technology), has also been used along with traditional exploratory methods for rapid and accurate aquifer mapping
        • The remaining area is likely to be mapped by March 2023. 
        • Region-wise aquifer management plans are being prepared and shared with States.
    • Dynamic groundwater assessments will be done annually now and a groundwater estimation committee formed to revise the assessment methodology. 
    • A software, ‘India-Groundwater Resource Estimation System (IN-GRES)’, has also been developed.
    • Implementation of comprehensive groundwater guidelines in 2020 for:
      • Regulation in various sectors 
      • Making the processes of issuing a no-objection certificate transparent and time-bound using a web-based application. 
      • The government’s interventions in enabling a positive impact on the overall groundwater scenario in India.
        • It reflects the spirit of cooperative federalism in managing this precious resource.

    Way Ahead

    • Efforts must be made to find solutions that are essential for sustainable development.
    • Farmers in the regions where groundwater depletion has already occurred should consider cultivating less water-intensive crops, use better irrigation technologies and irrigate crops only when necessary.
    • Adoption of water-saving technologies like a sprinkler, drip irrigation and maybe switching to less water-intensive crops may help use the limited groundwater resources more effectively
    • We need coordinated efforts to solve this water availability and food security issue, which should be supported by science-led policy decisions on what strategies and technology solutions to scale out to improve irrigation efficiency.
    • Switching from groundwater-depletion wells to irrigation canals, which divert surface water from lakes and rivers, is one way to overcome projected shortfalls.

    Source: TH 

     

    Mains Practice Question

    [Q] There is an urgent need to ensure source sustainability to provide safe drinking water to all rural households by 2024. Discuss.