Looming water crisis

Looming water crisis

In the population of 1.3 billion people in India one out of every ten people does not get access to clean drinking water. According to world resource institute almost 600 million people in India are at high risk of being unable to continue relying on surface water especially in northwest and south.

According to a draft report of the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) ground water found at the depth of about 100 meters in north-west India will be exhausted in coming 10 years. The report highlights the over-exploitation in the region.

Groundwater level has been falling at the rate of 51cm every year and, at present; it is at a depth of 10-65 metres in the region.

The report, which has been submitted to state governments, draws on data recorded between 1994 and May 2018 and shows that withdrawal of groundwater has been greater than recharge against an annual gross groundwater withdrawal of 35.78 billion cubic meters (BCM), the annual recharge, has only been 21.58 BCM.

Groundwater level has been falling at the rate of 51cm every year and, at present; it is at a depth of 10-65 metres in the region.

Over the past decade, an increase in the frequency of drought-like situations has led to an increase in withdrawal of groundwater. The India Meteorological Department reports (2012-2017)on rainfall patterns show that Himachal and Uttarakhand has received 25%-40% rainfall while Punjab, Haryana and parts of Rajasthan have received 15%-20% rainfall.

The impact is clearly visible in the groundwater data released by the CGWB for these states.

Though Punjab and Haryana have irrigation facilities they are in the red for over-exploitation of groundwater. In certain parts of Haryana, such as Sirsa, the groundwater situation is worse than that of Punjab.

In the entire agriculture belt of northern and western Rajasthan, groundwater levels have fast depleted and are now in a critical stage as a large part of Rajasthan is totally dependent on groundwater for its needs. Except the tribal belt of southern Rajasthan and parts of eastern Rajasthan, the entire state has a groundwater emergency, according to latest data on the CGWB website.

In Delhi, only the southern parts are in the red. There has been an improvement in groundwater levels in north-western and eastern parts of the national capital. Most of the areas that the Central Ground Water Authority has notified as having “critical” groundwater levels are in these four states.

The falling groundwater levels in these states will have implications on supply of drinking water as well as agriculture as over a million tubewells provide water for both.

P Nandkumaram, member-secretary of the CGWB, said the groundwater assessment report has been submitted to the water resources ministry.

The situation is bad and if we continue to exploit groundwater the way we are doing in an unsustainable manner, we are heading for disaster. We can sustain water at 50-60 metres below the ground but for that some regulation is needed.

Himanshu Thakkar, an IIT alumnus, who runs a non-government organization South Asia Network of People, Rivers and Dams, said farmers’ over-dependency on groundwater was the prime reason for depletion. “Even though India receives good rainfall every year, in many regions water is now available more than 100 metres below the ground. In some places, it is even more than 200 metres. The situation clearly shows that there is mismanagement, not proper use of rain water and gross misuse of groundwater, which is India’s water lifeline,” he said.

The CWGB report said at the current rate of extraction, all available groundwater resources till a depth of 300 metres in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan will be exhausted in the next 20-25 years. The extraction of ground water in the region has increased from 149% in 2013 to 165% in 2018, the report said.

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