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Groundwater Crisis: Four States Are Water-Stressed

Context

  • In the context of a growing crisis over groundwater extraction, primarily for irrigation, four more states, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh, have recently been identified as being water-stressed, joining the seven already on a Central list (Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh).
    • As a result, the management of groundwater resources has gained importance in the nation.

Relevance

GS paper-2: Government Policies, Governance and related issues.

GS paper-3: Water Resources and its conservation.

Mains Question

What role does groundwater play in India? Also, make some recommendations for ways to strengthen groundwater governance. (250 Words)


Key Points:

  • According to a World Bank report, India uses the most groundwater worldwide.
  • There is no overarching law governing the use of groundwater, and each State has its own laws governing its extraction that are applied haphazardly.
  • With nearly 18% of the world’s population, India takes up 2.4% of the planet’s total land area and uses 4% of its water supplies.
  • Groundwater is crucial to India’s agriculture and drinking water security in rural and urban areas, providing nearly 80% of the nation’s drinking water and two-thirds of its irrigation needs. Due to widespread use of groundwater for agricultural production in an environment of economic growth, India has become the largest groundwater extractor in the world.

Initiatives for Better Ground Water Governance:

  • The federal government is working with the states and union territories to manage groundwater sustainably.
    • During this process, a number of significant initiatives have been noted, including  A reduction in groundwater extraction to below 70%.
  • Extending the groundwater observation well network.
  • Setting up digital water level recorders for ongoing observation.
  • routine groundwater quality inspections.
  • Data dissemination and aquifer mapping.
  • Improving industry regulation of groundwater extraction.
  • Supporting routine groundwater resource assessments and participatory groundwater management.
  • Establishment of the Jal Shakti Ministry (by combining the former Ministries of Drinking Water and Sanitation, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation), which will help to advance the management of water resources with a focus on demand and supply.
  • After recognising the value of community involvement, the Jal Shakti Abhiyan was started to turn Jan Shakti into Jal Shakti through the creation of assets, rainwater harvesting (the “Catch the Rain” campaign), and a broad awareness campaign.
  • The Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABY) and the National Project on Aquifer Management are two initiatives that have been taken for the efficient management and regulation of groundwater. (NAQUIM).
  • Aquifers that contain water are to be mapped as part of NAQUIM in order to collect accurate information and allow for well-informed decision-making.
  • Out of the nearly 25 lakh square kilometres that can be mapped, about 24 lakh square kilometres of the country have been mapped. By March 2023, the remaining area should be mapped.
  • Rapid and precise aquifer mapping has been achieved by combining traditional exploratory techniques with a heliborne-based survey (state-of-the-art technology).
  • Increasing the Number of Monitoring Stations: In India, there are approximately 65,025 monitoring stations, 7,885 of which are automated.
  • The number of automated stations will increase to over 35,000, with a focus on identifying high groundwater-extracting industrial and urban clusters and groundwater stressed regions. o Dynamic groundwater assessments will now be performed annually, and a groundwater estimation committee has been formed to revise the assessment methodology.
    • A software called the “India-Groundwater Resource Estimation System (IN-GRES)” has also been developed.

The Atal BhuJal Yojana

  • Since April 2020, the Jal Shakti ministry has been implementing it as a central sector programme in 8,220 water-stressed village Panchayats in 80 districts throughout Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
    • More than 3% of the “assessment areas” in each of these states fall into the category of over-exploited resources.
  • The objective of ABY is to demonstrate community-led sustainable groundwater management and ensure the long-term sustainability of groundwater resources.The Atal Bhujal Yojana is expected to be implemented in the seven states over a five-year period (2020–25) with an outlay of 6,000 crore, of which 3,000 crore will come from the World Bank.

Ways to Move Forward:

  • India’s poor land use policies have caused the loss of smaller wetlands and the degradation of the majority of wetlands, which has led to extremely low groundwater levels.
    • Local governments treat the majority of wetlands as wasteland and have encroached upon them for other land-use purposes, which needs to stop right away.
  • Communities will need the assistance of various governmental and non-governmental organisations to manage their groundwater resources more effectively.
  • In the context of climate change, efforts must be made to find solutions that are crucial for sustainable development as uncertainties in relation to groundwater resources will grow.
  • According to a draught national water policy, recycling should take precedence over using freshwater for industrial purposes and water-intensive crops should be abandoned.
  • Water shouldn’t be viewed as a free, private resource; instead, its costs should be calculated and shared fairly.
  • Though the politics of water are still divisive in India, the climate crisis should spur agreement on the need to discourage wasteful use of this priceless resource.

Conclusion:

  • The government’s efforts to improve the overall groundwater situation in India show a commitment to cooperative federalism in the management of this priceless resource.India, which has one of the fastest-rising economies, will require sufficient groundwater resources to handle anthropogenic pressures.
  • As part of the Jal Jeevan Mission, it’s critical to guarantee source sustainability in order to supply clean drinking water to every rural household by 2024.

February 2024
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