- A recent study from the United Nations University has sounded the alarm, stating that 27 of India’s 31 aquifers are running out of water more quickly than they can be filled in.
- For more than ten years, there has been constant worry about this grave situation.
- The deplorable condition of India’s aquifers has been repeatedly brought up in reports, including those from the Central Water Commission, Niti Aayog, and the Mihir Shah Committee.
- It is now hard to overlook the seriousness of the issue.
Inadequate Understanding of River Systems:
- The Mihir Shah Committee stressed how little is known about river systems and how they relate to groundwater or catchment area health.
- This emphasizes how important it is to manage water resources holistically and comprehensively.
- In an effort to alter community behavior, the Union Jal Shakti Ministry launched the Atal Bhujal Yojana in 78 water-stressed areas in 2020.
- Even if there has been some progress, the size of the situation necessitates greater coordinated actions from the federal and state governments.
- Several states initiatives are:
- “Mukhyamantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan” in Rajasthan,
- “Jalyukt Shibar” in Maharashtra,
- “Sujalam Sufalam Abhiyan” in Gujarat,
- “Mission Kakatiya” in Telangana,
- “Neeru Chettu” in Andhra Pradesh,
- “Jal Jeevan Hariyali” in Bihar,
- “Jal Hi Jeevan” in Haryana, and
- “Kudimaramath scheme” in Tamil Nadu are among the states that have accomplished noteworthy work in the field of water conservation and harvesting.
The main objectives of Atal Bhujal Yojana are:
- To strengthen the institutional framework for participatory groundwater management and bring about behavioural changes at the community level for sustainable groundwater resource conservation.
- To facilitate the convergence of various ongoing government schemes and programs for optimal use of available funds and resources for groundwater management.
- To incentivize state governments for undertaking reforms in groundwater governance and ensuring compliance with Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) guidelines for groundwater extraction.
Excessive Groundwater Extraction:
- India pumps more groundwater than any other country in the world, even more than China and the US put together.
- About 70% of the nation’s water supply comes from groundwater sources, mostly from borewells and tubewells, which have historically helped to ensure food security.
- However, as the Shah Committee noted, there hasn’t been enough focus on institutional improvements in the water sector.
- Since there is a clear connection between power subsidies and the falling water table in states like Punjab, managing the demand side of groundwater management is still a challenging problem.
- According to a United Nations assessment, 78% of the state’s wells are overexploited.
Climate Crisis Implications:
- Researchers have linked the depletion of groundwater to the climate issue, particularly in the southwestern region of India where recharge is restricted by hardrock aquifers.
- Temperature increase may make less moisture available for soil absorption, making the depletion issue worse.
- Although effective watering methods and fewer water-intensive crops have been promoted, the immediate water issue is not made clear until it is too late due to the use of borewells and tubewells.
The Need for Technological Solutions:
- The development of technology that enables people to keep an eye on the water levels in their borewells may be a critical first step toward promoting responsible aquifer management.
- These technologies may act as catalysts for altered behavior and increased consciousness of the groundwater situation, which would ultimately be crucial in resolving this pressing problem.
- In the long run, cross-sectoral changes addressing the water-energy-agriculture nexus and giving resource users the appropriate incentives will be necessary for sustainable groundwater management.
- Better coordinating market, policy, and regulatory actions is necessary for this, as is repurposing existing public support for more climate-smart solutions.
- The rising use of groundwater for agriculture and its potential to lower water tables and cause water scarcity could escalate long-term vulnerability if aquifers are not adequately replenished or regulated.