What are the various ways in which groundwater resources are being depleted? Which regions have the worst groundwater situation? What can be done to address the issue?

 

India only has 4% of the world’s freshwater resources despite having 17% of the world’s population. India not only faces a water shortage, but groundwater exploitation has been increasing for a long time. 

Groundwater depletion:

  • In India, there are times of the year when there is a severe water scarcity in several areas.
  • A progressive drop in agricultural productivity and water shortage are just two serious effects of declining groundwater levels.
  • In order to prevent groundwater depletion, which has serious repercussions for human civilization, in India and throughout the entire world, the issue must be addressed as soon as possible.
  • Estimates say that 85% of the rural and 50% of the urban population in India is dependent on groundwater for fulfilling their needs.
  • By annually drawing 251 bcm (billion cubic meters) of groundwater, India tops the list of the top 10 groundwater-extracting countries and is the largest user of the precious liquid from the bowels of the earth.
  • India is one of 17 countries facing extremely high water stress, according to a report by the World Resources Institute. 
  • According to the Fifth Minor Irrigation Census, the groundwater level in India has declined by 61 per cent between 2007 and 2017.

Reasons behind depletion of groundwater:

  • Agricultural sector is the biggest consumer of groundwater in India.
  • The advent of the Green revolution during the 1960s led to the overuse of groundwater resources. 
  • Excessive pumping of water from the ground. There is no central law governing groundwater extraction.
  • Subsidized power for pumping groundwater for agriculture.
  • The skewed MSP favours wheat and paddy, which are water intensive crops.
  • Rising population and urbanization.
  • Groundwater pollution.
  • Climate Change.
  • Deforestation.

Regional prevalence :

  • The majority of groundwater-critical blocks are found in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, and western Uttar Pradesh. Unchecked groundwater extraction has lowered the water table in certain areas despite replenishable systems. 
  • Gujarat and Rajasthan each have more threatened blocks. The dry environment in this area has prevented groundwater replenishment. 
  • Due to the intrinsic qualities of crystalline water-storing aquifers, groundwater supply is poor in several areas of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh.

What needs to be done:

  • Preventing water pollution.
  • Reusing and recycling water.
  • Rainwater harvesting for replenishing groundwater.
  • Watershed management.
  • Crop diversification.
  • Water efficient agricultural practices like sprinkler and drip irrigation.
  • Reforms in power supply subsidies for agriculture.
  • Conservation of water bodies.
  • Interlinking of rivers for water transfer from surplus areas to deficit areas.

Way forward:

The problem of groundwater depletion is getting more and more serious. In order to avoid a potential water crisis in the future, it is imperative that the reasons be addressed and proper action is done. Groundwater depletion can be slowed down via government programmes and local community involvement. A multisectoral strategy is required to address the problem.

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