India today is the world’s largest groundwater extractor and most of the largest cities in India are under water stress. Illustrate the reasons for groundwater depletion. Also mention measures need to meet Indian ground water challenge.
Water will determine India’s ability to achieve high economic growth, ensure environmental sustainability and improve quality of life for citizens. No single action whether community based, legislation, traditional water harvesting systems, or reliance on market forces will in itself alleviate the crisis in India.
Reasons for groundwater depletion
- Increase in the demand for water for domestic, industrial and agricultural needs and limited surface water resources lead to the over-exploitation of groundwater resources.
- Green Revolution enabled water intensive crops to be grown in drought prone/ water deficit regions, leading to over extraction of groundwater.
- Frequent pumping of water from the ground without waiting for its replenishment leads to quick depletion.
- Subsidies on electricity and high MSP for water intensive crops are also leading reasons for depletion.
- Water contamination as in the case of pollution by landfills, septic tanks, leaky underground gas tanks, and from overuse of fertilizers and pesticides lead to damage and depletion of groundwater resources.
- Inadequate regulation of groundwater laws encourages the exhaustion of groundwater resources without any penalty.
- Unscientific methods of agriculture, chemical effluents from industries, lack of sanitation also lead to pollution of groundwater, making it unusable.
Measures need to meet Indian ground water challenge
- There should be restrictions to cut off the access to groundwater in areas identified as “critical” and “dark zones”, where the water table is overused or very low.
- There is a need to restore, conserve and augment all our existing local water bodies.
- Problems and issues such as water logging, salinity, agricultural toxins, and industrial effluents, all need to be properly looked into.
- Technology usage must be advanced.
- Community management of water and formation of water users’ associations can lead to success at grassroots level.
- Research and scientific evaluations should be done before forming any policy.
- Water depletion can be controlled by reducing electricity subsidies.
- Another way of efficiently using groundwater is by encouraging farmers to adopt micro-irrigation techniques such as drip irrigation and micro-sprinklers. Government has initiated schemes like DRIP programme, more drop per crop, Krishi Sinchai Yojana to ensure economical water use practices in agriculture.
- Creating regulatory options at the community level such as panchayat is also one among the feasible solutions.
- India needs to radically improve its farm water efficiency, presently amongst the lowest in the world.
- A major cause for India’s groundwater crisis is the legal framework that ties up water rights with land rights and allows landowners to extract unlimited groundwater.
- Traditional methods of water conservation should be encouraged to minimize the depletion of water resources.
- Artificial recharge of tube wells, water reuse, afforestation, scientific methods of agriculture should also be done.
To be a water secure India, our ability to manage and govern our water resources efficiently will determine our ability to grow and prosper.