Water is taken for granted, because of its seemingly abundant supply, yet, here’s an alarming fact—it is depleting fast. India extracts around 251 cubic kilometre groundwater, annually, which is 25% of the total global annual extraction. China and the US follow, but together they don’t account for as much as India extracts on its own.
India’s groundwater use has grown exponentially over the decades. Currently, groundwater in India provides for about 60% of the country’s irrigation needs, 85% of rural drinking water requirements and 50% of urban water needs.
However, over-exploitation and contamination are threatening the sustainability of the system. The latest report of the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) shows that 1,034 of 6584 assessed blocks in the country are over-exploited, and these blocks are usually referred to as ‘dark zones.’ A ‘dark zone’ is an area where groundwater depletion exceeds the rate of recharging.
Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Delhi are the most affected states. Tamil Nadu has the maximum number of ‘dark zones’ (358 out of 1139 assessed units), Punjab is the worst in terms of percentage with 105 (76%) of its 138 assessed units falling in this category. In Rajasthan, 164 (66%) of the 248 assessed blocks are over-exploited, and in Delhi, 15 (56%) out of 27 assessed blocks are in ‘dark zones.’
The Centre, alarmed by the fast-depleting groundwater in nearly 30% of assessed blocks in India, has decided to implement a Rs 6000 crore plan—named Atal Bhujal Yojana—to manage available water resources efficiently, and boost the recharge mechanism, by involving the community.
The World Bank is funding half this initiative, with the rest of the funds coming from the government, via budgetary support. The scheme will focus on recharging groundwater sources and propagate the efficient use of water, involving people at the local level.
Involving the local populace in water-conservation is a good idea—it will encourage healthy water-consumption habits, for future generations.
The Government’s plan might bring some relief to farmers across the country, especially those who hail from states which were severely affected by the drought.
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Groundwater is depleting quickly, and just because a crisis-like situation hasn’t taken place, doesn’t mean we can take it for granted For every drop of water wasted, there is a price to pay, in the long run. Conserving water, and using it responsibly, will go a long way in ensuring our country doesn’t run dry.