A PIB Features
India with a population exceeding 1.1 billion, is the second most populous country in the world. It has an agriculture based economy having 2.45 % of the total land area of the world, 16% of the world population and is endowed with about 4% of its water resources.
As per the report of the National Commission for Integrated Water Resource Development (1999), India is estimated to have about 1123 billion cubic meters (bcm) of utilizable surface water (690 bcm) and ground water (433 bcm) resources. It also mentions that about 843 bcm water will be required in the year 2025 in a high demand scenario from all the sources, with the ground water contributing about 35.3% i.e. 298 bcm. The areas where ground water is expected to contribute mainly will be irrigation, domestic & municipal water supplies, industries and power Sector. This estimate indicates that the stress on the limited ground water resources is likely to get aggravated in the years to come. The anticipated impacts of global warming and climate change, though not fully understood as yet, are expected to impart another dimension to the problem. The increasing demand of water to meet the ever-increasing needs for a growing population has been putting an increasing stress on the available water resources of India in the last few decades.
Ground water has made significant contributions in the growth of India’s economy and has been an important catalyst for its socio-economic development. The past six decades have witnessed phenomenal increase in growth of ground water abstraction structures due to implementation of technically viable schemes backed by liberal funding and availability of power and diesel, good quality seeds, fertilizers, govt. subsidies etc. As per the 3rd Minor Irrigation Census, India had about 18 million ground water abstraction structures as in 2001, a number, which is reported to have risen above 20 million at present. The area irrigated from ground water has increased almost nine-fold in the period from 1951 to 2001.
The assessment of dynamic ground water resources carried out by Central Ground Water Board jointly with the States, the present stage of ground water development is estimated to be about 58 percent of the annually replenishable ground water resources for the country as a whole. However, due to the multiplicity of complex factors controlling the occurrence and distribution of ground water in the sub-surface ‘aquifers’, there are wide variations in the availability and utilization of ground water resources in different parts of the country. For example, the underground formations in the vast Indo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra basins have prolific ground water resources whereas the hard rock formations in Peninsular India are characterized by very limited and localized ground water resources.
As per the assessment, ground water development is rather high in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Majority of the areas showing depletion of ground water resources and long-term decline of ground water levels occur in these states. On the other hand, ground water development is still low-key in most of the eastern and northeastern states like Orissa, West Bengal, Bihar, parts of Uttar Pradesh and Assam.
Challenges in Ground Water Sector
Management of ground water resources is a challenging task in the Indian context due mainly to the diversity of geomorphologic, climatic, hydrologic and socio-economic settings and the multiplicity of the factors involved in any management option. Any strategy for scientific management of ground water resources should, therefore, involve a proper understanding of the characteristics of aquifer systems, along with a combination of supply side measures aimed at increasing extraction of ground water depending on its availability and demand side measures aimed at controlling, protecting and conserving available resources. In addition to the above, programs for updating the knowledge base of scientists, engineers and other professionals in ground water sector, creation of mass awareness and capacity building of stakeholders and R & D studies are also to be made part of the overall strategy of ground water management.
Tackling the Challenge: Initiatives by Ministry of Water Resources
With the aim of tackling problems related to depletion of ground water resources, Government of India has launched various initiatives for ensuring long-term sustainability of this vital resource. These initiatives can be broadly categorized into field demonstrations/projects, regulatory measures, IEC activities and other initiatives. The field demonstrations/projects are aimed primarily at augmenting the ground water resources in depleted aquifer zones through artificial recharge to ground water. Demonstrative projects on rain water harvesting and artificial recharge to ground water, aimed at popularizing cost-effective recharge techniques suitable for various hydro geological settings, have been implemented by the Central Ground Water Board in various parts of the country since the IX Plan period. A provision of Rs. 100 cr. has been made under the Central sector scheme “Ground Water Management & Regulation” during XI Plan period, which envisages implementation of demonstrative schemes in identified priority areas such as over-exploited and critical assessment units, urban areas etc. Impact assessment of the project implemented have indicated local rise in ground water tables, improved sustainability of ground water abstraction structures, better crop yields from irrigated areas and improvement in the socio-economic conditions of the local people.
A Scheme of Dug well recharge has also been launched in 2007 by the Ministry of Water Resources in Over- exploited, Critical and Semi-Critical assessment units of seven States viz. Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, which are underlain predominantly by consolidated rocks having very limited ground water potential. This scheme aims to provide sustainability to the dug wells and is being implemented in 1180 over-exploited, critical and semi-critical blocks in these States. The scheme is expected to facilitate improvement in the ground water situation in the affected areas, increase the sustainability of wells during lean period, improve quality of ground water and foster community involvement in water resource management in the affected areas.
The Ministry of Water Resources has sanctioned Farmers’ Participatory Action Research Programme in 5000 demonstration sites at a cost of Rs. 24.46 crore. This programme is being implemented in 375 districts of 25 States/UTs of the country with the help of 60 Agriculture Universities/ Indian Council of Agricultural Research Institute/International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Water and Land Management Institutes (WALMIs) and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) to increase yield and income per drop of water. Each programme covers a minimum of one hectare and is implemented in a participatory mode with the farm family having a sense of ownership of the programme. Technologies related to crop practices, water savings and storage structures & farm implements are being demonstrated under the scheme.
In addition to measures for augmenting ground water resources, the Ministry has also initiated several measures for regulation of ground water development in over-exploited areas of the country. Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) has been constituted under Section 3(3) of Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 for regulation of ground water development and management in the country. CGWA has notified 43 areas in the country for regulation of ground water development and management where construction of structures for extraction of ground water for purposes other than drinking is not permitted. It has also appointed District Magistrates as authorized officers for grant of permission for extraction of ground water for drinking/domestic uses.
The Government has also circulated a Model Bill to the States and Union Territories to enable them to enact suitable legislation for regulation and control of ground water development and management. The Model Bill has a provision for implementation of rain water harvesting by the concerned authorities in the States. The bill has so far been enacted by 11 States/UTs and steps have been initiated for its enactment by 18 more States/UTs. So far, 18 States and four UTs have already made roof top rain water harvesting mandatory in their respective States.
Dissemination of information related to the status of ground water resources and its quality has a major role to play in our efforts for ensuring its sustainable development and management. With the help of the GIS technology available, CGWB has developed a “Web enabled Ground Water Information System (WEGWIS)” for the users of water sector, which provides a complete solution to the decision makers for formulating, monitoring macro/micro level schemes etc. The WEGWIS comprises the spatial database infrastructure connected through Internet/Intranet. The system has been developed to provide a unified internet based access to water related information (spatial/ non spatial) for policy planning and management. WEGWIS has been integrated with the thematic and the dynamic data such as water level/water quality, other ground water related information and socio-economic databases.
Creation of mass awareness and capacity building of stakeholders on various aspects of ground water management is a major activity of the Ministry. Central Ground Water Board, under the Ministry of Water Resources, conducts mass awareness campaigns on Rain Water Harvesting and Artificial Recharge of ground water throughout the country involving Central/State/ NGO’s, VO’s, Resident Welfare Organizations, educational institutions, industries and individuals. Training programmes are being conducted for capacity building of stakeholders in designing of rain water harvesting structures to augment ground water in different terrains and diverse hydrogeological conditions are also being organized by the Board. In addition, films produced by Central Ground Water Authority on Rain water harvesting in Urban areas, Rain water harvesting in Rural areas, Ground Water Pollution etc., are shown during various mass awareness and training programmes. Central Ground Water Board has also prepared various reports, maps, brochures and pamphlets for dissemination of information on ground water resources collected during various investigations.
Constitution of Advisory Council on Artificial Recharge of Ground Water in the year 2006 under the Chairmanship of Minister of Water Resources was an important initiative of the Ministry to popularize the concept of artificial recharge among stakeholders. The Council has members from different concerned Central Ministries/Department, representatives of State Governments, Public Undertakings, Financial Institutions, representative of Industries and renowned Subject Experts/Farmers/NGOs. The Council has so far held its three meetings in July 2006, Sep., 2007 and April 2010. As per recommendation of the Council in its meetings, various actions were initiated in MOWR which include Organization of National Ground Water Congress, Implementation of Farmers Participatory Action Research Programme(FPARP) and Institution of Ground Water Augmentation Award and National Water Award to encourage Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) /Gram Panchayats/ Urban Local Bodies/Institutions/Corporate Sector and Individuals for adopting innovative practices of ground water augmentation by rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge, promoting water use efficiency, recycling & re-use of water and creating awareness through people’s participation. As per recommendations of the Council, the National Ground Water Congress was organized in 2007 and 2010. It provided a common platform for planners, water managers, farmers, industrial houses and other stakeholders to share their experiences and concerns and has helped in planning future course of action for sustainable management of ground water resources. A report on ‘Ground Water Quality in Shallow Aquifers of India’ prepared by Central Ground Water Board based on the analysis of data collected during its scientific investigations was released during the 3rd meeting of the council on 8.4.2010.
The Ministry of Water Resources has instituted annual awards namely Ground Water Augmentation Awards (Bhoomijal Samvardhan Puraskar) and National Water Award in the Year 2007. The awards aim to encourage Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)/Gram Panchayats/ Urban Local Bodies (for population up to 1 lakh) /Institutions/Corporate Sector and Individuals for adopting innovative practices of ground water augmentation by rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge, promoting water use efficiency, recycling & re-use of water and creating awareness through people’s participation in the targeted areas resulting in increased sustainability of ground water resources. So far, the awards were presented in 2007 and 2010.
Way Forward – Need for integrated Water Resources Management
The problems being faced by the water sector in India demand a holistic look at the issue of management of surface and ground water resources. This is important as these two are interdependent and any management activity in the surface water sector is bound to affect the ground water sector and vice versa. Scientific management of water resources of our country also calls for a judicious mix of various supply side and demand side management interventions. As far as ground water resources are concerned, augmentation of resources, especially in over-exploited and critical areas, through suitable techniques of artificial recharge techniques to utilize surplus run off available is of the highest priority. A nationwide rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge programme will help in augmenting groundwater availability, better distribution of water resources, flood control moderation, reducing soil erosion and increasing storage. This would involve accelerated programme of watershed development and rainwater harvesting and also providing incentives for rainwater harvesting in urban areas and making it mandatory for large buildings. Other strategies such as conjunctive management of available resources, pricing and regulation, water conservation etc. are also important in this regard. Issues related to water quality also need to be addressed. Research and development initiatives, capacity building among various stakeholders and creation of awareness among the masses could also help initiatives for sustainable water management to a considerable extent. Such a holistic approach is possible only through the concerted efforts of planners, policy makers, administrators, scientists and the water users themselves. (PIB Features)