Declining groundwater level; borewell census to be held in 2024 

An official from the groundwater board said 14 lakh borewells in Karnataka include private and commercial, borewells for irrigation purposes. 
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)

BENGALURU: As part of the all India borewell census undertaken by the Central Groundwater Board in coordination with the groundwater boards of all states in 2024, the Karnataka State Government is working to find out the total number of authorised and unauthorised borewells in the state. In the previous census held in 2019, Karnataka registered 14 lakh authorised borewells, but there was no conclusive report on the unauthorised borewells.

The census gains importance as the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has taken note of the rapidly depleting groundwater levels across India. Taking note of this, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has asked all State governments to submit a report on the groundwater levels and the measures taken to address the issue.

An official from the groundwater board said 14 lakh borewells in Karnataka include private and commercial, borewells for irrigation purposes. “Despite the emphasis on preserving and utilising surface water, 80 percent of water requirements for irrigation, and 5 percent of domestic water requirements are still dependent on groundwater. Only 20-30 percent surface water is used for irrigation.”

The official explained that the groundwater situation in Karnataka had improved during 2021 when the state received good rain. There was a decline in the year 2023 because of the drought. This led to increased dependency on groundwater, reducing the groundwater table.

“The borewell reports should be generated annually and the data should be updated to the Centre, by the state. Instead, the ministry carries out the census once every five years. Government departments including minor irrigation, panchayat, groundwater board and forest department of each state are a part of the census to collate the data,” the official added.

Minor Irrigation and Science and Technology Minister NS Boseraju told TNIE, “In the last five years there would have been a 20- 25 per cent increase in the number of borewells. Despite the Central and State governments keeping a record of the number of borewells, there are many unauthorised borewells. Once the census is done, we will know how many of these are built without authorisation, and they will be closed down.”

The NGT team member who passed the order said, “It is clear that there will be a severe shortage of groundwater by 2025. While government agencies are taking baby steps to address the issue, people’s attitude is a major concern. Everyone has borewells today. Water is drawn from it, despite getting pipe water. Rainwater harvesting is not being implemented. Everyone wants to take a shower and have a bathtub. There is a lack of awareness when it comes to water conservation.”

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The New Indian Express