Crisis Looms in India as Groundwater Depletes

Published: 23rd March 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd March 2015 11:07 PM   |  A+A-

The world will only have 60% of the water it needs by 2030 without significant global policy change, according to a UN report. While countries like India are rapidly depleting their groundwater, rainfall patterns worldwide are becoming more unpredictable due to global warming, meaning there will be less water in reserves. As population increases, so does demand for potable water, snowballing to a massive problem for our waterways in 15 years. The report suggests several changes that nations can take, from increasing water prices to finding new ways of recycling waste water. New Delhi must take it seriously and take remedial action as the problem brooks no delay.

India’s groundwater tables are plunging at an alarming rate with reserves in some states dwindling to critical levels. Over 16% of groundwater resources are “over-exploited”—mainly in north-western, western and peninsular India. Groundwater extraction in some states including Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan has reached 100%. Unregulated use has also led to over extraction in Himachal Pradesh and western Uttar Pradesh according to the report. Gujarat, Daman and Diu in the west and Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in the south have also been put on high alert as groundwater extraction has reached over 70% of available resources, putting it on the threshold of “critical”.

Environmentalist Sunita Narain’s panacea to ward off a crisis is to “hold water where it falls”, implying rain water harvesting, water recharging in a decentralised manner across India, handling water pollution through effective measures and making water conservation a national obsession. Many organisations like the Indian Agriculture Research Institute and International Water Management Institute are pitching for better use of technology in agriculture sector which is the biggest user of water. Some institutions have also called for major policy decisions including rational water pricing, reducing water footprints and effective national legal framework for water governance. The problem brooks no complacency.


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