Why is it in the news?
- A recent United Nations University report has sounded an alarming bell, highlighting that 27 out of 31 aquifers in India are experiencing rapid depletion due to over-extraction of groundwater.
- Aquifers are subterranean layers of rock or sediment with the capacity to store and channel groundwater.
- Essentially acting as natural reservoirs, they are vital for supplying freshwater to wells, springs, and other water sources.
Groundwater (GW) Status in India
- India is the foremost user of Groundwater, constituting about a quarter of the global withdrawal.
- A staggering 87% of the groundwater is directed towards irrigation.
- At present, 67% of groundwater units in India are categorized as safe (where extraction is less than 70% of recharge). However, 14% are overexploited, and another 4% are teetering on the brink, being labelled as critical.
- The states of Haryana, Punjab (where 78% of wells are overexploited), and Rajasthan are the prime culprits in excessive groundwater extraction.
- Climate concerns further compound the issue. In southwest India, rising temperatures could impede the natural replenishment of groundwater.
- Article 21: Enshrines the basic right to clean water within the right to life.
- Central Ground Water Authority: Formed under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, it is tasked with drafting policies and programs concerning groundwater.
- Supreme Court (2004): It validated the ‘public trust doctrine,’ affirming groundwater as a communal asset, not a private property.
- Government Initiatives: Includes the Atal Bhujal Yojana, Jal Shakti Abhiyan, and the Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme, all dedicated to prudent groundwater management.
- Indian Easement Act, 1882: Groundwater rights are traditionally tied to land ownership.
- Central Ground Water Board: Founded in 1970, it too plays a role in shaping groundwater policies.
- Model Groundwater Bills: Undergoing multiple revisions, these bills empower state boards to draft laws for water resources’ stewardship.
- National Green Tribunal: It instructs the Central Ground Water Authority on groundwater extraction regulations and mandates prior authorization for the same.
- Polluter Pays Principle: A mechanism where the offender is held financially accountable for groundwater pollution.
- UN-Water Summit on Groundwater 2022: Convened to spotlight groundwater preservation.
- 2022’s UN-Water campaign titled “Groundwater: Making the invisible visible”.
- Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme.
- Jal Shakti Abhiyan (2019): Targeted at 256 parched districts to ameliorate groundwater status.
- Atal Bhujal Yojana: Introduced in 2019, this scheme prioritizes groundwater management.
- Endorse crops like millet which are less thirsty.
- Promote irrigation methods that curtail water wastage.
- Deploy monitoring tools for borewells to foster judicious usage.
- Disseminate real-time borewell statuses to underscore the urgency of conservation.
- Forge innovative strategies for sustainable water resource management.
- Delve into the nexus between power subsidies and rampant groundwater extraction, particularly in states like Punjab.