Uma Bharti calls for restraint in exploiting groundwater

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Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Sushri Uma Bharti has called for exercising restraint while exploiting groundwater. Addressing the meeting of Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached to her Ministry in New Delhi , the Minister said unmindful exploitation of groundwater on large scale has led to sharp decline in groundwater level and deterioration of water quality in major parts of the country.

She said many factors such as increasing demand of groundwater for agriculture, industrial and drinking purposes, change in cropping pattern and growing of paddy and cash crops that consume large quantities of water, scanty rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions, large groundwater extraction during droughts when all other sources shrink and rapid pace of urbanization resulting in reduced natural recharge to aquifers are responsible for the rapid depletion of groundwater level.

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Terming the situation as serious Sushri Bharti called for mass awareness movement for restrained exploitation of groundwater. The Minister informed the members that Decadal fluctuation analysis of water level has been done by Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) to assess the change in water level over last 10 years. Pre-monsoon (March/April/ May, 2016) water level data when compared with the decadal average (2006-2015) indicate that more than 50% of the wells have registered decline in groundwater level, mostly in the range of 0-2 m, in almost all the States/UTs of the country, except few States namely Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and Tripura. Decline of more than 4 m was observed in pockets in the States/UTs of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Telangana and West Bengal.

The Minister informed that development of ground water resources in different areas of the country has not been uniform. Highly intensive development of ground water in certain areas in the country has resulted in over – exploitation leading to decline in groundwater levels. As per the latest assessment of ground water resources carried out jointly by CGWB and the States as on 2011, total Annual Replenishable Ground Water Resources of the country have been estimated as 433 Billion Cubic Metres (BCM). Net Annual Ground Water Availability is estimated at 398 bcm. Annual Ground Water Draft for the entire country for 2011 is estimated at 245 bcm per year. The Stage of Ground Water Development is 62%.

Sushri Bharti said focus on development activities needs to be balanced by management mechanisms to achieve sustainable utilization of groundwater resources. She said, “There is need for scientific planning in development of groundwater under different hydrogeological situations and to evolve effective management practices”. Groundwater management is the foremost challenge being faced by the organizations dealing with groundwater in the country. Sushri Bharti said, “The activities of the organizations and policies affecting groundwater need to reflect the priority issues with the overall objective to provide water security through groundwater management in major parts of the country.” Central Ground Water Board has taken a proactive role in identifying various key issues related to groundwater management, the Minister added. She said Management of groundwater resources in the Indian context requires a combination of area-specific and problem-specific strategies depending on the climatic, geomorphologic, hydrological and hydrogeological settings.

The Minister was of the opinion that one of the key management initiative to arrest the depletion of ground water resources is to augment the resources through Artificial Recharge to ground water and rainwater harvesting. She said Central Government has taken several steps for promoting rain water harvesting measures in various parts of the country. The Minister informed the members that her Ministry has circulated a Model Bill to all the States/UTs to enable them to enact suitable ground water legislation for its regulation and development, which includes provision of rain water harvesting. So far, 15 States/UTs have adopted and implemented the ground water legislation on the lines of Model bill. Sushri Bharti said CGWB has also prepared a conceptual document entitled “Master Plan for Artificial Recharge to Ground Water in India”, involving ground water scientists/experts. The Master Plan envisages construction of 1.11 crore rain water harvesting and artificial recharge structures in the Country at an estimated cost of Rs. 79,178 Crores to harness 85 BCM (Billion Cubic Metre) of water. The augmented ground water resources will enhance the availability of water for drinking, domestic, industrial and irrigation purpose. The Master Plan has been circulated to all State Governments for implementation.

The Minister said Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) has issued directives to the Chief Secretaries of all States and the Administrators of all UTs to take measures to promote/adopt artificial recharge to ground water / rain water harvesting. 30 States/UTs have made roof-top rain water harvesting mandatory by enacting laws or by formulating rules and regulations or by including provisions in Building bye-laws or through suitable Government orders.

Sushri Uma Bharti said that water being a State subject, it is primarily the responsibility of the concerned State Governments to make suitable legislation to regulate utilization of ground water. With a view to protect ground water regime and taking measures against over-exploitation and to ensure equitable distribution of this resources, the Union Government circulated a Model Bill to regulate and control the development of ground water to all State/UTs in 1970. The Model Bill was re-circulated in 1992, 1996 and again in 2005 for adoption. The Minister informed the members that so far, 15 States/UT’s have adopted and implemented the ground water legislation on the lines of Model bill. Sixteen other States/ UT’s have also initiated action for adoption and implementation of Model Bill.

The Union Minister said CGWA has so far notified 162 critical/ overexploited areas in parts of NCT Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, MP, Gujarat, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, UT of Puducherry and UT of Diu for control and regulation of development of ground water resources. For enforcement of the regulatory measures in these areas, concerned Deputy Commissioners/ District Magistrates have been directed under Section 5 of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to regulate ground water development in these notified areas.

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