Atal Bhujal Yojana and Ground Water Management
- 28 Oct 2023
- 8 min read
Why in News?
Recently, the 5th meeting of the National Level Steering Committee (NLSC) of Atal Bhujal Yojana (ATAL JAL) was held to review the overall progress of the scheme.
- The World Bank has been involved in the review of the program. The committee encouraged states to integrate Water Security Plans (WSPs) into the Gram Panchayat Development Plans which will ensure the sustainability of the scheme's approach even after the program's completion.
What is Atal Bhujal Yojna?
- ATAL JAL is a Central Sector Scheme for facilitating sustainable ground water management with an outlay of Rs. 6000 crore.
- It is being implemented by the Ministry of Jal Shakti .
- The scheme is being funded by the Government of India and the World Bank on a 50:50 basis.
- The entire World Bank's loan component and central assistance will be passed on to the States as grants.
- It aims to improve the management of groundwater resources in select water stressed areas in identified states viz. Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
- ATAL JAL promotes panchayat led groundwater management and behavioural change with a primary focus on demand-side management.
What is the Status of Groundwater Depletion in India?
- Groundwater Depletion in India is a major concern because it is the primary source of drinking water. Some of the main causes of groundwater depletion in India include over-extraction of groundwater for irrigation, Urbanisation, and Climate Change.
- India is the world’s largest user of groundwater, exceeding the use of the United States and China combined according to recent UN report .
- According to the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) of India, approximately 70% of the total water used in India is from groundwater sources.
- However, the CGWB also estimates that around 25% of the country's total groundwater extraction is unsustainable, meaning that it is being extracted at a faster rate than it can be replenished.
- Overall, groundwater depletion in India is a serious problem that needs to be addressed through sustainable water management practices, such as improved irrigation techniques and conservation efforts.
What are the Major Causes of Groundwater Depletion in India?
- Over-Extraction of Groundwater for Irrigation:
- Irrigation accounts for around 80% of total water use in India, and much of this water is sourced from groundwater.
- As demand for food continues to grow, more and more groundwater is being extracted for irrigation, leading to depletion.
- According to the UN’s Interconnected Disaster Risks Report 2023, 78% of wells in Punjab are considered overexploited, and the north-western region as a whole is predicted to experience critically low groundwater availability by 2025.
- Climate Change:
- Rising temperatures and Changing Precipitation Patterns can alter the recharge rates of Groundwater Aquifers, making them more vulnerable to depletion.
- Droughts, flash floods, and Disrupted Monsoon Events are recent examples of climate change events that are placing pressure on India's groundwater resources.
- Poor Water Management:
- Inefficient use of water, leaky pipes, and inadequate infrastructure for capturing and storing rainwater can all contribute to groundwater depletion.
- Decrease in Natural Recharge:
What are the Issues Associated with Depleting Ground Water?
- Water Scarcity: As groundwater levels drop, there may not be enough water available for domestic, agricultural, and industrial use. This can lead to water shortages and conflicts over water resources.
- A study led by the University of Michigan warns that if Indian farmers continue to draw groundwater at the current rate, the rate of groundwater depletion could triple by 2080. This could have severe implications for the country's food and water security, as well as the livelihoods of over one-third of its population.
- Land Subsidence: When groundwater is extracted, the soil can become compacted, leading to Land Subsidence (the sinking or settling of the land). This can cause damage to infrastructure, such as roads and buildings, and can also increase the risk of flooding.
- Environmental Degradation: Depleting groundwater can also have negative impacts on the environment. For example, when groundwater levels drop, it can cause Saltwater Intrusion in coastal areas, leading to the contamination of freshwater resources.
- Economic Impacts: Groundwater depletion can also have economic impacts, as it can lead to reduced agricultural production and increased costs for water treatment and pumping.
- Lack of Depletion Data: The Indian government regulates groundwater exploitation by "notifying" highly overexploited blocks in water-stressed states.
- However, only about 14% of overexploited blocks are currently notified.
- Earth's Axis to Tilt: According to a recent study in Geophysical Research Letters, it is claimed that excessive pumping of groundwater has caused the Earth's axis to tilt nearly 80 centimeters east between 1993 and 2010 alone and contributes to sea level rise.
What are the Government Initiatives Related to Groundwater Conservation?
- Embrace comprehensive and sustainable water management strategies that address both immediate needs and long-term challenges.
- Foster meaningful engagement with local communities, incorporating their perspectives and knowledge in water management decisions.
- Prioritize investments in water infrastructure and capacity-building programs to build resilience against future water crises.
- Establish robust monitoring and evaluation frameworks to assess the effectiveness and impact of water management initiatives.
- Promote responsible groundwater management and conservation practices to ensure water availability for future generations.