India’s groundwater governance is in better shape | 28th January 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about various government policies on groundwater and their performance.


  • GS1: Distribution of Key Natural Resources;
  • GS3: Indian Agriculture;
  • Prelims


  • India, with nearly 18% of the world’s population, occupies about 2.4% of the total geographical area and consumes 4% of total water resources.
  • As per the World Bank report, India is the largest groundwater user.
  • As a vast country, India has distinct and varying hydro-geological settings.
  • The theme of UN World Water Day 2022 was ‘Groundwater, Making the Invisible Visible’ is a reflection of the importance given to the resource across the globe.

Significance of groundwater for India:

  • Groundwater is the backbone of India’s agriculture and drinking water security in rural and urban areas, meeting nearly 80% of the country’s drinking water and two-thirds of its irrigation needs.
  • Groundwater is pivotal to India’s water security.

Initiatives taken by Central and State Governments to preserve groundwater:

  • The central government is working to achieve the goal of sustainable groundwater management in collaboration with States and Union Territories.
  • Certain important deliverables have been identified that include
    • a reduction in groundwater extraction to below 70%,
    • increasing the network of groundwater observation wells,
    • installing digital water level recorders for real-time monitoring,
    • periodic monitoring of groundwater quality,
    • aquifer mapping and data dissemination,
    • having better regulation of groundwater extraction by industries,
    • and promoting participatory groundwater management and even periodic groundwater resource assessment.
  • In May 2019 new Jal Shakti Ministry was created by merging erstwhile Ministries of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation along with Drinking Water and Sanitation.
  • Realising the importance of community participation, the Jal Shakti Abhiyan was launched subsequently to transform Jan Shakti into Jal Shakti through asset creation, rainwater harvesting (‘Catch the Rain’ campaign) and extensive awareness campaign.
  • Initiatives have also been taken for the effective management and regulation of groundwater these includes:
    • With the goal of “participatory groundwater management”, Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABY) looks to inculcate behavioural change made possible by incentivisation.
    • National Project on Aquifer Management (NAQUIM), which is nearing completion, envisages the mapping of sub-surface water bearing geological formations (aquifers) to help gather authentic data and enable informed decision-making.
    • There are around 65,025 monitoring stations in India, which include 7,885 automated stations.
  • Dynamic groundwater assessments will be done annually now and a groundwater estimation committee formed to revise the assessment methodology.
  • A software, ‘India-Groundwater Resource Estimation System (IN-GRES)’, has also been developed.

Performances of these initiatives:

  • The findings of the groundwater assessment also indicate a positive inclination in the management of groundwater.
  • According to the latest assessment, there has been a 3% reduction in the number of ‘overexploited’ groundwater units and a 4% increase in the number of ‘safe’ category units as compared to 2017.
  • There was an improvement in groundwater conditions in 909 units.
  • The assessment also showed a reduction in annual extraction (of about 9.53 billion cubic meters).
  • The government’s interventions in enabling a positive impact on the overall groundwater scenario in India, reflect the spirit of cooperative federalism in managing this precious resource.
  • That around 9.37 BCM of additional groundwater potential was created through artificial water conservation structures is an example of this impact.

Way Forward:

  • As one of the fastest growing economies, India will need adequate groundwater resources to manage anthropogenic pressures.
  • It is important to ensure source sustainability to provide safe drinking water to all rural households by 2024, under the Jal Jeevan Mission.

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