This is not a mere figment of imagination if we are to consider the latest figures released by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB). Our present generation seems to be oblivious to this quote by Wendell Berry, a well known environmental activist – “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”.
This forms the crux of sustainable development which was defined in the Brundtland Report as “development that meets the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Despite repeated warnings by various international institutions, like the World Bank, the reality of water crisis in our country is looming large. According to such a report by the World Bank in 2010, “Today, 29 per cent of groundwater blocks are semi-critical, critical or overexploited, and the situation is deteriorating rapidly.” It had predicted that by 2015, an estimated 60 % of India's groundwater blocks would be in a critical condition. The situation would be further threatened by climate change which would further strain groundwater resources.
Latest report by Central Ground Water Board:
There is a complete possibility of potable water being imported in just thirty years. In 1951, there was an availability of 14, 180 liters of groundwater per person per day. According to 2001 figures, there has been a reduction of 35% as compared to the base year now, reaching 5,120 liters of groundwater per person per day. The rate at which groundwater is depleting in the country, it is expected to slump down to 3, 120 liters per person per day by 2050. That sums up to a reduction of 22% from the base year. If the numbers do not make any sense, it simply projects that we might be left with no option but to import drinking water by 2050.
Reasons for this rapid depletion:
Experts in the field opine that ponds, lakes and wells have been vanishing along with a depletion of green cover, both of which have been responsible for the lowering of water table beneath earth’s surface. The groundwater is the source for more than 85% of rural domestic water requirements, 50% of urban water requirements and over 50% of irrigation requirements of the country. However, due to expansion of irrigated agriculture, overall economic development and improvement of standard of living in urban India, this precious resource of water is fast depleting. In fact, the rapid increase in population points to the day when per person availability of underground water will be equal to the actual use per person.
Some measures to contain the groundwater depletion:
According to the World Bank report, Deep well and prudence: towards pragmatic action for addressing groundwater overexploitation in India', released by Bansal in 2010, water pricing measures, including volumetric charges, taxes and user fees, “can act as incentives to conservation and more efficient allocation of water resources, provided they address concerns of equity and affordability to the poor.” For this we could take lessons from communities in drought-prone areas of Andhra Pradesh which have shown the first large-scale example of self-regulation of groundwater.
The Logical Indian is alarmed at yet another report which bears out the fact that our groundwater resources are reaching a critical limit. It is no wonder that farmers have to dig deeper in the ground for procuring water for the parched lands. The need of the hour is to conserve groundwater through various measures at the individual and government levels.