Groundwater Exploitation in Northwestern India
Groundwater extraction is crucial to agricultural practices in northwest India. According to data acquired over many years by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), the groundwater table is critically low in areas with little monsoon rain.
Ground Water Exploitation:
In many places of the world, groundwater is a crucial natural resource that supplies drinking water and helps with agricultural endeavours. However, excessive groundwater extraction can have several adverse effects on both the environment and people.
Groundwater is exploited when an aquifer is drained of more water than is regularly replenished by precipitation, which lowers the water table. This is a developing issue in many parts of the world and is frequently caused by demand from industries, agriculture, and urban areas. Some of the negative consequences of groundwater exploitation include:
- Land subsidence: Land subsidence is the sinking of the land above the aquifer as a result of excessive groundwater extraction. Buildings
, roads, and other infrastructure may sustain structural damage as a result of this.
- Saltwater intrusion: In coastal places, excessive groundwater pumping can result in saltwater intrusion, in which salty seawater seeps into the aquifer and renders the water unfit for agriculture or consumption.
- Reduced streamflow: Surface water systems, such as rivers and streams, are frequently connected to groundwater. Too much groundwater pumping can restrict streamflow, harming ecosystems and removing aquatic animals’ habitats.
- Water quality declines: As the water table recedes, contaminants from the surface may seep into the groundwater, resulting in contamination and a decline in water quality.
- Aquifer depletion: Excessive groundwater extraction can cause aquifers to be exhausted, rendering them incapable of storing water for future use. This is especially problematic in areas with slow groundwater recharge.
Points to Ponder:
- Due to the infrequent monsoon rains, agricultural practices in northwest India heavily rely on groundwater extraction.
- According to the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), 76% of groundwater blocks in Punjab, 64% in Chandigarh, and 50% in Delhi are “overexploited” in the area.
- Overexploitation refers to the extraction of more groundwater than can be replenished, which causes the underlying aquifers to run dry and the soil and rock strata to sink.
- Over the years, digging operations for coal, oil and gas carried out hundreds of metres below the surface have provided examples of “soil settlement,” which is the earth settling in to fill gaps left by mining.
- According to research, excessive groundwater extraction is to blame for building deformities and land subsidence, with sections of Delhi-NCR sinking an average of 15 mm annually from 2011 to 2017.
- Groundwater depletion and subsidence are significantly exacerbated by urbanisation and unplanned growth.
- India’s groundwater resources are to be evaluated by the CGWB, although this organisation does not examine the effects of “over-exploitation.”
- Building deformities and groundwater withdrawals have been linked in research employing satellite-based analysis of ground movement to explain the problem of land subsidence.
- Evidence of groundwater extraction causing subsidence has been documented in various places of the world, indicating that the problem is not exclusive to north India.
Here are some ways to manage the exploitation of groundwater in India:
- Implement groundwater regulations: Groundwater exploitation is governed by legislation in India, although these regulations are frequently ignored or poorly implemented. These laws must be strictly enforced by the government, and there must be consequences for breaking them.
- Encourage water conservation: The government must encourage strategies for conserving water, including rainwater collection, drip irrigation, and effective use of water in business and agriculture. By doing so, the need for groundwater can be decreased and its utilisation made more effective.
- Use of surface water should be increased: The government should look into ways to make better use of surface water resources like rivers and lakes. This can be accomplished by building new dams and reservoirs, enhancing irrigation system effectiveness, and minimising water waste.
- Encourage the use of recycled water since it can be utilised for non-potable tasks including irrigation, flushing, and industrial activities. Recycled water includes treated wastewater. Encouragement of recycled water use can lessen pressure on groundwater resources and decrease demand for freshwater resources.
- Public awareness efforts should be supported by the government to inform the public about the need for sustainable groundwater management and the effects of over-extraction. This could inspire people to conserve water and use it more wisely.
- Use technology to keep an eye on groundwater resources: The government should keep an eye on groundwater resources using cutting-edge tools like remote sensing and satellite images. This can assist in locating places where groundwater is being overused and assist in putting in place the necessary management measures.