DEVELOPMENT OF GROUND WATER RESOURCES IN THE COUNTRY
In India, almost 90 per cent of drinking water supplies in rural areas comes from ground water. On Almost 40 per cent of the total irrigation potential lies in ground water. At the same time, ground water is generally widespread and easily available without any restrictions on its use. This has resulted in a rapid expansion in the development of the potential and also exploitation of ground water in the country. The total number of wells in the country has gone up from about four million in 1951 to more than 15 million, and the number of energised pumpsets in the same period has grown from initially negligible to about 12 million. This massive expansion in exploitation of ground water resources has had a significant impact on income and employment generation, particularly, in rural areas.
High stress on the ground water system, however, has led to local declines of 2 to 4 metres in ground water levels, in many places. Decline in levels of more than 4 metres has been observed in certain parts of the country. In 249 blocks/mandals/taluks all over the country, the level of ground water development has exceeded its replenishable limit and in another 179 blocks/mandals/taluks/water-sheds, the development is more than 85 per cent of the annual replenishable resource. This calls for urgent remedial measures.
The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has the mandate for development and management of countrys ground water resources including exploration, assessment, conservation and augmentation. The Board undertakes exploratory drilling of tube-wells in the country. Successful wells are handed over to the States at a nominal cost for their utilisation for irrigation, drinking and other purposes. As on November 2000, the Central Ground Water Board has drilled 8,484 exploratory wells, out of which 2,715 wells have already been handed over to the States/UT Administrations. Another 2,439 wells have been offered to the States. Further, 1,474 wells are in the process of being offered to the States by CGWB. The CGWB is focussing specially on the drought affected States like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Orissa. The CGWB has handed over 620 wells to these States whereas 890 wells have been offered and 495 wells are in the process of being offered. The Board has also prepared a contingency plan for drought proofing in these States at an estimated cost of Rs. 43.50 crore under 1,440 exploratory wells would be drilled.
The Central Government provides technical and financial assistance to the States for development, use and management of ground water resources. Within this framework, the Government has taken various steps, primarily towards arresting the decline in ground water levels in different parts of the country, and also towards the proper regulation, use and management of the precious ground water resources. These measures include control and regulatory measures, measures for recharging of ground water, measures for increasing awareness and for involving the public in conservation, protection and proper use of ground water.
The Government has circulated a Model Bill to all States and Union Territories to enable them to enact suitable legislation for regulation and control of ground water. The Government has also constituted the Central Ground Water Authority. It regulates the extraction of ground water in areas with significant decline in the ground water levels. It also registers ground water extraction structures and has so far registered over one lakh such structures all over the country. In those development blocks classified as "dark" and "over-exploited" the re-financing of wells and tubewells by NABARD is discouraged so as to prevent a further decline in water table.
The Central Ground Water Board is also implementing various schemes for raising the ground water levels. One of the important schemes being implemented by the Board is the artificial recharge of ground water. This scheme has been implemented in a number of States and the results have been very encouraging. The Board has developed various methods and techniques for recharge of ground water and has issued manuals and guidelines for the assistance of States and individuals, which would help in the formulation and implementation of such schemes by them.
Successful management of ground water resources will have to be a mass based programme. For this purpose, it is essential to increase mass awareness not only of the criticality of water as a resource, but also of ways and means in which ordinary people can contribute towards its proper utilisation and management. Many such mass awareness programmes have been conducted by the Central Ground Water Authority in various parts of the country.
The CGWB is proposing to involve NGOs in big way in the implementation of various works under the scheme of artificial recharge of ground water. Several NGOs have done remarkable work in Jodhpur and Alwar in Rajashtan, Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Kutch, Rajkot and Dahad in Gujarat and Dewas in Madhya Pradesh.
With the help of mass based programmes and various initiatives, the Government is poised to succeed in its mission for a better management of ground water resources.