Ground water plays an important role in Indian economy and in ensuring food security of the country. The beginning of Green Revolution during the 1970s brought in a significant increase in ground water extraction which has continued ever since, with consequent manifestations of adverse environmental impact in the form of declining water levels, dwindling well yields and reduction in sustainability of irrigation wells. Besides, ground water in several pockets of the country has become unfit for drinking due to contamination, attributed to both natural and anthropogenic causes.
In order to tackle the twin hazards of de-saturation of productive aquifer zones as well as deterioration of ground water quality and to evolve strategies for better ground water governance and management through wider consultations among various stakeholders, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has launched the ‘Jal Kranti Abhiyan’ during 2015-16. As part of this campaign, the Ministry organized a National Dialogue on Clean and Sustainable Groundwater titled ‘Bhujal Manthan’ recently at Kurukshetra, Haryana. It was aimed primarily at emphasizing the need for a collective interaction among various stakeholders engaged in ground water resource development and management to attain synergy and harmony with the ecology for ensuring the long-term sustainability of this precious resource.
The one-day interaction was oriented towards the change in ground water use pattern which in turn creates conflicts amongst the various stakeholders both at regional and local levels. The seminar also addressed the emerging issues related to governance of ground water to cope up with the competing demands; tools and measures to ensure most efficient use of available ground water; maintaining sustainable ground water quality; etc. About 2000 experts and delegates including officers of various Ministries, Govt. organizations, NGOs, scientists from Research Institutes working on ground water domain and stakeholders like farmers and industrialists from across the country attended the seminar.
The technical session was divided into four parts on the following themes:
- Geogenic ground water pollution – Special reference to Arsenic and Fluoride; Anthropogenic ground water pollution – mitigation measures.
- Ground water stressed areas – Management interventions for sustainable use; Ground water mapping and application of recent techniques.
- Water conservation and conjunctive use of surface and ground water in efficient manner.
- Ground water system response to climate change and strategies. Ground water: Efficient use and peoples’ participation for its sustainable management.
A total of 27 papers pertaining to various aspects of the themes mentioned were presented during the technical sessions. The technical sessions made the following key recommendations:
- Studies to be taken up for better understanding of impact of geogenic/anthropogenic contamination on human health.
- Pilot studies on remediation of groundwater contamination should be taken up more vigorously.
- Community participation in the fight against groundwater contamination should be ensured through an intensive mass awareness and capacity building campaign
- Advanced Geophysical studies like Electrical Resistivity Tomography and Heli-borne surveys should be taken up to undertake large scale mapping for the whole country.
- The current method of computing the ground water recharge and draft can be supplemented by remote sensing techniques.
- Artificial recharge techniques should be employed to push the freshwater-seawater interface into sea and alternate arrangements for source water to be planned.
- Implementation of two pilot projects for conjunctive use of surface and ground water may be taken up in two of the larger canal command areas where studies have already been completed.
- Use of ground water from deep aquifers for conjunctive use with surface canal water has been successfully demonstrated but the legal aspects of its impact on the shallow tube well of the farmers should be considered.
- Large-scale ground water development is feasible in Eastern states of the country and there is need for a second ‘green revolution’ in these areas to help India achieve food security.
- Best practices from successful agro-ecologies need to be replicated in areas of unsustainable ground water development such as parts North-eastern India.
- A workable water resource management plan must be made mandatory for clearance of any proposal for large-scale mining involving excavation below the water table.
- Efforts are to be made for conservation of springs in the hilly areas of the country through limiting indiscriminate construction of bore wells, conservation of spring catchments and through implementation of suitably designed water conservation structures to replenish the ground water resources.
- Climate adaptation strategies should include groundwater management to meet the current and projected water scarcity as a result of climate change, particularly in relation to agricultural needs
- In order to improve the efficiency of water application from groundwater through drip and sprinkler technology, aquifer characteristics should be linked to the yield from groundwater abstraction structures.
- Women especially from the rural areas should be made aware of all the dangers of drinking non-potable water and its associated health hazards through awareness programs. They should be trained to learn various techniques to preserve water, measure the level of water in open wells, and test the properties of water and treat water and make it safe for use. They should be made partners in distribution of water to all areas which will instill a sense of responsibility, justice and respecting the rights and entitlements of the poor.