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What are the potential threats to groundwater aquifers

Possible threat to the groundwater aquifers

A Stepping Stone towards Sustainable Development

  • Since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment – 1972, India, being a member of the conference, has been obliged to put forward the principles of the Stockholm declaration.
  • India agreed upon a declaration containing twenty-six principles which may be summarised to be a stepping stone as far as environmental issues are concerned. A key challenge turned up for India being a developing nation to be a part of “Sustainable Development” not only for environmental protection but also for social and economic development.
  • India as a significant member of the international community has always played a pivotal role to set out the milestones for environmental conventions that have been taking place since 1972.

India’s commitment to put forward the long term goals

  • India has for the first time urged to formulate and enact the first Water Protection and Conservation Act that is known as Water Act 1974 to prevent and control water pollution from being contaminated.
  • Since then, India is not only giving birth to the various Environmental Act but has also taken the responsibility to nurture them by framing policies, rules, and regulations.
  • A majority of the environmental rules have emerged from the Environment Protection Act 1986.
India’s Social Infection: A chronic disease that is still becoming incurable Primarily, Indian demography has been infected by two crucial viruses since independence; Population explosion and Poverty.

The revolution that laid down the foundations for industrial setup

  • The industrial revolution came late to India, due to its complicated political and economic relationship with Great Britain. New colonial laws forced Indian farmers to devote most of their fields to cotton crops, instead of food, which led to widespread famine and poverty in India. It exports a billion amounts of groundwater when it exports raw materials such as cotton and products such as automobiles. Producing 1kg of cotton in India consumes 22,500 litres of water, on average, according to research done by the Water Footprint Network. By exporting more than 7.5m bales of cotton in 2013, India also exported about 38bn cubic meters of virtual water.
  • This amount of water would more than meet the daily needs of 85% of India’s vast population for a year. The higher footprint of water consumption of water usage in the cotton industry is due to unsustainable water use and higher rates of Water pollution. More than 50% of all pesticides used in the country are in cotton production.
  • A huge chunk of cotton is grown in drier regions and the government subsidises the costs of farmers electric pumps, putting no limits on the volumes of groundwater extracted or paying less attention due to Economic reasons. This has created a widespread pattern of inefficient water use and haggard electrical grids.
  • India’s extensive groundwater resources have been rapidly being depleted, with more than 60% of wells in the drier north-west India experiencing declining water levels. By 2030 demand will outstrip supply by 50%, according to the World Resources Institute.
  • In the last five years, India has significantly dropped down the cotton exports which was around 90 lakh bales in 2013 -14 whereas it was estimated around 47 lakh bales in 2019-2019 according to the Indian Cotton Federation and The Cotton Association of India (CAI).
  • The main reason for the reduction in the cotton crop during the past years is the fast declining water level across India.

Root Cause of Environmental problems

  • Over the last ten years, India has witnessed a rapid growth of Industrialisation due to many Economic and Environmental pacts & agreements with the European Union and other International Communities consequently, the Village dwelling population is migrating towards the urban areas witnessing a rapid growth of urbanisation to get the better job opportunities. The population dwelling in most of the hilly states especially upper and lower Himalayan regions still far behind to be able to get necessities to run their livelihood. Poverty and lack of education are two major factors enforcing them to migrate towards Metro cities.  
  • The population explosion during the last two decades has put on cascading effects on precious natural resources like Groundwater which is fast dwindling in most of the Indian States.
  • The Government of India which is a nodal agency to enact the laws and formulate the policies concerning environmental issues on Air pollution and Water Pollution has been a mute spectator on a Globally rising issue of “Groundwater Depletion” in the South -Asian region until 2011.

Enactment of Environmental Court “National Green Tribunal”

  • Ground Water Authority constituted section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 was disowning its responsibility to regularise the groundwater in the country has woken up the aftermath of Public Interest Litigation filed in the court and started acknowledging its functions.  
  • In late 2012, The Central Ground Water Authority formulated the guidelines for evaluation of proposals for groundwater abstraction rules in the wake of pressure developed by some Non-Governmental Organisations and the Environmental Tribunal under the Environment Protection Act 1986. Despite the water being a State subject, There has been no legislation passed on this subject to draw some check lines on the unregulated use of groundwater till now by most of the Indian States.

Environmental Awareness “The only sustainable solution”

  • There has been a clear lack of attention to water legislation, water conservation practices, efficiency in water use, water reuse-recycling, and infrastructure development. The safe zones have been turned into semi-critical, critical, or over-exploited in the past ten years due to not having any Government policy and no social or environmental awareness to conserve groundwater. The tragedy of India’s water scarcity is that the crisis could have been largely avoided with better water management practices and by rising environmental programmes and awareness.

Conclusion: Need of the hour “Action to Reflection”

  • Artificial groundwater recharge can only be a partial solution to replenish the dying groundwater aquifers but it is not a holistic approach for sustainable development and management that is needed for addressing the problem of overexploited aquifers’ storage. 
  • Thus, efforts to address the problem of sinking groundwater aquifers must be done from a larger perspective. The State Government should conduct awareness programs on the Regional, City, Gram Panchayat, and Mohallas levels to promote the appropriate measures to reduce groundwater consumption and recharge the wells as well as.

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