Govt report flags groundwater concerns for seven states, one UT

Inefficient water management, de-forestation, drying up of springs add to the woes

Groundwater report Representative Image

Seven states and one union territory have witnessed a decline in the total annual groundwater recharge and total annual extractable groundwater resource, according to the Dynamic Groundwater Resource Assessment Report 2023. Two states are from the northeast- Nagaland and Sikkim – which are predominantly subtropical highland climate regions receiving high rainfall- making it a matter of concern for climate experts.

The report says that this year the groundwater recharge and annual extractable groundwater resource in Nagaland was recorded at 0.60 Billion Cubic Meter (BCM) and 0.54 BCM respectively as compared to 0.74 BCM and 0.71 BCM in 2022. Sikkim also recorded a dip in groundwater recharge and extractable groundwater from 0.27 BCM and 0.24 BCM in 2022 to 0.24 BCM and 0.22 BCM respectively in 2023.

Chairman, Central Groundwater Board (CGWB), Sunil Kumar Ambast told THE WEEK: "Although the overall groundwater situation in the northeast region has not changed much, the reduction in these states may be attributed to deficient rainfall." The change in rainfall patterns could be because of annual variations, which may have sharpened a little bit because of climate change, he added.

Experts agree that deficient rainfall in the region is the manifestation of climate change. Inefficient water management, de-forestation, drying up of springs add to the woes.

Eklavya Prasad from Megh Pyne Abhiyan said besides factors, there certainly have been signs of changing rainfall patterns in the northeast region.

Other states witnessing a dip in the groundwater situation are Delhi, Goa, Kerala, Odisha, Punjab and Daman and Diu. Even though Punjab continues to witness plummeting groundwater resources, the overall extraction of groundwater was found to be low in the recent assessment, ostensibly due to "decrease in irrigation draft", indicating a reduction in the use of groundwater for irrigation activities in the state.

Delhi's Stage of Groundwater Extraction, on the other hand, rose from 98.16 per cent in 2022 to 99.13 per cent in 2023, showing tardy implementation of groundwater extraction rules in the national capital. The stage of groundwater extraction is a ratio of the annual groundwater and the net annual groundwater availability in percentage.

The groundwater situation in Kerala also deteriorated- the groundwater recharge and extractable groundwater were found to have decreased from 5.74 BCM to 5.53 BCM and 5.19 to 5.01 respectively in the 2023 assessment. The Stage of Groundwater Extraction, on the other hand, increased from 52.56 per cent to 54.55 per cent. Three blocks in Kerala – Kozhikode, Sasthamcotta and Varkala fell in the ‘semi-critical’ category from ‘safe’ category.

As per the report, released by the Union Minister of Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Friday, the total annual groundwater recharge for the entire country is 449.08 BCM, marking an increase of 11.48 BCM compared to the previous year and annual ground water extraction for the entire country is 241.34 BCM.

Further, out of the total 6553 assessment units in the country, 736 units have been categorised as ‘over-exploited’. The assessment indicates improvement in ground water conditions in 226 assessment units in the country compared to last year.

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