Fast depleting ground water in nearly 30% of the assessed blocks in the country has pushed the Centre to fast-track its Rs 6,000 crore ambitious plan aimed at efficient management of available water resources and strengthening of recharge mechanism through community participation.
Half of the total cost of this central scheme - named Atal Bhujal Yojana - will be supported by the World Bank as loan while the remaining half (Rs 3,000 crore) will be funded by the government through budgetary support to deal with the deepening crisis of water scarcity in many parts of the country.
“We expect it to be approved before March 31, 2018 so that it could be implemented with effect from April 1,” Union water resources secretary U P Singh told TOI on Wednesday.
The emphasis of the scheme will be on recharge of ground water sources and efficient use of water by involving people at the local level.
The last assessment report of the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) shows that 1,034 of 6584 assessed blocks in the country are over-exploited (usually referred to as ‘dark zones’). It means annual ground water consumption in those blocks is more than the annual ground water recharge.
Besides, 934 blocks fall in different stages of criticality due to depletion without recharge.
The over-exploited units are mostly concentrated in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, western UP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu.
The CGWB report shows that Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi are worst among them. Though Tamil Nadu has the maximum number of ‘dark zones’ (358 out of 1139 assessed units), Punjab is the worst in percentage term with 105 (76%) of its 138 assessed units falling in this category.
Similarly, 164 of the 248 assessed blocks in Rajasthan are over-exploited (66%), followed by Delhi where 15 (56%) out of 27 assessed blocks are in ‘dark zones’. Haryana has 64 (54%) over-exploited blocks out of 119 assessed units in the state.
Existing practice of supply side management of ground water can be blamed for this as the focus has invariably been on how to make available supply of more and more water for usages in agriculture and domestic sector.
“Atal Bhujal Yojana will, however, focus on demand side management (how to meet requirements by minimum use of water),” said Singh.
The matter was discussed in the consultative committee of the ministry last week when it was shared with members that the ‘Atal Bhujal Yojana’ would initially be implemented with community participation in 78 identified districts in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
The CGWB had informed the members that ground water in India provides for about 60% of the country’s irrigation needs, 85% of rural drinking water requirements and 50% of urban water needs. It noted that over-exploitation and contamination have left many blocks across the country in a critical stage.