‘India darws more groundwater than US, China combined’

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New Delhi, July 7 (IANS) India extracts more groundwater than the United States and China together, a Water Resource Ministry official said here on Friday, adding that some states are extracting more groundwater than there is recharge.

“Groundwater is the most extracted natural resource in the world, more than coal and oil,” said Dipankar Saha, a member of Central Ground Water Board, under the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.

Speaking at the National Conclave on Drinking Water Quality, he said: “India extracts a staggering 250 billion cubic metres/year groundwater, which excludes all deep water acquifers. This is more than China and US combined.”

According to assessments made by National Acquifer Mapping Programme (NAMP), an initiative taken under the ministry to map the health of acquifers around the country, there are several states which are “extracting more groundwater than there is recharge”.

If the condition is not checked, then “very soon we will be facing shortage of per capita water availability”, Saha warned.

“In the eastern states, the stress on the resource is less, but as one moves towards the west like in Maharashtra, and towards southern states, the situation becomes grimmer,” he said, attributing the information to the assessments done under NAMP since 2012, when it was formed.

Along with its projected scarcity, the quality of groundwater can be an issue in several parts of the country, as the official said that there were as many as 10 states where arsenic — a chemical whose exposure can cause skin, lung and other types of cancer — was found in groundwater beyond permissible limits.

“We checked 15,000 wells for arsenic in 26 states for this exercise… we found many wells in Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Punjab, Jharkhand, and Manipur to be contaminated with arsenic,” he said.

“But this does not mean that all wells or the entire groundwater here is contaminated. Arsenic concentration is patchy in nature and found only in the top layer of the acquifers,” he added.

The solution to this then is that we extract water from deeper acquifers, he said.

The programme which will conclude its exercise by 2022, is geared to map 26 lakh square kilometre out of 32 square Kilometre constituting Indian territory.

— IANS

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