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Question : Experts believe that India is fast moving towards a crisis of groundwater overuse and contamination. In the light of this statement, trace the major challenges relating to the groundwater sector and suggest some measures.

Suggested Answer:

 The major challenges are:

  • The current assessment methodology used for groundwater estimation makes the available data indicative and not representative.
  • Overexploitation of water by water intensive crops.
  • The practice of providing power subsidies for agriculture has played a major role in the decline of water levels in India.
  • Inadequate regulation of groundwater law.
  • Continuous decrease of quality of groundwater due to increasing pollution and presence of contaminants like arsenic, nitrate, fluoride, salinity, etc.

? Suggestions:

  • Assessment of groundwater resources should be undertaken on a regular basis. A single agency should be formed to maintain a database on (i) the amount of groundwater being utilised by various stakeholders, and (ii) natural and artificial recharge to groundwater.
  • A study to assess land-use and proportion of agricultural land falling under dark blocks (overexploited assessment units) should be initiated.
  • A well-defined policy on groundwater extraction for agriculture should also be framed to ensure long-term sustainability.
  • Bringing the subject of water under the concurrent list will help evolve a comprehensive plan of action.
  • Ministry of Water Resources in coordination with Central Pollution Control Board should devise an effective mechanism to identify critically polluted areas located in dark blocks. Steps to minimize and control the dumping of industrial waste into surface water and underground aquifers should also be taken.
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