2022: Groundwater Depletion, Contamination Continue amid Govts’ Efforts

This first part of the annual overview, SANDRP tracks some of the important developments regarding groundwater depletion and contamination in India and ongoing efforts, new steps taken by Central and various state governments in 2022 for the protection and conservation of the finite natural resource. Overall, these developments show no significant improvement in governance and management of groundwater resources which is also the water lifeline of the country amid its rising depletion and contamination. In second and third parts of the yearend roundup we have tracked some positive initiative for groundwater management by various governments in the country and some remarkable judicial interventions for groundwater governance and conservation in 2022.

MoJS Groundwater extraction down, recharge up?? This sounds so counter intuitive. The Ministry Jal Shakti (MoJS) on Nov 9, 2022 made public some findings of its latest “National Compilation on Dynamic Ground Water Resources of India, 2022, strangely, without making the report public (the report was made public a few days later). It is not clear why the govt did not make the report public, though the counter intuitive nature of the findings provide some hint. At all India macro level, the ministry claimed that the groundwater extraction is the lowest in 2022 since 2004, or 18 years and that the groundwater recharge has gone up.

These are counter intuitive findings, even at macro level for a number of reasons. It is unclear what methodology is used to arrive at these conclusions and if there has been any independent scrutiny of the same. Since groundwater extraction has been going up for over six decades now, this reversal will need plausible reasons. There are no indications that there is any reduction in this groundwater use. Secondly, the groundwater recharge mechanisms are under attack all over India, and thus the finding that there is increase in recharge raises questions. Particularly since the efforts at groundwater recharge through rainwater harvesting are far from convincing.

More importantly, the real story is at micro level, since groundwater occurs in decentralised aquifers. For effective improvement, any significant reduction in use, increase in recharge has to happen at the aquifer level and the assessment also needs to be done and made available at aquifer level for it to have any impact on future regulation of groundwater. In fact the only regulatory body working for groundwater regulation, the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), works in a centralised way and its work has been far from confidence inspiring. That makes this whole findings questionable. Moreover, it would also be useful to see if the extraction has reduced in over exploited areas and if the recharge has increased where it is required most: in over exploited areas. Too many questions and no answers, unfortunately.  (14 Nov. 2022)

Questions raised over latest groundwater assessment by CGWB “There is no ground reality change that will lead to extra reduction. It has been on an upward trend for six decades at the macro level. That recharge upwards also seems problematic as systems like wetlands and riverbeds are getting destroyed. We need convincing evidence,” says Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator with SANDRP.  (23 Nov. 2022)

On average, there are only nine assessment units per district. “They are mainly tehsil-level units. This is clearly much larger than an aquifer-level assessment and can lead to misleading conclusions,” says Thakkar. Thakkar also says it is important to see if there has been an increase in the areas that are critical or waterlogged.

Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP says, “The findings on recharge and extraction both seem counter-intuitive. What is happening on the ground doesn’t seem to reflect what has been reported.” He also said that given aquifers—except the alluvial formations—are very localised, the assessment units are too large to reflect the condition accurately. Also, whether the additional recharge is happening in water-logged areas or saline areas—accrual in the latter would mean the recharge can’t be used—needs to be seen. “Communities need to be made aware and empowered to collectively conserve groundwater,” Thakkar says.  (24 Nov. 2022)

While no specific reasons have been given in the latest groundwater assessment report  — National Compilation on Dynamic Ground Water Resources Of India, 2022 — released by the Ministry of Jal Shakti on Nov 10 for a sharp decline in the extraction of groundwater for irrigation, domestic and industrial uses during 2022, the report says, “These variations are attributed mainly to refinement of parameters, refinement in well census data and changing groundwater regime.”  (11 Nov. 2022) The 2022 assessment suggests that groundwater extraction is the lowest since 2004, when it was 231 bcm. Such joint exercises between the CGWB and States/Union Territories were carried out earlier in 1980, 1995, 2004, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2017 and 2020.  (10 Nov. 2022)

Groundwater crisis deepens Over-exploitation of groundwater resources and a decrease in “safe” groundwater assessment units have worsened the country’s groundwater crisis, revealed the Economic Survey India (ESI) 2021-2022 presented by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Lok Sabha on Jan. 31.

“During 2004-2020, units categorised as ‘safe’, declined from 2009 (73 per cent) to 2020 (64 per cent). ‘Semi-critical’ units increased from 9 per cent in 2009 to 15 per cent in 2020. The share of ‘Critical’ units remained in the range of 3-5 per cent during 2004-2020. The share of ‘Over-exploited’ units, accounted for 14-17 per cent of total assessment units during 2004-20. Moreover, approximately 1% of assessment units have been categorised as ‘saline'”. The survey alerted the states and UTs to prevent the critical and semi-critical assessment units from further worsening. The findings were included in the Survey’s Chapter on “Sustainable Development & Climate Change”. (31 Jan 2022)

5 states extract almost 50% of groundwater 5 states — Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Kerala — account for 49 per cent of the overall extraction of groundwater in the entire country while the rest of the country accounts for 50 per cent, government data between 2004-2020 has shown. “These top five states withdraw about 24.37 billion cubic metres (BCM),” the data from the Ministry of Jal Shakti showed adding, between year 2004 and 2020, groundwater drawl has increased from 18.09 BCM to 27.31 BCM implying an average annual increase of 576 million cubic metres.

However, these are not the highest groundwater withdrawing states in terms of absolute volume. The stage of ground water extraction is very high in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, where it is more than 100 per cent, which implies that in these states, the annual ground water consumption is more than annual extractable ground water resources. In the states of Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and UTs of Chandigarh and Puducherry, the stage of ground water Extraction is between 70-100 per cent. In the rest of the states / UTs, the stage of ground water development is below 70 per cent.  (23 April 2022)

Groundwater governance and managements in various States

Maharashtra Govt panel to reassess replenishable groundwater resources A special panel has been formed to carry out the task, which is expected to submit its report by Feb 2023. The reassessment will be done in accordance with the directives from the Centre’s Ministry of Jalshakti. The panel has 16 members from different govt depts and state agencies and is headed by a secretary-level official from the water supply and sanitation dept. The panel will also estimate the status of utilisation of the annual replenishable groundwater resource.

Officials at the groundwater survey and development agency (GSDA) said the reassessment involves multiple activities. “As a part of the exercise, data corresponding to groundwater levels and different watersheds among other focus areas is collected and processed. High-end software is available to feed the data and carry out the desired analysis,” Bhimrao Meshram, the GSDA deputy director for Aurangabad said. The last such assessment was carried out for the 2019-20 water year. The revised “Groundwater Estimation Committee-2015 Methodology” (GEC-2015) will be used for the task that recommends aquifer-wise groundwater resource assessment. As per recommended practice, groundwater resources may be assessed to a depth of 100m in areas with hard rock & 300m in areas with soft rock. (31 Jan 2022)

Detailed mapping plan to locate potential groundwater resources The Maharashtra Department of Water Supply and Sanitation will embark on a minute mapping plan that will cover 25 lakh groundwater resources and water conservation works amid fall in water levels and scarcity. The mapping will be carried out at a ratio of 1:10000, which means every centimetre on the map will represent 100 metres on the ground. “It will be done under the Jal Jeevan Mission. Maharashtra will be the first state to take up such an initiative,” he said.

Emphasizing the importance of the plan, GSDA Commissioner Chintaman Joshi said around 80 per cent of irrigation and 85 per cent of supply for drinking purposes in Maharashtra was based on groundwater resources. “Moreover, micro and small-scale industries and other businesses also pump out groundwater on a large scale. This has resulted in a fall in groundwater levels and has led to water scarcity in many places,” he said.  (24 July 2022)

Punjab Crop diversification scheme ineffective Government is firming up a plan on crop diversification, whereby around a million hectare (MH) or a third of water-intensive paddy grown areas in the state would be gradually shifted to alternative crops such as cotton, maize, oilseeds and pulses, over the next five years. According to Gurvinder Singh, director, agriculture department, the state government will also provide incentives to farmers for shifting around 10% of wheat area to alternative crops such as oilseeds and pulses.

According to a statement by agriculture ministry in Parliament in April, crop diversification programme initiated in 2013-14 as a sub-scheme under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana in the Green revolution states such as Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, has brought only 0.63 MH under the demonstration of alternative crop at farmers’ field.

Crop diversification in Punjab has been virtually a non-starter as because of the open-ended rice and wheat procurement system followed by Food Corporation of India and state agencies, farmers are reluctant to adopt less water intensive crops because of lack of procurement or marketing avenues for such crops.  (18 June 2022)

Groundwater level dips, farmers go in for robust pumps The alarming depletion of groundwater in the state has forced farmers to increase the power load of their agricultural pump sets. The situation has reached a critical juncture in 12 districts, so much so that farmers are bearing huge expenses on installing tubewells. According to the data of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL), 1.84 lakh farmers have increased the load of their motors in the past four and a half months since the state government reduced the charges for increasing the power load. The load has increased by 7.49 lakh brake horsepower (BHP).

CM Bhagwant Mann had, on June 9, announced a reduction in the fee for increasing the load. It was reduced from Rs 4,750 to Rs 2,500. More than 51,359 farmers in seven districts of the western zone have increased the load of motors by 2.24 lakh BHP.

At 17,245, Bathinda and Mansa districts have seen the highest number of farmers getting their load increased. They have increased their load by 81,802 BHP. In all, 15,383 farmers in Barnala and Malerkotla districts have increased the load by 70,964 BHP. In Tarn Taran, 19,603 farmers increased the load by 76,785 BHP. There are about 14 lakh agricultural motors in Punjab. As soon as the govt reduced the fee, farmers started submitting applications for increasing the load of their pumps.  (21 Sept. 2022)

Punjab among top states with over 100% groundwater extraction This was revealed in the ESI released by the Union government ahead of the annual Budget. States in high (more than 100%) and medium (70-100%) category are required to focus on both medium and long term ground water recharge and conservation plans.  (01 Feb. 2022)

Rs 6,773 cr plan to recharge depleting groundwater The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has given Punjab a Rs 6,773 crore plan for constructing at least 11 lakh structures for recharging the fast-depleting underground water in rural as well as urban areas all over the state. The project details form a part of the reply by the Minister of State for Jal Shakti, Bishweshwar Tudu, to a question posed by MP Balubhau alias Suresh Narayan Dhanorkar during the ongoing session of the Lok Sabha.  (05 Aug. 2022)

Groundwater in at least 78 per cent blocks of the Punjab is overexploited said Minister of State for Jal Shakti Bishweswar Tudu in a reply to a query posed by Anandpur Sahib Member of Parliament Manish Tewari during the ongoing Lok Sabha session. The minister said out of 150 blocks, as many as 117 have been categorised as “overexploited”. The minister said as per the 2017 groundwater assessment carried out jointly by the CGWB and the state govt 109 blocks were found to be “overexploited”. The reply mentioned that “Groundwater levels are declining because of continuous withdrawal necessitated by increased demand of freshwater for various uses, vagaries of rainfall, increased population, industrialisation & urbanisation etc” (7 Feb. 2022)

Haryana Deep state & baby steps towards big leap Dr Satbir Singh Kadian, engineer-in-chief with the Irrigation and Water Resources Department and Partik Kumar, State Social Development Expert in Atal Bhujal Yojana explain how serious is the depleting water level problem in the state and how is it being checked.

Almost 60 per cent of villages in Haryana are categorised as “groundwater stressed” or “potential groundwater stressed”. There is a direct impact on the life and livelihood of close to 20 million people. The impact on ecology and economy is yet to be envisaged and emphasised. In some regions, over the past five decades, the groundwater level has seen a depletion of more than a hundred feet. Lack of institutional setup for groundwater governance, absenteeism of stakeholder institutions, prominence of water-intensive crops and undesirable behaviour of stakeholders have been some of the key challenges.

The Atal Bhujal Yojana aims that all necessary decisions relating to groundwater management should be taken by last-mile stakeholders i.e. village level institutions and community members. In the process to empower the community to take the decision, it is necessary to demystify the science of groundwater or in other words, the groundwater needs to be made visible to them. To ensure effective groundwater visibility, the state is establishing a Hydrogeological Monitoring Network at the gram panchayat level.  (18 April 2022)

HWRA reviews plan to reduce groundwater gap Haryana Water Resources Authority (HWRA), Chairperson, Keshni Anand Arora held a meeting with Superintending Engineers, Irrigation and Water Resources Department (I&WRD) to review the progress of the Districts Water Resources Plan 2022-25 being prepared by all the 22 Districts as per the HWRA Act. During the meeting she also reviews a three-year action plan in order to reduce the water gap by 45 percent in three years that is 10 percent in the first year, 15 percent in second year, and 20 percent in the third year in water depleted as well as waterlogged areas.

Keshni Anand Arora lauded the efforts made by the District Administration of Yamunanagar and Ambala which are leading in their efforts. Besides this, she also directed the other districts to put in more effort and resubmit a comprehensive plan. During the meeting, the districts were directed to formulate an integrated and holistic three-year village-level water action plan and should incorporate sustainable use of surface water and groundwater and enhanced use of Treated Waste Water for non-potable purposes to reduce dependency on freshwater resources.  (18 Oct. 2022)

Building small dams in Shivalik, Aravalli Haryana authorities plan to construct small dams in the Aravalli and Shivalik hills to conserve water flowing through the region’s springs. The water conserved will assist in combating groundwater depletion in the region and will be used for irrigation and drinking. The authorities intend to build six small dams in Morni area of Shivalik Hills, where a few dams were previously constructed. The region was selected for this project due to the low water levels and saline conditions in the area. For this purpose, the government has introduced the Ranney Well Scheme, worth Rs 263 crore. Furthermore, the government has launched the Mera Pani-Meri Virasat Scheme, under which farmers are being given Rs 7,000 per acre for sowing alternate crops in place of paddy to save water for irrigation.  (23 Feb. 2022)

Rahul Banerjee on FB Post Comment:- Hectares are an unit of area and not volume . Instead of building dams they should be doing, afforestation and soil and water conservation at the watershed level. When will better sense prevail?

Uttar Pradesh GAG seeks policy to check depleting groundwater Groundwater Action Group (GAG) on March 20 2022 wrote to UP State Groundwater Management and Regulatory Authority, requesting it to make a detailed policy to check fast depleting ground water resources in the state due to indiscriminate extraction. The policy should be based on the availability and capacity of the ground water aquifers present in a particular area. The GAG, which includes retired geoscientists, senior hydrologists and water experts, in its letter to UP chief secretary, who is also chairperson of the UP State Groundwater Management and Regulatory Authority, said the use of ground water for various activities has increased manifold in the state for the past two decades. Since the rate of replenishment is not adequate, excessive extraction of ground water resources may directly affect the economy of the state and lead to gio-environment hazards, the experts added.

The GAG said many dynamic or shallow groundwater aquifers have dried up in many parts of the state due to excessive extraction and now static or deep aquifers are being drained out. The static aquifers are recharged by Himalayan resources, but the rate of which is slow in comparison to the extraction, hence a balance is required for better management. “As per the CGWB, groundwater depletion of UP is under-reported as extraction for irrigation and drinking water is only being counted. It does not include extraction being done through submersible pumps for various other activities such as construction, horticulture and other commercial and domestic purposes,” said GAG coordinator RS Sinha.  (21 March 2022)

‘Paddy cultivation leading decline in water table’ The shift towards paddy cultivation is posing a serious environmental challenge for the state, said RK Upadhyaya, head of department of agriculture division of UP remote sensing application centre. Upadhyaya said the increasing biannual paddy cultivation, particularly in Pilibhit district, has led to drying up of ground-fed Gomti River at many places. He said the river land was encroached upon and due to conventional puddling methods, water flow was blocked for rice cultivation. This was leading to evaporation of surface water and stoppage of groundwater recharge which further led to decline in water table.  (12 Aug. 2022)

Rajasthan Groundwater overexploited in 71% blocks  At present, out of 285 blocks, 203 blocks (71.22%) in the state are overexploited and it is expected to cause more problems in coming years. Pali, Jodhpur, Jalore, Sirohi are at present suffering from the worst water crisis. People are supplied water through a special water train which is not sufficient.

In the available water resources, 85% agriculture in the state is dependent on ground water while 65% of drinking and industrial water requirements are met through groundwater. As the population is increasing, connecting all houses through water taps the pressure on the already available resources is rising. In Jaipur, there is a rule to have rainwater harvesting in every plot with over 300 sq feet area. This has never been implemented properly. At present, Jaipur, Tonk and Ajmer are completely dependent on Bisalpur dam. One year of bad monsoon can put all 3 districts on alert.  (26 May 2022)

Gujarat Groundwater registration delay to attract 1L fine  The notification on July 1 for all users of groundwater to get a NOC from CGWB created flutter across residences and industries in Gujarat. While several of the areas have heavy dependence on groundwater despite availability of surface water, the experts said that majority of the borewells in the state are not registered. With rules in force since 2018 and implemented in 2020, the delay in registration may attract fines of up to Rs 1 lakh depending on the category of registration. The new registrations will cost Rs 10,000.

G Krishnamurthy, regional director of CGWB, said that ever since the publication of notification, the office is getting about 20-odd applications every day. “Purpose of the current notification and overall initiative is to first get to know the extent of the groundwater usage – there is no record of the total volume of the water extracted,” he said. “Only a fraction of industries is renewing water extraction NOCs in the state.” Experts pointed at the CGWB site for the online procedure to apply for the NOCs. Compared to earlier rules, the new ones are different in terms of compulsory installation of digital flow meters with telemetry which would allow the officials to monitor exact volume of water extracted even remotely. Those getting NOCs will also have to maintain a register of water extracted for the renewal of NOCs.  (25 July 2022)

Wells with depleted water levels up 26% in 2 years Data of CGWB tabled in the Lok Sabha indicates that the number of monitoring wells with water level below 10 m (33 feet) increased by 26% in two years from 98 in Nov 2019 to 124 in Nov 2021. In fact, the deepest water availability in 2019 was 50.6 m (166 feet), which increased to 52.3 m (171 feet) in 2021. (8 Feb 2022)

Karnataka Centre’s deadline expires but govt yet to wake up Over two months ago CGWA set the June 30 deadline for all bulk users of groundwater to register. However, in 16 states and UTs including Karnataka, it was the state govt that was to take up this procedure as in these states, a state groundwater authority existed as per the Sept 2020 notification from CGWA following a series of orders from NGT. However, Karnataka is yet to start work on this. Even existing rules are enough, but no action has been taken against the defaulters. Karnataka is still discussing the rules with departments, formulated following model act sent by the centre.  (29 June 2022)

Groundwater extraction has risen in 2022 “There is marginal increase in the current annual groundwater extraction for all uses from 10.63 BCM (billion cubic meters) in 2020 to 11.22 BCM in 2022 in Karnataka. Hence, the stage of groundwater extraction has increased from 64.85 per cent in 2020 to 69.93 per cent in 2022,” said the report titled, ‘Dynamic Ground Water Resources of India-2022’. The report, prepared by the CGWB, said that as compared to 2020 assessment, there was decrease in annual groundwater recharge in 2022 from 18.16 BCM to 17.74 BCM, and annual extractable groundwater resources from 16.40 BCM to 16.04 BCM. “This is mainly due to a decrease in recharge due to surface water irrigation and groundwater irrigation,” the report said.

Out of the 234 assessment units (taluks) in Karnataka, 49 units (20.94 per cent) have been categorized as ‘Over Exploited’, 11 units (4.70 per cent) as ‘Critical’, 35 units (14.96 per cent) as ‘Semi Critical’ and 139 units (59.40 per cent) have been categorized as ‘Safe’. Kolar, Bengaluru Urban, Bengaluru Rural, Chikkaballapur, Chitradurga and Chamarajanagar districts have been categorised as over-exploited.  Uttara Kannada, Udupi, Ballari and Kalaburagi districts have been categorised as lowest when it comes to groundwater extraction, which are between 32 to 40 per cent against the annual extractable groundwater resources.  (22 Nov. 2022)

Water table warning bells According to the recent groundwater level fluctuation report by Groundwater Directorate Bangalore, nine out of 227 taluks including the Bengaluru East taluk’s groundwater levels have receded by more than four metres between Nov 2021- 2022. The other eight taluks are from Dakshina Kannada, Koppala, Belagavi, Kalburgi & Bidar dists.

Lack of Cauvery water supply in some areas, a booming construction industry, and unchecked extraction of borewell water are some of the reasons cited behind this drop. Experts say the plummeting groundwater table in the city despite unusually high rainfall this monsoon is puzzling. They say it is the indiscriminate digging of borewells and lack of rainwater harvesting facilities that are pushing us towards a bleak future. “The Karnataka Groundwater Act, 2011 calls for the declaration of existing borewells and tubewells and mandates registration before digging any new borewells. There are rules in place by the CGWA too. However, implementation of these rules is lacking,” added Nagaraja.  (21 Dec. 2022)

Tamil Nadu ‘CGWA notice on groundwater extraction does not apply to T.N.’ The Tamil Nadu Water Resources Department on July 6, 2022 said the existing rules and regulations for groundwater management and extraction would continue, and the public notice issued recently by the CGWA did not apply to the State.

The Chief Engineer of the Water Resources Department, Tamil Nadu, issued a statement that “the Public Notice no.3/2022, dated.10.04.2022 issued by Chairman, CGWA, MoJS, is not applicable to the State of Tamil Nadu. The existing Rules and Regulations for Ground Water Management and Extraction in this State will continue until further notice”.  (06 July 2022)

Kerala Groundwater extraction: 3 blocks notified Regions under three blocks in Palakkad and Kasaragod district have been notified as ‘overexploited’ and ‘critical’ based on the status of groundwater extraction, as per a fresh notification issued by the State government. The new notification replaces the one issued in Nov 2005 which had notified five blocks – Athiyannoor in Thiruvananthapuram dist, Kodungallur in Thrissur dist, Chittur in Palakkad, Kozhikode in Kozhikode dist & Kasaragod in Kasaragod dist – in the ‘overexploited’ category. This notification now stands cancelled. However, in the new notification, Chittoor block has been retained in the ‘overexploited’ category while Kasaragod block has been brought down to the ‘critical’ category.

Activities related to groundwater extraction in the notified regions, including construction of wells, requires prior permission from the State Groundwater Authority, the State government said. Section 7 (1) of the Act notes; ”Any person desiring to dig a well or to convert the existing well into pumping well, for his own or social purpose in the notified area, shall submit an application before the authority for the grant of a permit for the purpose and shall not proceed with any activity connected with such digging or conversion unless a permit has been granted by the authority.” Of the 152 ‘units’ assessed by the State groundwater department and the CGWB in 2017, 30 blocks were categorised as ‘semi critical’, while 119 blocks were deemed ‘safe.  (14 April 2022)

Goa Who is extracting groundwater? Despite Goa being one of the first few states in the country with a Groundwater Regulation Act, researchers and activists say that its groundwater is being extracted rapidly and, in some cases, illegally. Limited data on water, both on the resource and utilisation side, makes it difficult to fully understand how much water is actually being used and where.

While better rainwater storage and groundwater recharge methods are needed, a more urgent need is a change in policy, since the rate of urbanisation in Goa is faster than the resource infrastructure it can support. Data, on registered wells and tankers, obtained through RTI applications in Goa, is used to understand water use patterns in the state.  (18 Oct. 2022)

Delhi 5 districts consume more groundwater than recharged annually  Five out of Delhi’s 11 revenue dist — New Delhi, North Delhi, South Delhi, Southwest Delhi and Shahdara — are extracting more groundwater than is being recharged annually. Of these New Delhi had the highest annual extraction at 121.41%m followed by South Delhi with 116.25%. (11 Nov 2022)

Groundwater Contamination

Punjab Malwa Belt: 80% groundwater ‘unfit’ for drinking All experts are unanimous that the chemical contamination of the groundwater is posing a great health risk to the people living there and it is also putting children at risk of a blood disorder.

Health activist Dr Vitull K Gupta said several studies over the years have documented that groundwater in the Malwa region is unfit for drinking and irrigation because of elevated levels of alkalinity, hardness, fluoride, uranium, nitrate, magnesium, phosphates and several contents of pesticides and fertilisers. More importantly, the carcinogenic risk of arsenic and chromium was the highest in Bathinda district.

Over 1,800 RO plants were installed in the state during 2009 and thereafter by the then SAD-BJP government, including 1,075 in Malwa, but now in many villages, these ROs are lying defunct for the past few years.  (05 March 2022)

‘High flouride’ levels in Malwa groundwater Fresh evidence of the presence of alarming levels of chemicals, especially flouride, in groundwater in the southern Malwa region has emerged in a study. The study revealed fluoride levels in 745 groundwater samples from the Malwa belt. Nearly 49% of the samples exceeded the WHO guideline value of 1.5 mg L-1. High fluoride levels were observed in industrial & agricultural areas. Health risk assessment was computed for different age groups. Children & teenagers were more vulnerable to high fluoride exposure than infants.  (17 May 2022)

Bihar Massive groundwater contamination in 31 of 38 districts The 16th Bihar Economic Survey Report 2021-22, recently tabled in the assembly by Deputy CM Tarkishore Prasad, stated that groundwater in rural areas in 31 of the 38 districts is affected by arsenic, fluoride and iron contamination.

“The high concentration of arsenic, fluoride, and iron in groundwater in rural areas in 31 of 38 districts is posing a major health hazard. There is chemical contamination in groundwater in 30,272 rural wards. A total of 4,742 rural wards in 14 districts situated along the Ganga are particularly affected by arsenic contamination,” the report said. It said that drinking water sources in 3,791 rural wards in 11 districts are affected by fluoride contamination. There is presence of excess iron in nine Kosi basin districts, and a few areas in other districts. The consumption of contaminated water causes skin, liver, kidney and other water-borne diseases.

The affected districts include Begusarai, Bhagalpur, Bhojpur, Buxar, Darbhanga, Katihar, Khagaria, Lakhisarai, Munger, Samastipur, Saran, Sitamarhi, Patna, Vaishali, Aurangabad, Banka, Bhagalpur, Gaya, Jamui, Kaimur, Munger, Nalanda, Rohtas, Sheikhpura, Nawada and Araria. The report referred to the internal assessment and findings pertaining to the water quality mapping of Bihar by the Public Health Engineering Dept (PHED).  (02 March 2022) The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of a report referring to the bad quality of water in Bihar.  (06 March 2022)

High volume of uranium in GW leaves authorities worried The high concentration of uranium in groundwater in certain districts in Bihar has left the authorities worried and 100 water samples from ten districts have been sent to CGWB center in Lucknow for scientific analysis, a top official said. Districts from where the groundwater samples have been recently collected are Nalanda, Nawada, Katihar, Madhepura, Vaishali, Supaul, Aurangabad, Gaya, Saran and Jehanabad.  (06 Aug. 2022) 

Karnataka Shekhawat asks govt to tackle uranium contamination Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on March 5 2022 expressed deep concern over uranium contamination in drinking water being supplied to households in some villages of Karnataka and said it is “a matter of concern”.  Uranium contamination in water has been reported from villages of Kolar and Chikkballapur.

He said: “The Ministry had come to know that there are 86 fluoride affected habitations in Andhra Pradesh and 52 in Madhya Pradesh which deserve immediate remedial action.” Earlier, Mr. Shekhawat said the Centre had accorded priority to JJM and SBM(G) and allocated ₹20,487.58 crore and ₹1,355.13 crore, respectively, for six States and UT of Puducherry in 2021-22. Under the 15th Finance Commission, ₹7,498 crore had been allocated as tied-grant to six States, he said, in his address at the Southern States’ Conclave of JJM and SBM(G) projects. (5 Mar 2022)

Kerala Iron & Nitrate found in groundwater in Thrissur A study by the Central Ground Water Board found the presence of iron and nitrate in groundwater at various places in Thrissur. The presence of iron was found in Chalakudy, Pazhayannur, Kodakara, Ollukkara and Vadakkancherry. However, nitrate was found in isolated areas of Kechery, Kodungallur, Mupliyam and Perinjanam. Further, some tube wells in the western region have shown signs of saltwater mixed with groundwater.

The study pointed out that erosion in coastal areas has resulted in groundwater quality depleting in the reservoirs. Further, the presence of saltwater was also found in those floodplains. The Board’s study reminds us that intensive water conservation activities should be implemented taking into account the status and characteristics of the groundwater table in each area of the district.  (29 Jan. 2022)

Gujarat Study finds increase in salinisation of coastal GW Most parts of the 1,600-km Gujarat coastline is seeing salinisation of coastal groundwater, which results in deterioration of its quality, a research study funded by the Ministry of Earth Sciences & National Centre for Earth Science Studies in Trivandrum, Kerala revealed. The study authored by IIT-Gandhinagar researchers — Chandrasekhar Bhagat, Anant Misra, Pranab Kumar Mohapatra — along with DS Suresh Babu of National Centre for Earth Sciences-Trivandrum & Manish Kumar of the University of Petroleum & Energy Studies in Dehradun, notes that higher micronutrient load in south Gujarat coast owing to higher contaminants, made it more vulnerable.

The study also raises an alarm on the contaminants entering seawater already being much higher than permissible limits and which is only due to increase with further urbanisation and industrial activities along the coast. The research study, published in the Science of Total Environment journal recently also points out that select points along the Gujarat’s coastline is losing less groundwater to the sea compared to other coastal regions in the country.  (09 Dec. 2021)

W Bengal High salinity forces people to buy water, leave farming Many people like Bibhas Mondal and Shikha Mondal who are facing the problems have raised these issues with CM Mamata Banerjee when she visited their village in North 24 Parganas district last week. Banerjee directed the district authorities to address their problems. Her government also has plans to create a new district, Sundarbans, and the affected area will be included in it.

Marine scientist Dr Abhijit Mitra said that the salinity in the water of the area is increasing since the early 1980s, especially in the central part of the Indian Sundarbans region. The central sector of the Indian Sundarban biosphere reserve is hyper-saline. No freshwater discharge is coming from the upstream and this part is receiving only the tidal water of the Bay of Bengal, the Calcutta University teacher said.

“The salinity in water in this zone has been increasing but the rise gained momentum since 2009 after Cyclone Aila hit W Bengal. Now, there is around 20gm of salt in one litre of water which is unthinkable for agriculture,” he said. However, the situation in the eastern biosphere, where the village falls, is not so bad. (9 Dec 2022)

Tamil Nadu Seawater intrusion turns GW saline in Thoothukudi A comprehensive analysis of the groundwater quality of Thoothukudi with reference to various research papers since 1985 emphasises the possible intrusion of seawater as far as 12 km from the shoreline of the Thoothukudi city. The academicians zeroed in on the fact that seawater intrusion has disrupted the water quality due to the observance of vast hydrogeochemical variation in the groundwater.

Assistant professor G Singaraja of Presidency College, who worked in groundwater research in Thoothukudi, said that the excess withdrawal of groundwater for industrial purposes and salt pan activities has led to seawater intrusion. It can be prevented only when the excessive pumping of groundwater is regulated, he added. Public say that many fresh water bodies in and around the Thoothukudi corporation areas such as Kokur, Pulipanchankulam, and many small ponds have been converted into residential colonies and housing plots. Many water canals have been eaten up during road expansion, and are obstructed by elevated roads.

A senior official from the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) concurred with seawater intrusion by excess pumping and also due to in-situ salinity. Over 14 districts including Thoothukudi witness groundwater salinity. Further, studies are on to find the salinity levels, he added.  (24 March 2022)  

Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (

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