Tribune News Service
Dharamsala, September 6
Underground water is receding in eight valleys of Himachal where it was being exploited for drinking, irrigation and industrial purposes.
The Central Water Board (CWB) for Himalayan region, an organization of Union Ministry for Water Resources, has been studying the underground water situation in Indora and Nurpur valleys of Kangra district, Balh valley of Mandi district, Paonta and Kala Amb valleys of Sirmour district, Nalagarh valley of Solan district and Una and Hum valleys of Una districts over the past more than one decade.
In all these valleys the underground water was being exploited for irrigation, drinking and industrial purposes whereas in most of other parts of Himachal river water or khuls (streams of water flowing from snow bound hills) are used for drinking and irrigation purposes.
As per the CWB study, Kala Amb valley in Sirmour district is the area where the underground water was being over exploited and is receding at a very fast rate.
The Water Board has categorized Kala Amb as the area where underground water was being over exploited. Kala Amb has developed as an industrial hub. Since there was hardly any stream or river in the area the people and the industry are dependent on underground water.
The CWB experts say the boring for industrial and irrigation purpose in Kala Amb should be banned. In Kala Amb maximum water was being exploited for industrial purpose. About 598 hectare metre water was being exploited for industrial purpose in Kala Amb against net ground water availability of just 82 hectare metre.
The other two valleys, where the underground water was being exploited and is receding at a fast pace, are Hum and Una valleys in Una district.
The Hum valley comprises mainly of arid area of Una district that hardly has any natural drinking water source. The area has developed as an industrial hub as many industries, including Nestle, Cremica and pharma units, have came up in Tahliwal and Bathri villages. In the past about 10 years, the Himachal government has also installed many deep tubewells in the area for irrigation and drinking water schemes.
As per the studies conducted by the CWB in 2009, 66.57 per cent under ground water was being exploited in Hum valley. It increased to 99.57 per cent in 2011 and has dropped marginally to 99.29 per cent in 2013.
The study states that there has been significant decline in underground water in Hum Valley. However, since 2013 study has revealed a little improvement in underground water in Hum valley the state government intends to install more tubewells for irrigation in the area. Though the exploitation of underground water for drinking and irrigation scheme was a necessity, it can be avoided for industrial purposes.
In Una valley exploitation of underground water is basically for irrigation purpose. Though the water level in some areas close to Swan river or its tributaries is quite high, it was scarce in hilly areas in Bhangana tehsil of Una.
As per the CWB study in 2004, the underground water exploitation in Una valley was 51.48 per cent. It increased to 97.63 per cent in 2009 and to 124.04 per cent in 2011. After a study conducted by the CWB in 2011, a ban was imposed on tubewells for irrigation and for industrial purposes in Una valley. However, the 2013 study has shown improvement in underground water. The 2013 study, the results of which would be published soon, has put the underground water exploitation in Una valley at 90.29 per cent. In the wake of the improvement, the IPH authorities are hoping that they would be allowed to dig more tubewells for irrigation in Una valley.
The underground water exploitation in Nalagarh valley that was the biggest industrial area of Himachal has also been increasing. As per the CWB study in 2004, when the industrial revolution had just started in Himachal, the underground water exploitation in Nalagarh valley was just 14.28 per cent. It increased to 50.85 per cent in 2009 and 54.55 per cent in 2011. It declined to about 47.61 per cent in 2013.
In Paonta valley of Sirmour district, the underground water exploitation increased from 17.62 per cent in 2004 to 27.30 per cent in 2009 and 28.23 per cent in 2011. In 2013 it was 14.26 per cent.
In Balh valley of Mandi the underground water exploitation increased from 22.43 per cent in 2004 to 27.90 per cent in 2009, 32.30 per cent in 2011 and 32.56 per cent in 2013.
In Indora valley of Kangra district the underwater exploitation increased from 26.42 per cent in 2004 to 50.01 per cent in 2009, 52.43 per cent in 2011 and 69.62 per cent in 2013. The Indora area lies along Pathankot district of Punjab.
The underground water is being over exploited for irrigation purpose in Himachal. Some experts also attribute decline of underground water in the area to illegal mining in Chaki river in the area that is main natural source of water.
In Nurpur valley the underground water exploitation has increased from 36.44 per cent in 2009 to 42.95 per cent in 2011. However, the situation improved in 2013 and the figure was 29.66 per cent.
The underground water has been declining in all the valleys of Himachal. KS Mandhotra, a senior hydrologist in Una, said that the studies conducted by the CWB pertain to dynamic underground water that increases and decreases in pre-monsoon and monsoon seasons. However, the trends indicated by the study confirm that underground water has declining in all the valleys under study in both pre-monsoon and monsoon seasons.
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