Groundwater alarm: Ignoring overexploitation is fraught with risks - The Tribune India

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Groundwater alarm

Ignoring overexploitation is fraught with risks

Groundwater alarm

INDIA is the world’s largest user of groundwater, exceeding the combined consumption of the US and China. Around 90 per cent of groundwater withdrawal is used for agriculture as surface water sources are insufficient. Some areas in the Indo-Gangetic basin have already passed the groundwater depletion tipping point, according to a new report by the United Nations. Environmental tipping points are critical thresholds beyond which ecosystems experience abrupt and often irreversible changes. The entire northwestern region of the country is predicted to experience critically low groundwater availability by 2025. A study by a US university has warned that the rate of groundwater depletion in India could triple by 2080 if farmers continue to draw it at the current rate.

The findings on Punjab in a report of the Central Ground Water Board would not come as a surprise. It has categorised 114 of the 150 assessed blocks as overexploited, three as critical and 13 as semi-critical. Only 20 are safe. The state has a whopping 13.94 lakh tubewells and Punjab State Power Corporation Limited data suggests that the majority of these are located in districts with an overexploited water table. In Sangrur and Malerkotla, the extraction of groundwater is 164 per cent more than the recharge. Losing access to water poses a risk to the entire food production system, with global implications. The paddy-wheat cropping system is the main contributor to severe groundwater depletion, and there are limits to which irrigation efficiency can address the situation. Water-guzzling crops are simply unsustainable in the long run. Ignoring or resisting change is self-defeating.

Another alarming revelation is the detection of arsenic and fluoride in groundwater beyond the permissible limits for human consumption in various states. The contamination of groundwater needs to be dealt with urgently.

#Agriculture #China #Groundwater

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