Apocalypse Now? North-west India's Groundwater Set To Deplete In 10 Years

The report also warns that Punjab is on the brink of being rendered a desert within 25 years

A report by Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) to state governments warns that groundwater at an average depth of 100 metres in northwest India will be exhausted by 2030. According to the report, the withdrawal of groundwater has been greater than recharge between 1994 and May 2018.

The report points to Punjab as being the most affected state, with seven districts in the red for over-exploitation of groundwater resources. It warns that Punjab is on the brink of being rendered a desert within 25 years if exploitation of underground water resources continues unabated. The report also predicts that at the current rate of extraction, all available groundwater resources till the depth of 300 metres in Punjab will dry up by 2045.

Punjab’s Agriculture Secretary Kahan Singh Pannu told The Tribune,

“Latest reports on the declining water level in Punjab, including by the Central Ground Water Board, are alarming. It looks as if we are staring at the end of our world. Simply put, it is a red alert period and the hooter for saving water is blaring out of concern.”

The report states that groundwater level has been falling at a rate of 51cm every year, owing to the increase in the frequency of droughts that have enhanced the withdrawal of groundwater. As per Indian Meteorological Department’s (IMD) rainfall pattern data for 2019, as many as 21 states across India have received deficient rainfall, with four of them indicating a deficiency of over 60%.

However, Himanshu Thakkar, who runs NGO South Asia Network of People, Rivers and Dams, told HT,

“Even though India receives good rainfall every year, in many regions water is now available more than 100 metres below the ground. In some places, it is even more than 200 metres. The situation clearly shows that there is mismanagement, not proper use of rainwater and gross misuse of groundwater, which is India’s water lifeline.”

It’s not just Punjab which has seen a sharp fall in groundwater levels. The study also found an 85% decline in groundwater levels in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts of Tamil Nadu in the last 10 years. It also recorded a decline in the groundwater levels in Madhya Pradesh owing to intense summers and erratic Monsoons.