The key to successfully managing groundwater in India

Dr.Himanshu Kulkarni who was Chairman Working Group on Sustainable Groundwater Management for the 12th Plan, suggests measures to mitigate the poor groundwater scenario in the country.
A study group observing groundwater in a well
A study group observing groundwater in a well

Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni is the Executive Director of the Advanced Center for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM), a non-profit organisation in Pune. It is a premier education and research institution, which facilitates work on groundwater management through action research programmes and training.

Dr. Kulkarni has been working on groundwater management issues in India for more than three decades. His team has conducted many studies across India and are involved in developing solutions to groundwater problems of today and tomorrow.

He talks about the groundwater scenario in India in the video below:

Situation of groundwater in India

Today, India is the largest user of the groundwater in the world with almost 90% being used for drinking water and almost 60-70% for irrigation. Current statistics also show that nearly 50% of urban water supply comes from groundwater. India is on the threshold of a very serious groundwater crisis, which needs mitigation both in the fields and at the policy corridors of the country.

The groundwater crisis is embedded at two different levels:

  1. groundwater exploitation of aquifers (where groundwater is stored) in different parts of the India and
  2. groundwater contamination that find origins, both in geogenic source such as Arsenic and Fluoride along with anthropogenic sources of contamination primarily due to poor disposal of waste and wastewater

Common perceptions about groundwater

All these years, the focus of the government and individuals was on constructing groundwater sources like wells, bore wells, tube wells and springs rather than looking at the resource, which are the aquifers. Only a shift from a source-based approach to a resource-based approach will bring about a change in how the government or common man perceives groundwater.

How can the groundwater crisis be mitigated?

It requires a two fold approach:

  • large scale community participation
  • better groundwater governance by implementing smart regulations and legislations

The implementation of a programme called the Aquifer Management Programme by the Government of India is a good initiative to help understand groundwater through aquifers. Other successful community-based groundwater management experiences from different states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan must also be studied. Collaboration, combination of ideas and community partnerships hold the key to the success of groundwater management in India.