The Crisis of Groundwater

The relative ease and convenience of its decentralised access has meant that groundwater is the backbone of India's agriculture and drinking water security. Groundwater is a Common-Pool Resource (CPR), used by millions of farmers across the country. Over the last four decades, around 84 per cent of the total addition to the net irrigated area has come from groundwater. India is, by far, the largest and fastest growing consumer of groundwater in the world. But groundwater is being exploited beyond sustainable levels and with an estimated 30 million groundwater structures in play, India may be hurtling towards a serious crisis of groundwater over-extraction and quality deterioration.

Nearly 60 per cent of all districts in India have problems related to either the quantity or the quality of groundwater or both. According to the Central Ground Water Board's latest assessment (CGWB, 2009), at the all India level, the stage of groundwater development is now 61 per cent. In Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi, this level has crossed 100 per cent, closely followed by Tamil Nadu (80 per cent) and UP (71 per cent).

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