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Uranium found in groundwater of Karnataka villages – Know the reasons

Uranium found in groundwater of Karnataka villages – Know the reasons

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  • GS 3 || Geography || Indian Economic Geography || Water Resources

Why in news?

Uranium found in groundwater of Karnataka villages

Introduction:

Water that seeps through rocks and soil and is held under the surface is referred to as ground water. Aquifers are the rocks in which ground water is kept. Gravel, sand, sandstone, and limestone are common components of aquifers. Water is able to pass through these rocks due to their huge interconnected gaps, which make them permeable. The saturated zone is the area where water fills the aquifer. The water table is the depth below the surface where ground water can be found. The water table can be as shallow as a foot or as deep as a few hundred meters below the surface. Heavy rains can cause the water table to rise, while continual ground water extraction can lead it to decrease.

Facts and data available about the ground water:

  • According to estimates, 85 percent of India’s rural population and 50 percent of its urban population rely on groundwater to meet their needs.
  • India tops the list of the top 10 groundwater-extracting countries, drawing 251 bcm (billion cubic metres) per year and is the world’s greatest user of the precious liquid from the earth’s depths.
  • According to a World Resources Institute assessment, India is one of 17 countries experiencing extreme water stress.
  • The groundwater level in India has decreased by 61% between 2007 and 2017, according to the Fifth Minor Irrigation Census.
  • It was also discovered that over 1,000 Indian blocks had become water-stressed.
  • According to the NITI Aayog’s 2018 CWMI (Composite Water Management Index), water demand will exceed supply by 2050.
  • Between 2002 and 2016, groundwater in India was depleted at a rate of 10-25 millimetres per year, according to the Index.
  • According to the survey, 54% of India’s groundwater wells are depleting.
  • It was also stated that by 2030, almost 40% of India’s population may lack access to safe drinking water.
  • According to recent studies, groundwater levels are dropping in various parts of northern India, particularly in areas with large population concentrations.
  • Studies also reveal that as groundwater levels have decreased, the quality of groundwater levels has decreased in India.

Consequences with lowering of groundwater:

  • Lowering of the water table:Groundwater depletion may cause a drop in the water table, making it more difficult to remove groundwater for use.
  • Water reduction in streams and lakes: Groundwater and surface water in streams and lakes are intertwined. Seepage of groundwater into the streambed accounts for a large portion of the water flowing in rivers. Water flow in such streams may be reduced if groundwater levels are depleted.
    • The Santa Cruz River is an example of numerous rivers and streams in western United States basins that have undergone significant ecological changes during the last century. It is not an illustration of a restoration project, but rather of how human activities and rapid urbanisation of the floodplain can cause irreversible alterations to a stream system.
  • Land subsidence: Groundwater is frequently used to support the soil. When this balance is disrupted by removing water, the soil collapses, compacts, and descends, resulting in land subsidence.
  • Land subsidence can result from unplanned groundwater extraction from the soft, fresh alluvium beneath the northern plains. This means that towns on the Gangetic plain, such as Lucknow, Agra, Mathura, Kanpur, Allahabad, and Varanasi, are vulnerable to land subsidence.
  • Higher water extraction costs: As groundwater levels decline, the water table drops, requiring the user to dig deeper to get water. This will raise his water extraction costs.
  • Contamination of groundwater: Deep underground groundwater frequently mixes with saltwater that we should not drink.
    • Farming chemicals, septic waste, landfills, uncontrolled hazardous waste, storage tanks, and air pollutants are all major sources of contamination in groundwater.
  • Food supply constraints: A large portion of Indian agriculture is reliant on groundwater irrigation. If groundwater availability is compromised, agricultural productivity will be hampered, resulting in a food shortfall.
  • Biodiversity limitations and sinkhole formation: The water table plays a critical role in maintaining biodiversity. Sinkholes are frequently formed as the water table drops. Buildings and skyscrapers are at risk from these sinkholes.
    • Groundwater resources are extremely sensitive to natural and anthropogenic influences, despite protection measures and their natural location. Due to increased water demands, this is especially important in karst dry and semi-arid zones. The impact of sinkholes on groundwater quality in Abarkooh, Iran is discussed in this paper. In Abarkooh Plain, there are 28 sinkholes.

Hurdles in path of ground water conservation:

  • Groundwater resource estimation: There is a scarcity of data for groundwater resource estimation, and even when it is accessible; it is only indicative and not representative.
  • Crop pricing and water-intensive crops: Agriculture’s growing demand for groundwater has been the principal driver of over-exploitation. Furthermore, in most locations, decisions such as cropping pattern and intensity are made regardless of groundwater supply. For water-intensive crops, a Minimum Support Price (MSP) is also provided, resulting in widespread cultivation.
    • There are numerous rice types, some with a short growing cycle (e.g., 90 days) and others with a long growing cycle (e.g., 180 days) (e.g. 150 days). This has a significant impact on seasonal rice water requirements: a rice crop that is in the field for 150 days will require significantly more water in total than a rice crop that is in the field for only 90 days. Of course, the daily peak water requirements for the two rice crops may be the same, but the 150-day crop will require this daily amount for a longer length of time. The season in which crops are grown is also crucial.
  • Energy subsidies: In India, the practise of granting agricultural power subsidies has played a significant influence in the fall of water levels. The difficulty is to strike a balance between farmers’ requirements and the necessity to ensure long-term groundwater use.
  • Inadequate regulation: One of the primary issues in regulating groundwater levels in India has been the lack of proper legislation and their subsequent execution.
  • Lack of local management: Groundwater resources are poorly managed on a local level. Local communities play a significant role in groundwater management, and power devolution for local control of such resources is required.

Government initiative:

  • The Department of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation drafted the National Water Policy in 2012. Rainwater collection and water conservation are promoted by the policy.
  • Emphasizes the importance of using rainwater to supplement water availability.
  • Scientifically designed river, river bodies, and infrastructure conservation with community engagement.
  • Establishment of a new Ministry of Jal Shakti to handle all water-related issues in one place and in a coordinated manner.
  • The Government of India has authorised the Atal Bhujal Yojana (Atal Jal), a Rs. 6000 crore Central Sector Scheme, to manage groundwater resources sustainably with community participation in water-stressed areas of Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Every year, under the DoWR, RD & GR’s Information, Education & Communication (IEC) Scheme, mass awareness programmes (Training, Seminars, Workshops, Exhibitions, Trade Fares, and Painting Competitions, among others) are held in various parts of the country to promote rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge to groundwater.
  • The Department of Water Resources, RD&GR, has established National Water Awards to encourage exemplary water conservation and recharge practises.

Solution:

  • Routine survey at regular intervals: Groundwater levels should be assessed on a regular basis to guarantee that appropriate data is available for developing policies and developing innovative approaches to solve the problem.
  • Land use pattern assessment: Research should be conducted to examine land usage and the proportion of agricultural land that falls under overtly exploited units. This will aid in the selection of appropriate crop patterns in water-stressed areas.
  • Changes in farming methods: On-farm water management techniques and improved irrigation systems should be implemented to improve the water table in places where it is overused. Methods for recharging groundwater artificially are also requested.
  • Reforms to agricultural power supply subsidies: The agricultural power-pricing structure needs to be overhauled, as the flat rate of electricity has a negative impact on groundwater use.
  • Groundwater extraction monitoring: To maintain long-term sustainability, a strategy should be in place to monitor excessive groundwater withdrawal. Overuse of water could be monitored by the installation of water metres.
  • Preventing groundwater pollution: To prevent groundwater contamination, steps should be taken to reduce and manage the dumping of industrial waste into surface water and subterranean aquifers.
  • The necessity for coordination between the federal, state, and local governments: Actions must be done to maximise the benefits of groundwater conservation schemes. This can be accomplished by establishing cooperation among all government ministries and departments at the federal, state, and local levels.
  • Why Water should be included to the Concurrent List of the Indian Constitution: Adding water to the Concurrent List of the Indian Constitution can aid in the establishment of a comprehensive action plan. Better conservation, development, and management will result from a consensus between the centre and the states.
  • Waterbodies conservation: Waterbodies keep the groundwater level stable. Special programmes for the preservation, repair, and restoration of water bodies must be devised with proper budgetary allocation.
  • Women’s Growing Role in Groundwater Conservation: Women’s opinions on crop plans, water demand, and crop footprint differ from men’s.
    • During the Chipko movement, the conflicting values of men and women were exposed. To help safeguard the environment, women settled for nothing less than a complete ban on tree felling, while their male colleagues agreed to controlled logging in exchange for a living.
    • The Chipko movement inspired women’s organisations to speak up and challenge the system/authorities on topics such as social justice, education, health, crime against women, and other local concerns.
  • Regulated Pumping: Limiting groundwater pumping for each farm based on a crop plan that has been approved. Conducting annual groundwater audits at various scales, from individual units to the river basin.
  • Groundwater Conservation: Reinventing grass-root democracy, strengthening local institutions, and exercising local governance will all help to conserve groundwater. Organizing small farmers in villages into registered bodies, federated at the district level, with equal representation of women in charge of the entire value chain

Conclusion:

Groundwater depletion is becoming an increasingly serious problem. It is past time to pay attention to the reasons and take proper measures to avoid a future water catastrophe. Groundwater depletion can be slowed by government programmes and local community cooperation. To address the problem, a multi-sectoral approach is required.

Mains oriented question:

Comment on the current state of groundwater levels in India and provide appropriate strategies to address the issue of groundwater depletion. (200 words)