Groundwater Extraction Norms (29 September 2020)
Groundwater Extraction Norms (29 September 2020)
Why in News:
Centre Govt has issued revised guidelines for groundwater use.
With around one-sixth of assessed ground water units in the country facing over-exploitation, thenew guidelines prohibit new industry and mining projects in over-exploited zones and makes it mandatory for existing industries, commercial units and big housing societies to take no objection certificate’ (NOC).
As per official data, 90% of groundwater is used for irrigation and 10% by domestic and industrial consumers.
In December, the government had launched a scheme to conserve groundwater in seven states facing acute water shortage and urged farmers to opt for less water-intensive crops. Named Atal Jal Yojana, the scheme was targeted at Maharashtra, Haryana, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat where the ground water situation is very worrisome.
Summary of the Debate
Major highlights of guidelines:
- These guidelines facilitate sustainable development of groundwater.
- These guidelines have pan India applicability, which was never there earlier.
- Based on groundwater levels, areas across the country are split into three categories:
- Over-exploited: Groundwater being extracted more than what’s recharged.
- Critical: The groundwater taken out is 90-100% of what's recharged.
- Semi critical: Extraction rate is 70%-90%.
- The Central Ground Water Authority has been regulating groundwater management by way of issuing NOCs to industries, infrastructure projects, mining projects, among others.
- Following categories of consumers will be exempted from seeking NOC for groundwater extraction:
- Individual domestic consumers in both rural and urban areas for drinking water and domestic uses.
- Rural drinking water supply schemes
- Armed Forces Establishments and Central Armed Police Forces establishments in both rural and urban areas.
- Agricultural activities and Micro and small Enterprises drawing groundwater less than 10 cubic metres/day.
- For the first time, government has come out with the restoration and abstraction charges. The way industries extracting the groundwater, in case they are extracting groundwater in overexploited areas then there will be a groundwater restoration charge and for the other kind of areas such as critical and semi critical, there will be a groundwater abstraction charge.
- All residential apartments/ group housing societies/ Government water supply agencies in urban areas would be required to pay groundwater abstraction charges.
- First time government went in to the domain of bulk water supply.
- AS far as the saline groundwater is concerned, those have been exempted because there is need to have saline groundwater expected as much as possible.
- Environment compensation is the part of guidelines for the first time.
- The new guidelines also impose heavy fines for not complying with NOC requirements.
The parallel approach which are not in the guidelines but have been taken care of separately:
- The Central Government has circulated modern bill to all states and UTs to enable them to enact suitable groundwater legislation and on the basis of those model bill, 18 states have come out with their groundwater legislation and they are regulating groundwater on per guidelines which they have framed on the basis of modern bill which Centre has circulated.
- The government has come out with the masterplan for artificial recharge of groundwater. There was a masterplan in 2013, now the government has come out with fresh masterplan which basically maps the entire country in terms of groundwater availability and what kind of groundwater structure should be taken care of as far as those districts, villages and areas are concerned.
- The government also has the National Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme (NAQUIM), it aims to identify and map aquifers at the micro level to quantify the available groundwater resources. This program will help in understanding the groundwater locally and will also help in having the groundwater management program village wise and block wise.
- Housing and Urban department have also circulated a model guideline for rainwater harvesting structure.
- Around 80 percent of the groundwater demand is in agriculture sector, around 15 percent in the industrial sector and around 10 percent in the domestic sector. These guidelines have been made applicable only in the commercial sector, industrial sector and the domestic sector. It has not made applicable to the agriculture sector.
- The agricultural water use of the groundwater is reduced to optimum level. The guidelines talk about review of the pricing policy, it talks about crop rotation, it talks about diversification of the crop. But the actual quantum of water use in agriculture sector has been more or less not touched by this guideline.
- Penalty have been suggested in the guidelines but incentives have not been considered. Suppose, if an industry uses less water compared to targeted one, can they should be given an incentive, it is not clear in the guidelines.
- There are mostly six or seven states in the north, namely, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Western UP and some states in south like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, etc. have overexploited groundwater.
Reasons for exempting groundwater extraction in agriculture sector:
- In India, farmers are not of equal status in terms of landholding.
- Around 12 percent of medium and big farmers are there and 88 to 89 percent wells are being owned by marginal, small or semi medium kind of farmers.
- Any kind of tweaking as far as groundwater is concerned, will affect those 88 to 89 percent marginal, small or semi medium kind of farmers.
- There is no doubt that tweaking the groundwater extraction in agriculture sector will affect the small farmers, but at the same time, with the little amount of water the higher productivity can be use. In India, there are example of using the micro irrigation, the farmers can produce higher productivity with lesser amount of water.
- This is the golden rule in behavioral economics that “If I get something free, I will not really bother, how I am using it”. So, it will not be bad idea, along with imposing some minor charges so that farmer realizes that if he has to use the water, he has to pay something and that payment can be reimbursed to him through direct benefit transfer scheme.
Important points made by the Guests
Dr. Syamal Kumar Sarkar, Senior Director, Natural Resource & Climate, TERI
Subodh Yadav, Joint Secretary, Department of Water Resources, GoI
A.K. Bhattacharya, Editorial Director, Business Standard