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  • 19 December, 2022

  • 6 Min Read

Groundwater Protection

Groundwater Protection

The United Nations-Water Summit on Groundwater 2022 emphasised the importance of groundwater in global food production and food security.

Significant Highlights:

  • The conference was hosted by UN-Water, UNESCO, and the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre.
  • The summit was organised to raise global awareness about groundwater conservation.
  • It also marked the end of the UN-"Groundwater: Water's Making the Invisible Visible" campaign, which ran until 2022.

UN-Water Conference in 2023:

  • The United Nations 2023 water conference in New York City offers unprecedented opportunities for progress on SDG 6 (Sustainable Development Goal 6 is about clean water and sanitation for all) and all water-related goals on the agenda for 2023.

Groundwater management:

To ensure success, five acceleration instruments must be used:

  • Governance
  • Data and knowledge
  • Innovation
  • Capacity Building
  • Finance
  • A coalition on transboundary water cooperation was formed.
  • Transboundary waters accounted for 60% of all freshwater flowing globally.
  • Only 32 countries have operational agreements covering 90 per cent or more of their transboundary basin and aquifer area.

The supply-demand gap for water is widening. As a result, the combination of these three facts can either be a source of future conflict or a catalyst for mutually beneficial cooperation.

South Asia:

  • South Asia is the world's largest consumer of groundwater.
  • As of today, the region draws over 600 billion cubic metres of groundwater per year, both from transboundary aquifers and from very ancient water sources.
  • Once extracted, this groundwater cannot be recharged.
  • South Asia accounts for less than 5% of the global land area.
  • However, it is home to more than a third of the world's irrigated land and more than a fourth of the world's population.
  • Groundwater supplies approximately 85 per cent of the water needed for agricultural irrigation and 90 per cent of drinking water in South Asia.
  • The massive extraction of groundwater is also causing the rivers to dry up. This is yet another significant challenge for the region.

Groundwater Threat:

Human-caused degradation, which is frequently associated with poor land, agricultural, and waste management, threatens:

  • Current groundwater uses and human and ecosystem health
  • Future generations' benefits are limited.
  • Because much of the groundwater in South Asia is heterogeneous, the problem is exacerbated.
  • Only 30% of South Asia's land cover hosts 70% of groundwater, with the remainder hosted in areas covered by Himalayan rivers.
  • Water pollution is another major issue as groundwater is contaminated by contaminants such as arsenic and fluoride. These pollutants affect more than 400 million people. So, in India, there is not only a quantity problem but also a water quality problem.


  • Groundwater has become an increasingly important natural resource in India, meeting the freshwater needs of various sectors.
  • Groundwater has steadily emerged as the foundation of India's agricultural and drinking water security.
  • Groundwater is the primary source of water for one-fourth of the world's population. India is the world's largest groundwater user, with nearly 250 cubic kilometres extracted in 2017.
  • The majority of this was used for irrigation, with the remainder going to towns and villages.

Various Government initiatives to protect the depletion of groundwater:

Ministry Of Jal Shakti:

  • Overall planning for the development of Ground Water Resources, the establishment of utilizable resources and formulation of policies for exploitation, overseeing of and support to State level activities in groundwater development.

Central Ground Water Board:

  • It develops and disseminates technologies, and monitor and implement national policies for the Scientific and Sustainable development and management of India's Ground Water Resources, including their exploration, assessment, conservation, augmentation, protection from pollution and distribution, based on principles of economic and ecological efficiency and equity.

Atal Bhujal Yojana:

  • Atal Bhujal Yojana (Atal Jal) is a community-led sustainable groundwater management program. The major objective of the Scheme is to improve the management of groundwater resources in select water-stressed areas in identified states viz. Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.

Rajiv Gandhi National Ground Water Training & Research Institute :

  • It was established during IXth Five Year Plan at Raipur as a training wing of Central Ground Water Board, Ministry of Jal Shakti,
  • It is envisaged to function as "Centre of Excellence" in training and research in the core and applied field of ground water.

National Hydrology Project (NHP):

  • NHP improve and expand hydrology data and information systems, and strengthen water resources operation and planning systems.
  • NHP will contribute to the GOI Digital India initiative by integrating water resources information across state and central agencies.
  • It establishes real-time monitoring systems for surface and groundwater, hydrologic and flood inundation forecasting, water infrastructure operations, groundwater modelling etc.

India Water Resources Information System (India -WRIS):

  • India WRIS is managed by the National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC), a unit of the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • India-WRIS Project with the aim of dissemination of data in the public domain constitute the most important aspect of the water resources management
  • It is a centralised platform to act as a repository of water resources and related data including groundwater

Way Forward:

  • Groundwater governance, actions, and investments should be prioritised in vulnerable and hazard-exposed regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, Small Island Developing States, coastal zones, areas with no or slowly renewable and vulnerable aquifers, and aquifers with naturally occurring but hazardous contaminants.
  • The emphasis should be on underserved and difficult-to-reach communities, such as women, youth, and indigenous people.
  • Capacity-building measures should be implemented in order to better govern and manage groundwater and achieve sustainable development goals.
  • Groundwater protection must be ensured in all sectors, including agriculture.
  • South Asian governments must improve integrated water management, which includes both surface and groundwater.

Source: UNESCO

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