The Groundwater (Sustainable Management) Bill of 2017 was drafted as a model bill to decentralize groundwater control. Water is recognized as a public trust, with water security measures and groundwater protection zones included. “Groundwater as a local source of water may become even more important in the future in the face of the push for privatization because that may be one way for panchayats to maintain some ‘public’ control over drinking water supply,” Cullet, a member of the drafting committee for the Bill under the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, said. There is a need for water legislation in India that might incentivize conservation.
According to a 2013 study on groundwater governance in India, state-enabled acts did not “enable the authorities to re-allocate groundwater between different uses or take either precautionary or pro-active decisions, with the exception of Andhra Pradesh, whose Water, Land, and Trees Act, 2002, is a move to regulate groundwater in conjunction with surface water and other pressing environmental concerns.” Another Model Bill is Andhra Pradesh’s 2002 statute, which mandates the development of an authority and the registration of wells. However, it also includes provisions for safeguarding public drinking water supplies and reusing water for industrial reasons. Lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water can also be designated as “heritage bodies and conservation areas” by the authority. It also stipulates that the authority has the ability to impose water consumption limits on commercial and industrial units.
The authorities required a means to measure the water storage at higher depths in order to solve the problem. The GRACE satellites, which stand for ‘Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment,’ are a pair of identical space craft. NASA and the German aerospace agency are working together on this project. The two identical satellites capture variations in Earth’s gravity at various spots on the planet’s surface and use this information to calculate the composition of water in specific locations. These satellites have been utilized by scientists to conclude that the Indus-Brahmaputra basin is drying quicker than projected. Groundwater, soil moisture, and surface water are all represented in the GRACE database. Because the Central Groundwater Board (CGWB) in India evaluates groundwater levels every quarter, scientists gathered GRACE data for the same time periods, as well as rainfall and air temperature data for western India.
Temperature and weather have a complex impact on groundwater. When it’s warmer, for example, the soil loses more water. Farmers then pump more water because they need more water to irrigate their fields. Farmers have also been able to plant crops that aren’t appropriate to their states’ demands due to unrestricted subsidies. Farmers used to plant rice near the coast and in West Bengal, for example, all of which were subject to seasonal flooding. Farmers were able to pump all the water they needed to immerse the rice harvest when Punjab introduced subsidies. Punjab soon rose to become the country’s leading rice producer, despite a severe water deficit.
The silver lining, if there is one, is that this isn’t a climate emergency, which means officials aren’t allowed to throw their hands in the air. Gujarat is striving to solve an easily solvable problem, and effective policy measures may lead the way.
Long-term data from deeper aquifers, more hours of research, and science-based policy, not appeasement politics, are what we need right now.
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