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Delhi at epicentre of groundwater crisis’ Report: Ganga Basin Loses 32 Cubic Km Of Water A Yr

February 24, 2019 05:15 AM

COURTESY TOI FEB 24

Delhi at epicentre of groundwater crisis’
Report: Ganga Basin Loses 32 Cubic Km Of Water A Yr
Bappa.Majumdar@timesgroup.com

Hyderabad:

A latest research has shown that the largest groundwater depletion in the world is happening in northern India and Delhi is the epicentre of this fast-developing crisis. And it’s getting worse by the day.


On the radar since 2009, city-based National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) discovered that the region’s aquifers had lost 300 cubic kilometre of water over six years due to indiscriminate extraction. The institute now says the entire Ganga basin is under the same threat.

“From the Ganga basin alone, almost 100 gigatons of water (1 gigaton = 1 billion metric tons) are being withdrawn every year, which is much more than usual, and it’s only partially being recovered in successive monsoons,” says Dr Virendra M Tiwari, director of NGRI, India’s biggest research body on the earth system.

Scientists say that groundwater is being pumped out 70% faster than what the Central Groundwater Board of India (CGBI) estimated earlier. The top NGRI scientist fears that drying up of the Ganga basin also has a lot to do with increasing earthquakes in the Himalayas and seismological activity. Drying up of groundwater by using bigger pumps from deeper wells is also causing largescale contamination of water.

The entire Ganga basin, comprising 2,000km of land from Pakistan to Bangladesh, is home to millions of people and is also heavily irrigated. With the surge in population growth and destruction of water resources, the upper water surface of the aquifers in the region is falling by more than 10 cm per year, research has shown.

“And yes, Delhi is the centre of that with several other environmental impacts. The nutrients are dying out, the soil type is going bad and it’s not just one thing. It has a huge cascading effect,” Tiwari said.

The caveat from NGRI comes close on the heels of a Niti Aayog report last year that predicted that Delhi, along with other cities, could run out of groundwater by 2020. NGRI now says new climatic models have concluded that rainfall is also getting impacted due to extra pumping of groundwater. “It’s increasing every year. All the groundwater pumping is happening for agriculture and perhaps cannot be stopped. So, now you have to find a way to manage sustainable water,” Tiwari says.

While 10 years ago, arsenic-contaminated water was largely seen in some parts of West Bengal and Bihar, it’s now being seen moving in a northwest direction.

“The Ganga basin region has two big aquifers. While one is the upper aquifer, which has geogenic arsenic, the lower aquifer is free from it. But people have started to over exploit them, leading to more cross-contamination,” says Tiwari.

NGRI has now found how paddy is getting infected with arsenic, and fears that it will affect the other food chain and end up having disastrous impact on health.

Worried over the state of groundwater in India, the government has entrusted NGRI to look for new aquifers in the country.

 
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