• India is majorly dependent on groundwater for irrigation and is pumping out the lion’s share of the global volume of groundwater. Around 70% of food production in India is done with the help of irrigation wells.
  • However, this over-dependence on groundwater is leading to a groundwater crisis. There is a need for a holistic action plan for groundwater conservation.

Important points:

  • The UNESCO World Water Development Report, 2018 states that India is the largest extractor of groundwater in the world.
  • In India, construction of irrigation wells does not require any clearance and no records are maintained of abandoned wells.
  • Several hundred wells are constructed in India every day and even more are abandoned when they run dry.
  • The contribution of groundwater to national gross domestic product is never measured.
  • According to the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB, Ministry of Jal Shakti), with 230 billion metre cube of groundwater drawn out each year for irrigating agriculture lands in India, many parts of the country are experiencing rapid depletion of groundwater.
  • The total estimated groundwater depletion in India is in the range of 122–199 billion metre cube.

Reasons :

  • Increased demand for water for domestic, industrial and agricultural needs and limited surface water resources.
  • Limited storage facilities owing to the hard rock terrain, along with the added disadvantage of lack of rainfall, especially in central Indian states.
  • Green Revolution enabled water intensive crops to be grown in drought prone/ water deficit regions, leading to over extraction of groundwater.
  • Frequent pumping of water from the ground without waiting for its replenishment leads to quick depletion.
  • Subsidies on electricity and high MSP (Minimum Support Price) for water intensive crops.
  • Water contamination as in the case of pollution by landfills, septic tanks, leaky underground gas tanks, and from overuse of fertilizers and pesticides leading to damage and depletion of groundwater resources.
  • Inadequate regulation of groundwater encourages the exhaustion of groundwater resources without any penalty.
  • Deforestation, unscientific methods of agriculture, chemical effluents from industries, lack of sanitation also lead to pollution of groundwater, making it unusable.



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