New Delhi: Continuing the trend of focusing the country’s groundwater management efforts on industry, which accounts for less than one-tenth of groundwater usage in the country, the Planning Commission has said companies need to restrict their use of groundwater and work towards recharging supplies.
In its recently approved 11th Plan—a sort of policy blueprint on government programmes for the five years to 2012—the country’s apex planning body recommends this, and strictly enforceable standards on the quality of effluents released by companies.
“The competitive nature of industrial promotion policies have not allowed adequate charges for groundwater till now. But it is critical that water-intensive industries should not be encouraged in water-scarce areas. But we are doing it, at a huge social cost,” said Y.K. Alagh, former member, Planning Commission.
Data provided by both the Planning Commission and the Union ministry of water resources show that agriculture accounts for 92% of groundwater consumed in India every year, a total of almost 400 billion cu.m.
Over-exploitation: Agriculture accounts for 92% of groundwater consumed in India every year, a total of almost 400 billion cu.m.
In an earlier report, the Planning Commission itself had said that agriculture is the prime reason for the over-exploitation of groundwater reserves in the country.
Although industry and domestic users utilize only 8% of groundwater consumed here, this usage is concentrated in certain areas, especially industrial hubs in or around large cities. And since many large companies meet their water requirements largely through groundwater, there is a significant impact on surrounding drinking and irrigation wells.
Within the industrial sector, thermal power plants are the biggest users of water, followed by engineering units, pulp and paper and textile units, in that order, according to data from the Central Pollution Control Board.
The 11th Plan says the Union government “can intervene where water table falls”.
The Plan also says the efficiency of water use in irrigation is low. “More area can be irrigated with available water if drip or sprinkler irrigation is used to increase efficiency,” it adds.
Alagh and Anil Jain, managing director of Jain Irrigation, one of the largest drip irrigation companies in India, both said there has been significant growth in drip irrigation projects in the country.
“There has been phenomenal increase in drip irrigation systems, especially in Rajasthan. But it is actually a reflection of failure. It is a farmer’s response to not receiving irrigation water through canals,” said Alagh. Although drip irrigation uses less water than conventional irrigation, it also draws groundwater.
Jain said his company’s sales would almost double to Rs2,200 crore in 2007-08 on the back of higher demand for drip irrigation systems.