Groundwater depletion is having serious consequences on communities around the world, and has also started to cause severe issues in the state of Odisha. The groundwater levels across the state have been declining due to over-extraction of ground water and lack of proper water management.
A study was released by SwitchON Foundation on World Water Day indicating the distressing situation of groundwater depletion in Odisha. The report highlights that groundwater depletion is leading to reduced water availability, in regions that rely on underground reserves as their primary source of freshwater. This is leading to an increase in competition for scarce resources and worsening water scarcity in already dry regions.
- Parts of the state are yet to achieve the recommended daily drinking water target of 40 lpcd per capita.
- About 17 districts in the state have issues with saline groundwater and in many districts the concentration of fluoride, nitrate, iron and chromium(hexavalent) are found to be above the permissible limits.
- Wastage of water in domestic-due to a lack of adequate infrastructure and metering, around 54% of unaccounted water losses were observed within the system.
- The availability of water by the year 2051 was assessed, and the result shows that the surface water availability from its own drainage boundary remains more or less fixed but the inflow of surface water from neighbouring states will be reduced from 37.556 BCM to 25.272 BCM.
- An assessment done by researchers for the water resources in Odisha, indicated that by the year 2051 the total water requirement may go upto 85 billion cubic metre from the present requirement of 55 billion cubic metre, and the state may face a severe water scarcity situation in 2051.
- Baseline study of all active groundwater sources, suggesting relevant policy recommendations.
- Conservation of traditional wetland to be protected for effective ground water recharge.
- Desiltation/dredging of surface water bodies like streams, rivers and canals for better percolation and recharge of aquifers during monsoons.
- Rejuvenation of dried up/deteriorated traditional water storage units like ponds, tanks etc.
- Artificial recharge structures to be constructed based on a research of aquifer characteristics and land use surveys.
- Massive awareness programmes to be done for promoting sustainable use of water, avoiding water wastages in agri and domestic sectors, also during supply and distribution etc.
- Integrated approach for water conservation.
- Assessing the existing policies, Acts and schemes related to water conservation for their effectiveness.
Overall, the study emphasises the urgent need for better management and conservation of groundwater resources. The report recommends implementing policies to regulate the use of underground water extraction, adopting technology and practices for water conservation and water use efficiency, promotion of water-resistant crops like millets and other indigenous rice varieties, and shifting from high-water consumption crops. Failure to act could have severe consequences for the environment and communities around the world.
Working towards the conservation of the environment as a whole, SwitchON Foundation has launched their Empowering Energy, Water and Agriculture wing (EEWA) to promote green energy, climate smart agriculture and water conservation.
Looking at the appalling data, Vinay Jaju, Managing Director, SwitchON Foundation said, “It’s very alarming the way groundwater is getting depleted. We have technology solutions and with awareness and change in habits – we have to work on conserving water on a war footing mode. We need to take immediate action to conserve our most precious resource