Water Resources Development in India
Introduction: India continues to struggle with growing financial crunch to complete its water sector infrastructure and its operation and maintenance cost. On the other hand, inadequate institutional reforms and effective implementation has affected its performance level. In recent years, the Government of India has initiated several steps to improve investment and management of water management sector, which includes: Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programmed, Hydrology Project, setting up of Water Quality Assessment Authority, Command Area Development and water management programme, National Project for Repair, Renovation and Restoration of Water Bodies directly linked to Agriculture, Flood Management, and River Basin Organizations.
- Community-based tank rejuvenation across the country would enable to harvest rainwater and enable local management at low cost. This would also facilitate groundwater recharge. Tank water also helps to provide critical irrigation in dry land areas, thereby, improving the livelihoods of poor.
- Effective regulation of groundwater extraction laced with proper power subsidies and improved technological interventions would enable improved groundwater resources management in the country.
- Promoting vibrant River Basin Organizations with more focus on integrated water resources management would go a long way to address resource conservation, efficient utilization and related management – including, cross subsidization, pricing, collection, and investments. This needs to be supported by multi-level stakeholder platforms to play proactive role at all stages.
- Establishing water regulation authorities at state level, would elevate the state role more towards a facilitator and a regulator from the present role of operator and crisis manager.
Water Resources: An Overview In India, the total utilizable water resource is assessed as 1123 BCM. Keeping a provision of about 71 BCM/yr out of 433 BCM of groundwater, 362 BCM/yr of the resource is estimated to be available for irrigation. The net draft of groundwater for irrigation is around 150 BCM/yr. The per capita availability of water at national level has been reduced from about 5177 cubic meters in 1951 to the estimated level of 1,820 cubic meters in 2001 with variation in water availability in different river basins. Given the projected increase in population by the year 2025, the per capita availability is likely to drop to below 1,000 cubic meters, which could be labeled as a situation of water scarcity (GOI, 2006). India has a highly seasonal pattern of rainfall, with 50% of precipitation falling in just 15 days and over 90% of river flows occurring in just four months. A total storage capacity of 212.78 Billion Cum (BCM) has been created in the country through major and medium projects. The projects under construction will contribute to an additional 76.26 BCM, while the contribution expected from projects under consideration is 107.54 BCM.
High Stress on Irrigation Infrastructure:After independence, the Government of India gave high priority to the construction of major irrigation related infrastructure. At present, India has a capacity to store about 200 billion cubic meters of water, a gross irrigated area of about 90 million hectares2and an installed hydropower capacity of about 30,000 megawatts (World Bank, 2005). These investments in turn have largely impacted the economic and social development of the country. Assured water supplies have consistently increased crop yields on irrigated land than yields from rained agriculture there by promoting national food security. Similarly, investments in construction of large dams have resulted in ‘direct benefits’ in terms of providing both groundwater irrigation and hydropower, which in turn generate both inter-industry linkage impacts and consumption-induced impacts on the regional and national economy. Increased generation of electricity and irrigation from a multipurpose dam result in significant ‘backward’ linkages (i.e., demand for higher input supplies) and ‘forward’ linkages (i.e., providing inputs for further processing).
Groundwater development: The total annual replenish able groundwater resources of the country have been assessed as 433 Billion Cubic meters (bcm) and the net annual groundwater availability is estimated as 399 bcm (GOI, 2006). The groundwater development level is 58 per cent. The development of groundwater in different areas of the country has not been uniform. Highly intensive development of ground water in certain areas in the country has resulted in over exploitation leading to decline in the levels of groundwater and sea water intrusion in coastal areas. There is a continuous growth in ‘dark’ and ‘overexploited’ areas in the country. Out of 5723 assessment units (Blocks/Mandals/Talukas) in the country, 839 units in various States have been categorized as ‘Over exploited’3. In addition 226 units are ‘Critical’4. There are 550 semi-critical units, where the stage of ground water development is between 70 per cent and 100 per cent (MoWR, 2007). The Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) has notified 20 severely critical/over exploited areas in the country for regulation of groundwater development and management. Beginning around 1960, owing to the adoption of Green Revolution Technology, groundwater irrigation developed at an explosive rate, while tank irrigation declined fast and surface water irrigation grew much more slowly.