GS Paper 3

Program: Preservation of the environment

Source: Indian Express, GDP

Direction: Water is always an important and favorite subject of UPSC. Always have prepared notes on the various aspects of water use.

The context: A groundwater assessment report by the Central Groundwater Board and the States/UTs was recently released. (Below Ministry of Jal Shakti)

Main findings:

  • India is the largest user of groundwater (GW) (representing 1/4e of total withdrawal)
  • 87% of GW is used for Irrigation
  • Status: GW mining has decreased and the number of overfished units (extraction > recharge) a decreases.
  • Currently, 67% of GW units are sure (extractionoverexploited and 4% at Critical
  • The extraction is very high in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, etc.

Reasons for using groundwater for irrigation; –

  • Erratic monsoon; – Successive droughts and erratic rainfall have led to excessive groundwater extraction.
  • Grant: Low prices or free electricity provide an incentive for uncontrolled groundwater extraction. The vast majority of groundwater pumps are unmetered and, if chargeable, are charged at a flat rate, non-volumetric and heavily subsidized.
  • The Green Revolution: The green revolution caused the overexploitation of groundwater.
  • Water-intensive crops: The government encourages farmers to grow water-intensive crops like rice and sugarcane by raising minimum support prices (MSPs).

Problems associated with such widespread use:-

  • Lowering of the water table: The World Bank predicts that by 2032, around 60% of the country’s aquifers will be in critical condition.
  • Reduction of water in streams and lakes: A significant amount of water flowing in rivers comes from groundwater seepage into the stream bed. Depletion of groundwater levels can reduce water flow in these streams.
  • Ground subsidence: A lack of groundwater limits biodiversity and dangerous sinkholes result from the depletion of aquifers.
  • Increased user costs: As groundwater levels become depleted, the water table lowers, the user must dig deep to extract water. This will increase the cost of water extraction.
  • Degradation of water quality: Groundwater that is deep in the ground often mixes with salt water that we shouldn’t drink.
  • Salt water contamination may occur. For example in the west of the country.
  • Interrupts the water cycle: Groundwater depletion interrupts the ‘natural’ water cycle by putting disproportionately more water into the sea.
  • Impact on food security: As large aquifers are depleted, food supplies and people will suffer.

Additional points:

Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) Concept

The PIM revolves around the development of cooperation and the involvement of farmers in the operation, management and maintenance of irrigation systems at the secondary and tertiary levels through the “Water user associations” (AUE).

One-Water approach:


The effective response to the groundwater crisis is to integrate conservation and development activities, from water extraction to water management, at the local level; Raising awareness and fully involving communities is therefore essential for success.

Instagram links

Growing Water Crisis and One Water Approach (OWA)

Mains connections

Q. Highlight the problems associated with groundwater irrigation in India. Critically analyze the role of Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) in the sustainable improvement of agricultural production. (15M)

Preliminary link

Consider the following statements: (UPSC 2015)

      1. The Accelerated Irrigation Support Program was launched in 1996-97 to provide loan assistance to poor farmers.
      2. The Command Area Development Program was initiated in 1974-75 for the development of water use efficiency,

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: B

The Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Program (AIBP) was launched in 1996 as a central assistance program, with the aim of accelerating the creation of irrigation potential.

The Command Area Development Program (CAD) was launched in 1974-75 with a view to bridging the gap between the potential created and its use and to optimize agricultural productivity through better management of land and water use in areas served by selected major and medium irrigation projects.

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