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Perils of excessive groundwater extraction underlined

By AJIT PATOWARY
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GUWAHATI, March 21 - �An Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Guwahati Professor has forewarned of a major catastrophe in the State if the present rate and practice of groundwater extraction continues without any scientific water management policy.

Prof Rajib Kumar Bhattacharjya, who predicted this catastrophe, has called for a groundwater management policy to prevent this looming disaster.

Professor Bhattacharjya, who is studying the State�s groundwater-related issues for the past several years, told this Correspondent further that the groundwater-related situation in Guwahati is alarming. For, the present groundwater extraction scenario in the city resembles only groundwater �mining.�

Elaborating, he said that in the State, most of the irrigation projects are groundwater-based. Even the tea estates (TEs) are using groundwater for the purpose. �The groundwater-related practices in the State are only whimsical and not based on any scientific study. Sustainability of these practices is yet to be established.

Already, unplanned extraction of groundwater by industries, business establishments etc., has resulted in water scarcity in their neighbouring areas, he said.

In Guwahati, he said that in 2015, IIT-Guwahati�s study in the RG Baruah Road area revealed that the groundwater table in that area was sinking at an average annual rate of above 20 cms. This finding is alarming. The Central Groundwater Board data collected for the purpose belonged to the 20-year period, between 1996 and 2015.

It may be mentioned that a 2008 NASA study found the Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi groundwater table sinking at an average annual rate of 33 cms. This situation is simply incorrigible. Guwahatians should learn a lesson from it. Guwahatians must not allow themselves to face such a situation, said the Professor.

The groundwater recharge rate in Guwahati is getting reduced at a rapid rate due to the speedy growth in its built-up/paved areas. The city�s population is also burgeoning at a faster rate.� Notably, an overwhelming majority of the Guwahatians use groundwater to quench their thirst.

According to a study conducted by IIT-Guwahati�s Civil Engineering Department for its Union Ministry of Urban Development-sponsored Integrated Land Use Planning and Water Resource Management Project, the city recorded a ten-fold growth in its built-up area between 1972 and 2000.

From 38.7 sq kms in 1972 in its plains areas, the built-up area grew to 126 sq kms in 2000. On its hills, such areas grew from 4.8 sq kms to 40 sq kms during this period. During the past 16 years, there was further growth in the city�s built-up areas and now the situation in this respect is alarming.

Similar is the situation in many other parts of the State. For example, Karbi Anglong district has reported that all its tubewells upto a depth of 50 metres dry up in the winter months necessitating sinking of deep tubewells to a depth of at least 80 metres for irrigation purposes. Sivasagar and Charaideo districts too have experienced an identical situation.

In Golaghat district, whenever some tea gardens use deep tubewells, people of their neighbouring areas allegedly do not get water for daily use.

In some areas around Dimakuchi in Udalguri district, groundwater level appears to be very low and the residents there are facing scarcity of drinking water. The situation demands a thorough study.

The State has 3,12,210 hectares of its land under tea cultivation and most of the TEs located between Biswanath and Dhubri districts on the north bank and between Sivasagar and Goalpara districts on the south bank are using deep tubewells to irrigate their plantations between November and April.

In 1951, the State had a population of 80,28,856. According to Assam Government figures in 2016, it swelled to 3,39,05,039. Again, 2,19,016 hectares of the State�s cropland were irrigated in 2014-15. Of this area, 10,367 hectares were irrigated with tubewells.

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Perils of excessive groundwater extraction underlined

GUWAHATI, March 21 - �An Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Guwahati Professor has forewarned of a major catastrophe in the State if the present rate and practice of groundwater extraction continues without any scientific water management policy.

Prof Rajib Kumar Bhattacharjya, who predicted this catastrophe, has called for a groundwater management policy to prevent this looming disaster.

Professor Bhattacharjya, who is studying the State�s groundwater-related issues for the past several years, told this Correspondent further that the groundwater-related situation in Guwahati is alarming. For, the present groundwater extraction scenario in the city resembles only groundwater �mining.�

Elaborating, he said that in the State, most of the irrigation projects are groundwater-based. Even the tea estates (TEs) are using groundwater for the purpose. �The groundwater-related practices in the State are only whimsical and not based on any scientific study. Sustainability of these practices is yet to be established.

Already, unplanned extraction of groundwater by industries, business establishments etc., has resulted in water scarcity in their neighbouring areas, he said.

In Guwahati, he said that in 2015, IIT-Guwahati�s study in the RG Baruah Road area revealed that the groundwater table in that area was sinking at an average annual rate of above 20 cms. This finding is alarming. The Central Groundwater Board data collected for the purpose belonged to the 20-year period, between 1996 and 2015.

It may be mentioned that a 2008 NASA study found the Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi groundwater table sinking at an average annual rate of 33 cms. This situation is simply incorrigible. Guwahatians should learn a lesson from it. Guwahatians must not allow themselves to face such a situation, said the Professor.

The groundwater recharge rate in Guwahati is getting reduced at a rapid rate due to the speedy growth in its built-up/paved areas. The city�s population is also burgeoning at a faster rate.� Notably, an overwhelming majority of the Guwahatians use groundwater to quench their thirst.

According to a study conducted by IIT-Guwahati�s Civil Engineering Department for its Union Ministry of Urban Development-sponsored Integrated Land Use Planning and Water Resource Management Project, the city recorded a ten-fold growth in its built-up area between 1972 and 2000.

From 38.7 sq kms in 1972 in its plains areas, the built-up area grew to 126 sq kms in 2000. On its hills, such areas grew from 4.8 sq kms to 40 sq kms during this period. During the past 16 years, there was further growth in the city�s built-up areas and now the situation in this respect is alarming.

Similar is the situation in many other parts of the State. For example, Karbi Anglong district has reported that all its tubewells upto a depth of 50 metres dry up in the winter months necessitating sinking of deep tubewells to a depth of at least 80 metres for irrigation purposes. Sivasagar and Charaideo districts too have experienced an identical situation.

In Golaghat district, whenever some tea gardens use deep tubewells, people of their neighbouring areas allegedly do not get water for daily use.

In some areas around Dimakuchi in Udalguri district, groundwater level appears to be very low and the residents there are facing scarcity of drinking water. The situation demands a thorough study.

The State has 3,12,210 hectares of its land under tea cultivation and most of the TEs located between Biswanath and Dhubri districts on the north bank and between Sivasagar and Goalpara districts on the south bank are using deep tubewells to irrigate their plantations between November and April.

In 1951, the State had a population of 80,28,856. According to Assam Government figures in 2016, it swelled to 3,39,05,039. Again, 2,19,016 hectares of the State�s cropland were irrigated in 2014-15. Of this area, 10,367 hectares were irrigated with tubewells.