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More than half of India’s ground water contaminated: Groundwater Board

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Kolhapur/New Delhi: “Overuse of fertilisers has contaminated our ground water”, said Rajendra Nad, 52, who farms millet, sorghum and groundnut, and lives in Jalgaon district’s Bhusaval. Fertiliser overuse is posing a grave threat to India’s freshwater sources.

Five years ago, when Ramakant Desai, 55, hired a drilling rig to sink a borewell to irrigate his maize fields, he struck water at 200 ft. Today, the rig must drill more than four times as deep to 900 ft.

This is a common story in Desai’s village of Gargoti in the southern Maharashtra district of Kolhapur.

In a country where 74 percent of farmland is not irrigated and water shortages are growing – a report by the EA Water consultancy warns India will become “water scarce” by 2025 – depleting groundwater levels add to an ongoing farm crisis. In recognition of groundwater declines, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said his government would spend Rs 6,000 crore (almost $900 million) on “groundwater management”, but the details are unclear.

India draws more freshwater annually compared to any other country – 761 billion cubic meters per year for domestic, agricultural and industrial use, according to four-year (2011 to 2015) World Bank data. The scarcity has worsened because more than half of that water is now contaminated, mainly by industry and sewage, sparking diarrhoea, typhoid and viral hepatitis.

With larger population, China uses 28 percent less freshwater than India

A common argument is that India’s growing water use in inevitable. But China, with 1.4 billion people, uses 554.1 billion cubic metres of freshwater every year – that’s 28 percent less than India.

The consequence: India’s annual per capita availability of water fell 74 percent over 69 years, from 6,042 cubic metres in 1947 to 1,545 cubic metres in 2011, according to a government water policy report.

“The political economy of subsidies has resulted in unsustainable extraction and use of groundwater and eventually to its depletion,” said Ayan Biswas, a water-management expert. Farmers using cheap, subsidised electricity are encouraged to draw groundwater without restriction, he said.

Water depletion in rural India is a result of unsustainable agriculture practices such as farms in water-scarce regions with water-hungry crops like paddy, cotton and sugarcane.

Groundwater levels “critical” in nine states

In nine states – in south, west and central India – groundwater levels are now described as “critical”, according to a 2016 parliament committee report on water resources. “Critical” implies a stage where 90 percent of groundwater has been extracted, with a significant decline in recharge capability.

As of December 2015, of 6,607 units (blocks, mandals, talukas) assessed, 1,071 in 16 states and two in union territories, were categorised as “over-exploited”, which means 100 percent of groundwater has been drawn, with little chance of recharge.

Groundwater levels in India are now more critical than anywhere else on earth, IndiaSpend previously reported. More than half of India now faces what is called “high” to “extremely high” water stress, most across the fertile Ganga-Brahmaputra basin.

Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan have the most over-exploited blocks.

More than half of India’s groundwater is contaminated

The other aspect of the water crisis is contamination. Surface and groundwater are laced with fluoride, nitrate, arsenic and iron.

As many as 650 cities and towns lie along polluted rivers, which contaminate groundwater, according to the latest report of the Central Pollution Control Board.

“Poor environmental management systems” in industries lead to toxic and organic waste discharges of water, the report said. This has resulted in “pollution of surface and groundwater sources from which water is drawn for irrigation and domestic use”.

More than half of India’s groundwater is contaminated, according to the Central Groundwater Board report. As many as 276 districts have high levels of fluoride, 387 districts report nitrates above safe levels and 86 districts have high levels of arsenic, the report said.

On average, contaminated water caused 10 million cases of diarrhoea, 740,000 cases of typhoid and 150,000 viral hepatitis cases between 2007 and 2011, the groundwater board said.

Back in Jalgaon, Nad’s village is falling back on traditional methods to fight the crisis. “We are looking at reviving the watercourse, to water pooling,” he said. “Hopefully, these will provide water for drinking and crops during dry spells.” (Sandeep Pai, IANS)

  • gauri

    its a reality check and something needs to be done about it to lessen the plight of farmers and common people

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Electric Vehicle Can Be The Best For Reducing Air Pollution: Survey

Since we invested in the technology we have often been told that we were making a big mistake betting on battery-powered vehicles.

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electric vehicles
People want electric vehicles to reduce air pollution: Survey. Flcikr

Eighty-seven per cent of the respondents believe that the need for reducing air pollution is the best reason to purchase an electric vehicle, a survey commissioned by Climate Trends and carried out by FourthLion Technologies showed on Thursday.

The survey was conducted online from August 21-24 among 2,178 Indian drivers, vehicle owners and those who plan to purchase, own or drive a vehicle in the next 10 years.

Vehicles account for about 24 per cent of India’s carbon emissions and is a major source for air pollution in several cities across the country.

According to a recent WHO report, 14 of the top 20 most polluted cities of the world are in India.

Delhi Pollution, electric vehicle
Air pollution can also damage your kidneys. wikimedia commons

The survey revealed that most drivers and vehicle owners are personally affected by poor air quality.

Seventy-six per cent say they along with their neighbours, friends or family suffer from poor air quality every day or are starting to show symptoms of being affected by air pollution.

Delhi seemed to be worst affected with 91 per cent of its respondents saying that they or people they know are suffering from poor air quality.

Similarly, high percentages were recorded in Hyderabad (78 per cent), Chennai (75 per cent), Mumbai (74 per cent), Bangalore (71 per cent), and Kolkata (70 per cent).

Drivers and vehicle owners say they are ‘much more likely’ to consider purchasing an electric vehicle after learning that ‘electric vehicles reduce air pollution through zero on-road emissions’ (72 per cent) and after learning that ‘recharging and driving an electric vehicle costs less per kilometre than fuelling and driving a petrol or diesel vehicle’ (71 per cent).

Electric Vehicles
The survey indicates very healthy awareness and potential willingness among the respondents to consider purchasing electric vehicles. Flickr

India is the third largest market for automobiles and the world’s largest market when it comes to two-wheelers.

Over four million internal combustion engine vehicles were sold in India in 2017, and 81 per cent of those sales (20 million units) came from the two-wheeler segment alone.

In comparison, according to data from the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles, less than a million electric vehicles were sold in India, of which 93 per cent were electric three-wheelers.

The survey indicates very healthy awareness and potential willingness among the respondents to consider purchasing electric vehicles.

Also Read: Air Pollution Not Fatal But Could Reduce Life Expectancy By A Year

However, the respondents identified the lack of easily accessible charging infrastructure (59 per cent) and limited driving range on current battery packs (46 per cent) as their biggest objection towards adopting one.

“Since we invested in the technology we have often been told that we were making a big mistake betting on battery-powered vehicles. And today with the world transitioning to the new normal, we are recognized as pioneers in electric vehicles,” Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra said.