Free electricity leads to over exploitation of ground water, Harish Rao

Free electricity leads to over exploitation of ground water, Harish Rao

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‘Although the average water availability in the country remains more or less fixed according to the natural hydrologic cycle, the per capita availability is reducing progressively owing to increasing population’, Harish Rao, Sawdust

Free electricity lead to over exploitation of ground water -min

Free electricity lead to over exploitation of ground water -min
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Even today, woman carrying a pot on her head filled with water is a common site in rural India. Even after, seven decades of Independence, many people in the villages have to cover vast distances to fetch water daily

On the one hand, we are aiming to reach the Moon by developing a rocket and on the other hand, vast regions of the country is struggling to get even basic amenities like drinking water. Even today, woman carrying a pot on her head filled with water is a common site in rural India. Even after, seven decades of Independence, many people in the villages have to cover vast distances to fetch water daily.

The problem of water scarcity is going to aggravate in the coming years due to increasing demand, both from households and industries.  It should be noted that although the average water availability in the country remains more or less fixed according to the natural hydrologic cycle, the per capita availability is reducing progressively owing to increasing population.  In 1991, the national average per capita availability of water in India was around 2209-m3 (cubic meter) per year, which has gone down to about 1545-m3 per year in 2011. With the projected future population, the per capita water availability may go down to around 1340-m3 and 1140-m3 by the year 2025 and 2050, respectively.

One of the main reasons for continued water scarcity in the country is the declining ground water levels which in recent years has become more pronounced. The ground water level is declining because of rapid pace of ground water development. This has resulted in severe decline in ground water levels in wells and tube wells, large seasonal drops in water levels in wells specially in hard rock areas and under certain situations, deterioration in quality of ground water.  Consequences of this phenomenon are really serious – increase in pumping depths, drastic reduction in wells / tube wells yields and enormous rise in the cost of pumping ground water. Widespread and acute scarcity of ground water in summer months for irrigation and drinking uses are ‘add ons’ to the existing problems. Increased salinity in water in coastal areas and increase in fluoride content in certain areas are other ‘gifts’.

One of the main reasons for excessive extraction of water is due to free electricity provided by some of the State Governments in India. In fact, many elections have been won in India by promising (and later on fulfilling the promise) free electricity to the farmers. For example, in Punjab, out of 138 assessment units 110 are Over-Exploited; 4 are Critical; 2 are Semi-Critical and 22 are Safe as per the Ground Water Resource Estimate Report, 2011.  Free electricity has encouraged the farmers to shift to water intensive crops which in turn has resulted in depletion of ground water table in many parts due to over-exploitation, imposing an increasing financial burden on farmers who need to deepen their wells and replace their pump sets and on State Governments whose subsidy burden for electricity supply increases due to the provision of free electricity in the State for agriculture connections. In short, free electricity has helped none but few politicians.

Just to achieve the short-term objectives of our politicians (irrespective of the political party they belong to) nation’s long-term interests are compromised/sacrificed. We are putting at stake the future of our next generation.  This is a very sad state of affairs.