The countryside resembles a giant dust bowl under the scorching summer sun in Agar district of Madhya Pradesh, betraying no signs of the record rainfall it received in nine months till March.
This is mid-April and people are already struggling for water. So what sucked Agar dry of its monsoon largesse in just about a month? In fact, the district presents a template of what lack of water, or rather rainwater, conservation and merciless use of groundwater sources can do.
Agar received 1,631.55mm of rainfall from June 1, 2015, to March 14, 2016, against a normal average of 847.2mm rainfall in the district. This is 92% more than the average. The Agar tehsil recorded about 133.38% rainfall during the period.
Depleting groundwater level renders 966 hand pumps useless
But many villages are now parched and staring at a long, hard summer because the depleting groundwater level has rendered 966 hand pumps useless while small ponds are starting to dry up in the baking sun. As the days progress, rivers Kalsindhi and Lakhundar may become a trickle.
Villagers blamed “shortsighted” officials for the crisis, as did the local parliamentarian’s representative Vijay Malani.
“The district got record rainfall and yet we are facing a water scarcity. Officials should encourage villagers to conserve water. But they don’t. As a result, a large quantity of fresh rainwater gets drained out,” he said.
Lack of rainwater harvesting means more pressure on underground aquifers, which in turn leads to a dip in the groundwater level. One season of good rainfall is not enough to replenish the deep groundwater sources.
Madan Lal Malviya, a resident of the worst-affected Dewali village, said government records showed the groundwater level at below the permissible limit for extraction in many areas of the district.
High-power pumps on borewells could further deplete groundwater: experts
But public health and engineering department engineer Vijay Chawada blamed villagers for the crisis. “Most of the farmers failed to save rainwater despite good rains. That’s why the groundwater level has dipped.”
To tide over the water shortage, the administration has planned to install high-power pumps on borewells in vulnerable villages under the government’s Nal Jal Yojana, he said.
This could further deplete the groundwater sources, experts warned.