Lucknow digs deep for water, greens raise concern - Hindustan Times
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Lucknow digs deep for water, greens raise concern

Jun 11, 2024 05:00 AM IST

The city has nearly 750 govt-operated tubewells and 550 private ones. With urban expansion, the number is expected to surpass 2,000 in coming years, with water extraction projected to exceed 2,200 MLD in five years. In a series beginning today, HT gives a lowdown on groundwater depletion in rural and urban areas of the state capital

LUCKNOW Greens have raised concerns over the rapid depletion of groundwater levels in Lucknow, saying that the city may exhaust its underground water sources within the next 20 to 25 years, if the depletion of its upper aquifer, primarily due to rapid extraction, continues at the current rate.

The falling level of water in Luckow’s Kathauta lake. (Deepak Gupta/HT Photo)
The falling level of water in Luckow’s Kathauta lake. (Deepak Gupta/HT Photo)

The state capital extracts a staggering 1,350 million litres of water per day from its underground sources. This figure translates to an annual groundwater draw that is equivalent to one-third of the Bhakra Nangal Dam’s capacity. The city’s reliance on groundwater is facilitated by approximately 750 government-operated tubewells and around 550 private tubewells. As urban expansion continues, the number of tubewells is expected to surpass 2,000 in the coming years, with water extraction projected to exceed 2,200 million litres per day within the next five years, they said.

The city’s daily requirement of water is around 800-900 mld for domestic use and around 550 mld for commercial purpose.

GRIM FORECAST

Venkatesh Dutta, a noted environmentalist and professor at the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences (SEES), Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU), has raised concerns about the unsustainable rate of groundwater extraction.

He points out, “Today, tubewells are drilled to depths of up to 165 to 180 metres. Each pumping set, used to supply water from tubewells to homes, typically yields 1,200 litres per minute. However, due to increased demand, these sets now operate for 18 to 24 hours a day. This rapid pace of groundwater extraction poses a significant problem if the groundwater is not replenished.”

URBAN-RURAL DIVIDE IN WATER LEVELS

The depletion of water levels is more severe in urban areas compared to rural regions. In urban areas, the maximum depletion has been observed in Sadar at 46.9 metres (post-monsoon). In contrast, the maximum depletion in rural areas has been recorded in Narauna Kothi, where pre-monsoon readings showed a depletion of 19.60 metres, while post-monsoon readings showed 19.55 metres.

Specific areas such as Jail Road have seen water levels drop to 43.41 metres, while in Aliganj near the Lok Sabha Ayog building, levels have declined to 45.3 metres. In Purania, the water level stands at 40.26m, and in Mahanagar, it is 40.77m. Conversely, in the Nagram area of Mohanlalganj, water is available at a more accessible depth of 1.40 m (post-monsoon), though it drops to 4.35m in the pre-monsoon season. Similarly, in Samesi, water is available at 1.83m (post-monsoon), reducing to 2.25m (pre-monsoon).

GROUNDWATER RECHARGING

“If the water level goes below 8m, it is considered under stress, and if it depletes more than 2cm in a year, the depletion is described as critical, necessitating extensive recharging efforts. These figures show that our top water aquifer is under heavy stress,” elaborates RS Sinha, retired senior hydrologist. on the critical state of Lucknow’s water resources.

Venkatesh Dutta underscores the city’s failure to recharge its water sources effectively, attributing the problem to inadequate rainwater harvesting and the loss of natural water bodies. “The city’s failure to recharge its water sources by not effectively capturing rain during the monsoon season has exacerbated the depletion of its groundwater levels,” explains Dutta.

He highlighted the disappearance of large ponds in areas like Alambagh, Natkhera, Azad Nagar, Krishna Nagar, Ashiana, and Bijnore. Natural water bodies, such as lakes, have been encroached upon and replaced by colonies. Additionally, the catchment area of the river Gomti has been turned into a riverfront, disrupting the water recharge process.

Underscoring the need for immediate action, Dutta says: “Such a large volumetric loss is happening every day without any recharge for years. This is why the water table is depleting fast. Around 15,000 houses in the city extract water through submersibles directly from the ground. Not just authorities, but residents are also responsible for the depletion of this natural resource, as people can be seen washing their cars with tap water without any regard for the limited natural resource.”

DIPPING LEVELS

DEENDAYAL NAGAR

20.30 m decline in 10 yrs. Groundwater levels plummeted from 15.25m in 2013 to 35.55m in 2023. This is the highest figure recorded in the city.

PARA

16.65 m drop in 10 yrs from 20.30m to 36.95m.

MAHANAGAR

14.99 m dip in groundwater levels. This is one of the steepest declines, with groundwater levels dropping from 27.67 m to 41.06 m in 10 yrs.

PURANIA

13.50 m decline in groundwater levels from 27.46 m to 40.96 m in 10 yrs.

FAIZULLAGANJ

12.57 m drop in groundwater levels from 27.31 m (pre-monsoon) in 2017 to 39.88 m (pre-monsoon) in 2023.

NAUBASTA

12.12 m drop in groundwater levels, which saw a decrease from 27.95 m to 40.07 m in 10 yrs

VICTORIA PARK, CHOWK

11.46 m decline over a period of nine years. Groundwater levels have dropped from 18.70 m to 30.16 m.

LALKURTI

11.37 m decline in groundwater levels, dropping from 29.05 m to 40.42 m

KUKRAIL FOREST AREA

5.50 m decline from 19.33 m to 24.83 m over nine years.

Courtesy: State Groundwater dept

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