Pond revival, cap on groundwater use to tackle Bihar’s water crisis
As groundwater levels across Bihar show signs of severe stress, the state has initiated a series of measures to tide over the water crisis.
A meeting on Tuesday, held under the chairmanship of the Bihar chief secretary and attended by the principal secretary and secretary-level officers of various departments — public health engineering, panchayati raj, urban development and housing, and minor irrigation — agreed to adopt a three-pronged strategy to revive the dying water sources.
First and foremost, the state government will come out with a regulation to put a cap on the use of groundwater after a certain limit. “The regulation is in final stages,” said an official.
The latest 2016-17 report of the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) shows that the water level in May 2016, with respect to the pre-monsoon decadal mean of May (i.e. May 2006 to May 2015), witnessed fall in 67% (395) of the 594 Hydrograph Network Stations (HNS) in the state. May is considered the peak summer season. HNS is a point location representing the topmost aquifer in that location.
Even in August and November, which is during and after the rainy season, the decadal mean is not encouraging, with nearly 40% of the Hydrograph Network Station wells showing a decline in water level.
A senior official of the Bihar State Disaster Management Authority, preferring anonymity, said that water levels had dropped by 10-12 feet in most parts of the state.
The meeting also decided to revive and rejuvenate ponds. Even according to official records, 12,027 water bodies (including ponds) out of 199,000 have been encroached upon. This was revealed in May 2018, after the Patna High Court pulled up the state government in this regard.
Though the impact is not immediately visible, scientists say that the indiscriminate exploitation of groundwater from deeper aquifers, once water becomes scarce in the upper aquifer, could create a grim situation in the future.
What is alarming is that now pockets in north Bihar, comfortably placed so far, are also now witnessing growing pressure, with reports of people going in for deeper borings even in Muzaffarpur, Samastipur, Darbhanga, Saharsa, etc. “During summer months, water is available at a depth of 20 feet. This year, it has dropped to almost 40 feet,” said Nishu Kumar of Saharsa, where water levels had never fallen so much before.
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