Planning Commission report on groundwater downplays industrial exploitation
a planning Commission expert group on groundwater recently released its report. Titled Groundwater management and ownership, the report suggests community-based groundwater management at the farm level. It is, however, silent on urban and industrial use.
In October 2005, the Planning Commission created an expert group headed by its energy and water member, Kirit Parikh, to review the groundwater situation. Its abovementioned report, released on September 18, warns of a crisis: groundwater demand is likely to outstrip availability by 2050. It has a few bits incriminating urbanisation and industrialisation. But Himanshu Kulk-arni of Pune-based ngo Advanced Centre for Water Resources Develop-ment and Management, says, "On such matters, it has reproduced old Central Ground Water Board (cgwb) data."
More recharge The report commends the artificial recharge movement across the country to augment groundwater. It also speaks well of programmes to repair water bodies and schemes under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2006. The experts suggest that the central government fund technical studies on artificial recharge. But they turn a blind eye to the fund crunch faced by recharge schemes. For example, in 2002 cgwb proposed a Rs 24,500-crore scheme to recharge 36 billion cubic metres of water. Funding constraints have meant that only 165 of 3.9 million structures planned were constructed.
The report also gets flak for neglecting groundwater-linked ecosystems. Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asian Network on Dams, Rivers and People, says, "It ignores recharge sources like rivers and traditional water harvesting systems.'
Effete legislation The report comments that a model bill circulated by cgwb in the early 1970s to control groundwater use remained a dead letter because it was iniquitous and difficult to enforce. Only seven states and a union territory have legislated on groundwater