Need for a law to regulate the use of groundwater


Letter to the Prime Minister



Shri Narendra D Modi
Prime Minister

Dear Shri Modiji,

India’s groundwater resources have come under severe stress as a result of increasing pressure on the same for urban water needs in cities and towns and from irrigation requirements in the rural areas. In many parts of the country, the rate of depletion of groundwater has been in excess of the rate of regeneration leading to both shallow and deep wells going dry. In addition, industrial wastes and urban sewage discharges have also led to contamination of the aquifers. Along the coastal stretches, mechanical pumping of groundwater has led to the aquifers becoming saline. Damage to the floodplains along the river banks has also adversely affected the groundwater recharge. In short, we are heading towards a serious groundwater crisis.

Satellite imagery corroborates these trends to some extent. I have enclosed here the findings emerging from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) with special reference to India. These are as follows.

The groundwater beneath Northern India has been receding by as much as one foot per year over the past decade
During the past decade, groundwater beneath the northern Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan has decreased by more than 88 million acre-feet More than 109 cubic km (26 cubic miles) of groundwater disappeared from the region’s aquifers between 2002 and 2008 — double the capacity of India’s largest surface water reservoir, the Upper Wainganga, and triple that of Lake Mead, the largest manmade reservoir in the U.S.

While the Central and the State Groundwater Boards are closely monitoring the availability and the use of groundwater, they are not equipped statutorily to enforce appropriate norms for spacing wells and regulate the drawal of groundwater.

In 2003, the Tamil Nadu government enacted the TN Groundwater (Development and Management) Act but later withdrew the legislation under public pressure. I have enclosed a copy of this law for your perusal.

I suggest that the Centre take the lead and enact a law to enforce regulation of the use of groundwater or propose a model law to be enacted by each State with such modifications as may be locally necessary.

The growing scarcity of fresh water in India makes it necessary to review the national policy on water resources including the curbs needed to prevent pollution and promote the efficient use of water as a scarce natural resource. Regulation of the use of groundwater resources needs to be considered as a part of such a policy.


Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to Govt of India



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