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Groundwater Extraction and Land Subsidence: A Looming Crisis

Groundwater Extraction and Land Subsidence: A Looming Crisis

Context: Groundwater extraction is causing alarming land subsidence in the Indo-Gangetic plain due to the creation of voids within the soil layers. This compaction or collapse of the soil results in land subsidence, particularly in regions like the Indo-Gangetic plain with sand and clay layers prone to such consequences.

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Freshwater Scarcity in India

India, despite hosting 18% of the global population, has only 4% of the world’s freshwater. Rainfall harvesting remains inadequate, with only 8% of received rainwater utilized. Alarmingly, over 90% of the groundwater, meant for recharge, is misused in agricultural practices.

Worsening Groundwater Levels

Across 10 states and Union Territories in India, the groundwater situation has deteriorated significantly, with Punjab experiencing a staggering 150-meter drop in groundwater levels between 2000 and 2022, followed by Meghalaya and Uttar Pradesh.

Case Study: Punjab and Haryana

These states, despite moderate precipitation, exhibit significant groundwater dependency due to agricultural practices. This over-extraction results in land deformation, witnessed through various cracks and tensional forces in the land.

Global Impact

Instances of land subsidence due to excessive groundwater extraction have been reported worldwide. Regions like California, Jakarta, Bangkok, and Ho Chi Minh City face severe consequences, including sinking cities and infrastructure damage.

Addressing the Crisis

Addressing land subsidence entails interventions focusing on halting groundwater over-extraction. Water budgeting in high-risk regions, already adopted in several Indian villages, is a starting point. Cities must follow suit to regulate water usage.

The Way Forward

Detailed ground verification and satellite imagery studies are essential to gauge the extent of damage. Efforts should revolve around water body revival for groundwater recharge, as witnessed in some countries. In India, the recent water body census highlighted the dire state of urban water bodies, indicating a need for urgent action to mitigate land subsidence.

The urgency to arrest groundwater over-extraction is crucial to prevent further land subsidence and its associated detrimental impacts on communities and infrastructure.

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