Commercial exploitation of groundwater continues unchecked in Kochi, ignoring a suggestion to reduce it to half in the wake of drought. Around one lakh litres of water is drawn out a day by the packaged drinking water firms alone a day in the district.
The Ground Water Department (GWD) is in the dark on the commercial exploitation of water by industrial units as well as packaged drinking water companies. It is also clueless on the number of borewells and hand pumps used for drawing water.
Incidentally, a high-level meeting held in December for rolling out drought mitigation measures had urged the companies to reduce the extraction by at least 50 per cent. It had also directed the district collectors to look into the issue in consultation with GWD.
The directive for reducing the commercial exploitation is likely to go awry as the GWD lacks monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.
A senior official of the GWD admitted that department lacked mechanism to quantify the extraction of water in the district. No data is also available on the number of borewells dug by commercial and individual consumers. The data on hand pumps too were not there in the dossiers of the department, he said.
Though there are around 30 companies engaged in groundwater extraction in the district, their production goes unmonitored. The companies too don’t share the data with the authorities as it is not demanded from them. The monitoring of water exploitation by the department is limited to inquiries on complaints of extraction by general public.
M.E. Muhammad, president of the Kerala Bottled Water Manufacturers’ Association, said the GAD had not sought production details from the companies. The demand for water has increased and there was no shortage of resources, he said.
The companies might not think of reducing the exploitation as the government’s directive had not been communicated to them, Mr. Muhammad said.
Depleting water table
The groundwater table in the district has dropped by around one metre in the district, according to the GAD data till December. There is the possibility of it going down further during peak summer months. The depletion may increase the possibility of saline ingression in fresh water bodies of the district, an official said.
Many areas of West Kochi are facing the saline ingression into fresh water sources. Yet, there is no effective system to check it.