A recent meeting presided over by district in-charge Minister J. Krishna Palemar and attended by top district officials decided to drill 163 borewells to ease the drinking water scarcity in Dakshina Kannada during summer.

However, none of the participants, who included many zilla panchayat members from different political parties, seemed to be concerned with the groundwater scene.

While officials told The Hindu that there was no alternative but to sink borewells to quickly solve the water crisis in some pockets, most others did not agree. “If there is no alternative in a district that receives 4,000 mm of rainfall a year, there can be no alternative anywhere,” said Shree Padre, an expert in rainwater harvesting and executive editor of the periodical Adike Patrike. “It is a question of mindset,” he said and added that solutions could be found on a case-to-case basis.

Ban

According to official sources, groundwater has been overexploited in certain pockets, and further exploitation has been banned in 96 villages in the district. This includes nine villages in Belthangady taluk, 10 in Puttur taluk, 21 in Mangalore taluk and 56 in Bantwal taluk. The villages in Mangalore taluk are Adyar, Alake, Amblamogaru, Arkula, Bajal, Belma, Bodanthila, Koliyar, Arekala, Kankanady, Konaje, Malluru, Padau, Mangalore, Neermarga, Munnur, Kavoor, Permannur, Someshwar, Ulaibettu and Ullal.

An official, who did not want to be named, said that overexploitation of groundwater close to the coast had led to the mixing of salt water and potable water. People who had been using water from wells for several years had now started complaining of contamination, he said.

Scary future

Against the national average of 58 per cent exploitation of groundwater, Karnataka has touched 70 per cent. In Dakshina Kannada it is 60 per cent, which is much higher than Udupi's 39 per cent. It is much lower compared to Tumkur's 110 per cent, Bangalore Rural's 171 per cent, Kolar's 195 per cent, and Bangalore Urban's 197 per cent.

According to the document “Dynamic groundwater resources of India” prepared by the Central Groundwater Board (CGWB), the water draft (exploitation) for domestic and industrial uses is set to increase sharply in Dakshina Kannada, and its availability for irrigation will decrease drastically by 2025.

The net groundwater available in the district is 52,054 ha m (one hectare metre is equal to 10,000 cubic metres).

The report points out that the consumption of groundwater by the district's households and industries will register a 42 per cent increase (up from 3,792 ha m in 2004 to 5,370 ha m by 2025). The groundwater available for irrigation will come down by more than 8,600 ha m or about 31 per cent. In 2004, the district consumed 27,623 ha m of groundwater for irrigation. This is set to decline to 18,997 ha m by 2025.

According to sources, the situation will worsen with the sinking of more borewells. On the other hand, an official expressed concern that the district receives heavy rain for more number of days than before. This means that more water will flow into the sea. “We need more spells of sustained light showers so that more water percolates into the ground,” the official said.

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