Aquifer mapping taken up in five States

In a bid to push water sector reforms, the Centre has decided to incentivise States that fast-track water sector reforms with liberalised funding criteria. The plan is to “grade” States as per the reforms process adopted by them. States that speed up reforms will get increased financial assistance from the Centre for water projects.

This was made clear at the Annual Conference of Principal Secretaries/ Secretaries Irrigation convened by the Water Resources Ministry here on Wednesday.

Water reforms calls for better management, utilisation and regulation of water majorly through mapping of ground water aquifers as a “common pool resource,” which may lead to regulation of groundwater use—a touchy subject with several States.

“The State adopting water sector reforms on fast track basis will be treated reform-friendly State and liberal funding criteria may be linked to water sector reforms by them,” said a paper distributed at the conference.

Expressing concern at the widening gap between Irrigation Potential Created and Irrigation Potential Utilised, Water Secretary Dhruv Vijay Singh urged delegates to provide inputs failing which, the Centre would finalise schemes on its own. Against an annual average coverage of roughly 0.4 million hectare, the required capacity is at least 2 million hectare.

Referring to Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) that is being modified and linked to Command Area Development Programme, Mr. Singh said: “We would like inputs from the States. Because, if we do not get inputs that suggest that we modify the scheme, we will have to go ahead and finalise the scheme as it is.''

Outlining the contours of the reforms agenda, Additional Secretary G. Mohan Kumar said it would involve formation of a National Water Mission, Groundwater Management and Water Resources Information System, Human Resource Development and Capacity Building “with international benchmarking.”

“We expect the State Irrigation Departments to reorient their thinking, see that departments are adequately reformed and their policies are attuned to the new realities so we can make the sector strong.”

Aquifer mapping

Much of the focus of the conference was on Aquifer Mapping described as “not merely an academic exercise but a practical guide for delineation of aquifers, preparation of management plans with the ultimate objective of participatory groundwater management.” Already pilot projects have been launched in five States — Maharashtra, Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan.

With 1,565 blocks in the country either over-exploited, critical, semi-critical or salinity affected (as per a 2009 assessment), the idea is to make a paradigm shift from groundwater “development” to “management.”

For this purpose, States were asked to share their data from exploration wells.

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