About 30 percent of the rivers in the country have dried up in the last 10 years. In the last 70 years, 20 lakh ponds, wells, lakes, etc. out of a total of 30 lakh have just disappeared. The situation of groundwater is equally grim.
In many states of the country, groundwater table has fallen below the level of 40 meters. These facts were revealed in an investigation by Bhaskar on water situation across the country in the wake of the severe water crisis in Chennai. It is noteworthy that recently, the report of the Niti Aayog has said that by the year 2030, about 40% of the people will not have access to drinking water.
Known as Jalpurush or Waterman and Magsaysay award winner Rajendra Singh told Bhaskar that there were about 15000 rivers in the country 10 years ago. During this time, about 30 percent or 4500 of rivers have dried up and they only flow in the rainy season.
Singh said some years back his team conducted a survey across the country, in which it came out that since Independence, in the country, two-thirds of the ponds, wells, lakes, and waterfalls have become extinct, i.e. completely dried up.
20 lakh water structures in villages have completely dried up
He explains that at the time of Independence, there were 7 lakh villages in the country. One lakh of them went to Pakistan and six lakh villages were left. There was an average of five water structures in each village. That is 30 lakh water structures across the country. But in these years, 20 lakh water structures have completely dried up. Now the level of groundwater in the country is going down at the rate of 3 meters per year. We are exploiting an additional 72% of water.
‘What will reach in the taps when there will be no water’
Rajendra Singh says that the government should make plans for conservation of water resources instead of working on water supply schemes like Nal Jal Yojana. When there will be no water then what will reach in the taps? The government should make a full focus on water conservation.
Singh said when we investigated further in this matter, then it was found that the situation of groundwater in the country is very alarming. According to the latest figures of the Ministry of Water Resources, there are several places in the country where the water has gone below 40 meters. This has happened in states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat.
Water scarcity although rainfall was never less than 81% of average
Meteorological scientist Ved Prakash Singh said that drought situation is declared if total rainfall during the monsoon season is less than 81 percent. But this has never happened since 2000. It is of course due to misuse of water that situations of severe water scarcity arise in different parts of the country. Reckless exploitation and humanitarian mistakes are the major reason for the drying of the rivers.
Origin of rivers also dried up
Sanjay Singh, the national convener of Jal Jana Jodo Abhiyan, says that 93 percent of the country’s rivers originate from the springs, but due to the ever-increasing use of groundwater, the springs have also dried up. On the other hand, excessive irrigation is also affecting the rivers. The polluted water of the nullahs is also ending up in the rivers. The rivers are threatened due to decreasing forest cover and growing settlements along the river banks.