Depleting Groundwater Levels: Impact on Food Security and Solutions

Depleting Groundwater Levels: Impact on Food Security and Solutions

Question: The agricultural sector is facing a serious threat due to depleting groundwater levels. Discuss how falling groundwater levels are threatening food security and the steps which can be taken to counter this.

Impact on Food Security

• Food security for the nation’s 1.25 billion people is under threat due to depleting groundwater levels

• While top irrigators in the world such as the US, China and Pakistan are pumping groundwater faster than it is replenished, the problem is serious in India where 60% of irrigated farming is from groundwater.

• More than 15% of India’s food is produced by mining groundwater

• Southern state of Tamil Nadu has groundwater levels dropping by half over the past decade according to the International Water Management Institute

• Around 95% of one wells in the state are dry

• TN’s food production is threatened; northern states are also impacted

• Groundwater depletion is a problem spurred on by heavy electricity and fuel subsidies as well as inexpensive motorised pumps

• Benefits of green revolution are at risk because wells are running dry

• Groundwater levels depletion will lead to rivers and wetlands drying up as well; these are also sources of irrigation

Solutions for Depleting Groundwater Levels

• Firstly, a hydro-geological survey needs to be conducted to understand the availability of groundwater and an idea of soil profile, recharge zones, discharge zones, storability, transmissivity and more

• Second, the development in watershed should be located and the lowest point in the watershed should be identified

• Lakes and tanks should be protected and rejuvenated

• All lake channels should be conserved and surface run off should reach de-silted lake and recharge groundwater

• Every home and plot should have water meters; water should be priced to discourage unlimited demand; More than 100 litres per person should not be allowed

• Dual and triple plumbing should be set up for homes and water of different quality should be used for different purposes such as kitchen work, personal use and so on.

• Landscape and garden system should be tree based and waste water should be minimally employed for landscape areas

• Rainwater should be harvested and stored in aquifers

• Waste water from developmental activities should be converted into potable water through water treatment plants to conserve water levels Facts and Stats

• Groundwater is depleting at the rate of 54 billion cubic metres per year in northern India which is the nation’s largest wheat and rice producing area

• This volume could support a diet for 180 million people

• Along with northern states of Haryana and Punjab, groundwater levels are also falling in the states of:

- AP
- Maharashtra
- Gujarat
- Rajasthan
- TN
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