Seminar on “Resilience of Groundwater Resources for Accommodating Changing Climate Scenarios

Virtual National Seminar on “Resilience of Groundwater Resources for
Accommodating Changing Climate Scenarios” Organized By International
Association of Hydrogeologist Indian National Chapter (IAH-INC)
on February 27-28, 2021
Inaugural Speech
by Shri B. N. Navalawala, Advisor to Hon’ble Chief Minister of Gujarat

Chairman, Co-chairman, Rapporteur, Keynote speakers, Panelists and Moderators of different Technical Sessions of the Seminar.
First of all, I profusely congratulate the organizers for organizing two days’ virtual
National Seminar on “Resilience of Groundwater Resources for accommodating
changing climate scenarios”. Also, I take immense pleasure as well as extend my
sincere thanks to the organizers for inviting me as the Chief Guest of the inaugural
function of this seminar. It is a great honour to be here today.
This Seminar is being organized by Indian National Chapter of the International
Association of Hydrogeologist (IAH). IAH is the largest association of groundwater
professionals globally having branches in more than 160 countries. It is very
heartening to know that the Indian National Chapter is one of the strongest national
chapter of IAH in the world and are involved in so many activities like Conferring
Awards, regularly arranging Seminars and Talks, issuing e-Journal on Hydrogeology
and above all has become a rallying point and voice for groundwater professional in
India. I wish that INC-IAH will flourish more in coming days.
Thousands of years old, our vedic scriptures such as Vedas, Upvedas & Purans make
special mention, extensively and frequently, about water as one of the five basic
elements (पंच तत्त्व) vital for the living world (सजीव सृष्टि), while stating that ‘जल ही
जीवनम\’.Water is the most essential resource now for major economic and societal
headway anywhere in the world. India occupies 4% of the land but holds 16% of world
population, thus water resource- its spatiotemporal availability and increasing
withdrawal with time. Climate change and contamination of water are among the
key factors that are responsible for producing additional stress in last couple of
decades on water resources.
Groundwater is a critical resource for food security, providing 40% of the world’s
irrigation. Millions of farmers depend on groundwater irrigation to help produce 40%
of the world’s agricultural production. Post green revolution in India,
overexploitation of groundwater, mainly due to intensive irrigation, has posed
serious problems for groundwater management in India. Food grain self-reliance has
come largely at the cost of reckless groundwater exploitation, which has resulted in
to water insecurity.
Such water crisis is going to be further exacerbated due to growing demand for food
grains; which is projected to be 450 million matric tonnes by the year 2050. At the
same time, the availability of water for agriculture is likely to go down further
(proportionally) as a result of fast increasing use of water by the industry and
domestic consumers. As such, this calls for optimizing the efficiency for Water
Resources Management for agriculture.
 Overexploitation paves the way for many collateral hazards like, decline of
water tables, dwindling yield of wells, seawater ingress in coastal aquifers, rising
groundwater pollution etc. As per the latest estimation by CGWB (2017) in
about 17%, area of the country the annual extraction is more than annual
recharge, falling in overexploited category.
 Dramatic regional aquifer depletion is observed, particularly in the northern
regions such as Punjab, Haryana and Western UP, where the Green Revolution
took root and much of the national grain production comes from.
 If we still continue with recklessness through unplanned and un-sustained
extraction of groundwater, the crisis would further aggravate. Groundwater
depletion is becoming a global threat to food security, yet the ultimate impacts
of depletion on agricultural production and the efficacy of available adaptation
strategies remain poorly quantified. Various studies suggest that, given current
depletion trends, cropping intensity may decrease by 20% nationwide and by
68% in groundwater-depleted regions.
 Even if surface irrigation delivery is improved as a supply-side adaptation
strategy, which is being widely promoted by the Indian government, cropping
intensity will decrease, become more vulnerable to inter-annual rainfall
variability, and become more spatially uneven. Since, groundwater and canal
irrigation are not substitutable, additional adaptation strategies will be
necessary to maintain current levels of production in the face of groundwater
 Climate change is acting as a force multiplier; it is enhancing groundwater’s
criticality for drought-proofing agriculture and simultaneously multiply the
threat to the resource. Extreme events in rainfall reduces the recharge to
groundwater since flash floods in place of gradual runoff badly affect recharge.
 Of late, the dialogue on water and the environment has significantly shifted
towards ways in which the environment can not only be conserved but to be
managed to meet human needs on sustainable basis and with a focus on
working with nature to produce co-benefits for both people and nature. Naturebased (friendly) Solutions for Water has significantly contributed to such
 The option of building more surface water reservoirs is increasingly limited
mainly due to environmental concerns and rehabilitation issues. The fact is that
the most cost-effective and viable sites have already been used. In addition,
increasing temperatures lead to increased water loss through evaporation. As
part of this shift, groundwater and the subsurface environments that contain it,
i.e. aquifers are increasingly seen as strategic and integral resources for
providing water supplies and other natural ecosystem services that support
human development and resilience.
 Following to population growth, progressively increasing demands for
groundwater and climate alongwith environmental changes have made the
current situation more complex. As such, it is now critically important to
enhance, manage and sustain services, derived from nature-based
infrastructure of aquifers, through managing and optimizing underground
water storage to enhance resilience in dry periods or seasons of uncertain and
variable climate.
 Deterioration in groundwater quality due to various causes is another serious
issue. A contaminated groundwater, even it is available in plenty, cannot be
considered as a utilizable resource. The deadly arsenic contamination is
increasing day by day and now being reported from 163 districts of 21 states.
 Besides, high salinity, fluoride, nitrate and iron are common water quality
issues. Many researchers argue that contamination is rising as the
overexploitation of resource is expanding.
For protection, conservation and management of ground water resources in the
country the Govt. of India in the Ministry of Water Resources has drafted Model
Ground Water (Sustainable Management) Bill, 2016 and circulated to the states/UT’s
for implementation with a view to overcome the below listed four main obstacles in
achieving sustainable management of this resource:
i. Overbearing power of landowners on access to and control over groundwater
leads to failure of regulation in tackling over-exploitation, contamination and
protection on a larger scale,
ii. Direct links between rights to ground water and land ownership excludes the
vast number of landless people from a direct access to this resource,
iii. Existing groundwater legal regime fails to incorporate many legal
developments and Supreme Court pronouncements that have taken place
over the past few years, and
iv. Existing groundwater legal regime fails to integrate the fundamental right to
water that has been a part of Indian Law for past few decades.
For effective implementation of the Ground Water (SM) Bill 2016, it is critically
important to address certain key issues namely;
i. Delinking of land rights from water rights and the possible legal alternatives
and likely consequences of such separation,
ii. Right to water to be recognized as a fundamental right under Article (21) of
the constitution,
iii. Prioritization of uses with the right to drinking water, being the highest should
be recognized under law,
iv. Comprehensive understanding of legal regimes in which environmental and
other multiple use values would be required for incorporating in any new
legal regime.
Realizing the criticality of groundwater resources, Government of India has also
initiated several schemes to address various issues as under:
 National Aquifer Mapping Programme is going on for detailed mapping of
aquifers since 2012,
 Atal Bhujal Yojana has been initiated to encourage the stake holders to save
 PMKSY- ground water has been initiated to develop further assured irrigation
by extracting untapped groundwater,
 Jal Jeevan Mission to supply tap (piped) water in all rural households, where
groundwater based supply plays a major role.
 In MGNREGA, the largest poverty alleviation programme in the world, major
work components are related to rain water harvesting and artificial recharge.
Increased awareness among the various stakeholders and political and
administrative determination, through various measures will create significant
The seminar is well versed with four technical sessions, covering the whole gamut of
groundwater as resource, from its exploration, monitoring, assessment and
management, contamination, and also impact on groundwater resource by climate
change. It is heartening to see that a session is devoted on community-based
management of the resources. I hope that the inclusive concluding session would
synthesize all deliberations in four technical sessions and pave a way for formulating
the pragmatic recommendations from this seminar. I congratulate in advance all the
expert speakers as well as the panelist of this virtual seminar. I wish a grand success
of this seminar and sincerely thank again for giving me this opportunity to share my
thoughts with the galaxy of experts of groundwater management who are present