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Atal Bhujal Yojana - A scheme for groundwater

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    31st Dec, 2019

Atal Bhujal Yojana has been launched amid growing concerns over the country’s groundwater resources.


Atal Bhujal Yojana has been launched amid growing concerns over the country’s groundwater resources.


  • Prime Minister launched the Atal Bhujal Yojana, or Atal Jal.
  • Atal Jal is a World Bank-funded, central scheme aimed at improving groundwater management.
  • The idea first came up in 2015, in view of depleting groundwater resources. The government announced its intention to start a programme for management of groundwater resources in the Budget of 2016-17.

Features of the scheme

  • ATAL JAL has been designed with the principal objective of strengthening the institutional framework for participatory groundwater management and bringing about behavioral changes at the community level for sustainable groundwater resource management in seven States, viz. Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Implementation of the scheme is expected to benefit nearly 8350 Gram Panchayats in 78 districts in these States.
  • ATAL JAL will promote panchayat led ground water management and behavioural change with primary focuses on demand side management.
  • Out of the total outlay of Rs. 6000 crore to be implemented over a period of 5 years, 50% shall be in the form of World Bank loan, and be repaid by the Central Government.
  • The remaining 50% shall be through Central Assistance from regular budgetary support.
  • The entire World Bank's loan component and Central Assistance shall be passed on to the States as Grants.

How scarce is water in India?

  • India accounts for 16 per cent of the world’s population living in less than 2.5 per cent of the global area, and has just 4 per cent of the global water resources.
  • According to the Central Water Commission (CWC), the estimated water resources potential of the country, which occurs as natural runoff in the rivers, is 1,999 billion cubic metres. Of this, the estimated utilisable resources are 1,122 billion cubic metres per year.
  • With the population rising, demand for water will increase manifold in coming years.
  • By CWC benchmarks, a water-stressed condition happens when per capita availability is less than 1,700 cubic metres, and a water-scarcity condition when per capita availability falls below 1,000 cubic metres.
  • Some river basins are facing a water-scarcity condition. Among these are the basins of the Indus (up to the border), Krishna, Cauvery, Subarnarekha, Pennar, Mahi, Sabarmati and east-flowing rivers, and west-flowing rivers of Kutch and Saurashtra including Luni.
  • Water scarcity is most acute in the basins of the Cauvery, Pennar, Sabarmati and east-flowing rivers, and west-flowing rivers of Kutch and Saurashtra including Luni.

What is the groundwater situation in particular?

  • According to ‘Water and Related Statistics 2019’, a report published by the CWC, the annual replenishable groundwater resources in India (2017) are 432 BCM, out of which 393 BCM is the annual “extractable” groundwater availability.
  • Fifteen states account for about 90 per cent of the groundwater potential in the country.
  • Uttar Pradesh accounts for 16.2 per cent, followed by Madhya Pradesh (8.4%), Maharashtra (7.3%), Bihar (7.3%), West Bengal (6.8%), Assam (6.6%), Punjab (5.5%) and Gujarat (5.2%).
  • The largest user being the irrigation sector. This is why the government has called for alternatives to water-intensive crops such as paddy and sugarcane.
  • Among the states where at least 100 wells were monitored, the highest depletion has been in Karnataka (80%), Maharashtra (75%), Uttar Pradesh (73%), Andhra Pradesh (73%), Punjab (69%).

What is the role of the CGWB?

  • The Board monitors water levels and quality through a network of 23,196 “National Hydrograph Monitoring Stations”
  • A piezometer is a device placed in a borehole to monitor the pressure or depth of groundwater.
  • The CGWB has classified the country’s assessment units (blocks, taluks, mandals etc) into safe, semi-critical and over-exploited in terms of groundwater resources.
  • In the north, more than 60% of the assessment units in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan are either over-exploited or critical.
  • Jal Shakti Ministry had said 14% of the country’s assessment units are semi-critical, 5% are critical, and 17% are over-exploited, as of 2017.

How much of this does the scheme seek to address?

  • For now, the Atal Bhujal Yojana will be implemented in seven states – Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and UP over five years from 2020-21 to 2024-25.
  • It is expected that it will benefit about 8,350 gram panchayats in 78 districts.
  • If the scheme meets its objectives in water-stressed areas, it will be extended to other parts of the country.

How will these objectives be met?

  • The focus will be on arresting the rate of decline of groundwater levels as well as water consumption.
  • The scheme will seek to strengthen the institutional framework and bring about behavioural changes at community level for sustainable groundwater resource management.
  • It envisages community-led Water Security Plans.
  • There has been a Groundwater Management and Regulation scheme to manage the country’s groundwater resources since 2013.
  • The new scheme is an updated and modified version. Concepts such as ‘Water User Associations’ and Water Budgeting will be introduced.
  • Better performing districts and panchayats will get more funds.

Ways to protect and conserve groundwater

  1. Go Native: Use native plants in your landscape. They don't need much water or fertilizer, reducing the need for extensive watering or chemical applications.
  2. Reduce Chemical Use

Use fewer chemicals around you and make sure to dispose of them properly - don't dump them on the ground!

    3.  Manage Waste: Properly dispose of potentially toxic substances like unused chemicals, pharmaceuticals, paint, motor oil, and other substances.

    4. Don't Let It Run: Shut off the water when not needed.

    5. Fix the Drip: Check all the faucets, fixtures, toilets, and taps in your home for leaks and fix them right away, or install water conserving models.

    6. Water Wisely: Water the lawn and plants during the coolest parts of the day and only when they truly need it.

    7. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle: Reduce the amount of "stuff" you use and reuse what you can. Recycle paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, aluminum and other materials.

    8. Natural Alternatives: Use all natural/nontoxic household cleaners whenever possible.


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