Overexploitation, increasing salinity and industrial pollution are threatening groundwater resources in several parts of the country
OUT OF sight, out of mind. Perhaps that is why the depletion and degradation of groundwater throughout India has gone virtually unnoticed while much concern has been expressed over the condition of surface water resources. The crisis created by falling groundwater levels has grabbed the attention of only the immediate victims and the Central Groundwater Board (CGB), which considers the state of sub-soil water in many parts of the country needs to be addressed urgently.
Lack of focus on the groundwater situation is partly because of the varying extents to which this precious resource is present in different parts of the country. In the eastern areas, there is a surfeit and the water extracted is usually replenished during the monsoons. The arid regions do not receive sufficient rain to compensate for the loss of groundwater during the dry months and in rocky terrain, rainwater does not permeate easily to the natural underground reservoirs, called aquifers. In the last two cases, the net result is loss of water and a drop in the water table.
Overall projections about the rate and extent of aquifer shrinkage are difficult to make because of the wide variations in their sizes. Even though the CGB monitors groundwater at 15,000 points, officials avoid making generalisations, saying the level of monitoring provides only "a gross idea" about the condition of this natural resource.
For centuries, people have dug wells for water for agriculture and human consumption. But with the advent of tubewells, the spread of irrigation and the growth of cities, the state of groundwater deteriorated quickly.
Irrigation accounts for 90 per cent of the country's water use. From the 1960s, intensive agriculture has led to the exploitation of groundwater to such an extent that in areas such as Mehsana in Gujarat and pockets of Haryana and Punjab, it is now common for farmers to drill tubewells to a depth of 450 metres, compared with about 90 metres 20 years ago. Furthermore, after boring so deep, farmers sometimes run into saline water that lies beneath freshwater aquifers.
Urban needs account for 8 per cent of total water consumption and water tables around almost every town and city are falling. Equally alarming is the fact that the area of groundwater depletion is increasing.
Besides being exhausted, groundwater is also getting polluted. Toxic wastes have seeped into aquifers in several industrial townships, the worst affected are the Bombay-Thane belt in Maharashtra, Wapi in Gujarat and Durgapur-Asansol in West Bengal. Residents of these areas now depend on water brought from outside.
The coastal areas are threatened by an even more intractable problem: Heavy withdrawal of groundwater in many areas has caused seawater to infiltrate into the freshwater aquifers, rendering them useless.
To gauge the extent and variety of groundwater problems, three representative cases can be considered: Jodhpur in Rajasthan, for the kind of pressure groundwater has come under from urban and agricultural requirements, and Bichhri also in Udaipur, a stark example of groundwater degradation by industry, and the Saurashtra coast in Gujarat, where saline ingress has forced people to move out. JODHPUR
An unquenchable thirst
In 1459, the rulers of Marwar abandoned their capital, Mandore, to set up another in Jodhpur. The scarcity of water in Mandore and its abundance in Jodhpur was one of the reasons for the shift. But now, many people in western Rajasthan fear Jodhpur may also have to be abandoned, again because of paucity of water.
P C Chatterjee, a hydrologist who has studied the area, warns, "The principal sources of water in Jodhpur are groundwater and rainwater harvesting. While rainwater harvesting has been given up almost entirely, the shocking rate of groundwater exploitation may soon exhaust all the aquifers." In some areas, groundwater levels fall between one and six metres a year, he says.
Chatterjee attributes the crisis to growing municipal demand, unsustainable agriculture and the decline in traditional systems of collecting water. Traditionally, Jodhpur's water requirements were met by storing rainwater in tanks and surface reservoirs and by wells dug either by the authorities or by the people. Though most surface water bodies were natural, their storage capacity was enhanced by public efforts. These water bodies also augmented the capacity of the wells in their catchment by providing for recharge. The arrangement continued until 1897-98, when the first public water supply system was built.
But it was from the 1960s, when demand for tap water began to grow rapidly and more people began to get water in their homes, that interest in maintaining the water bodies waned, says J Venkateswarlu, director of the Jodhpur-based Central Arid Zone Research Institute. Magharam Parihar, additional chief engineer of the public health engineering department (PHED), confirms this. He points out that while only 35,000 water connections were provided between 1928 and 1981, the number more than doubled during the next 12 years.
Meanwhile, as studies done by Venkateswarlu and his colleague, N S Vangani, indicate, the capacity of most traditional reservoirs has gone down and much of the increasing demand for water is being met by pumping groundwater.
The demand for water in the city has gone up with Jodhpur's population increasing from 1.5 lakh in 1951 to more than 6.5 lakh now. Also, as Parihar says, in the past three decades or so, industrial, defence and other users such as hotels have pressed for more water and with a gradual decline in the maintenance and hence the capacity of rainwater collection mechanisms, the pressure for more water has led to overexploitation of groundwater.
Today, this desert city's groundwater requirement, according to official estimates, stands at 130 million litres a day (mld), of which barely 60 mld is available from surface water resources. The rest, and any increase in requirements, is met by groundwater in and around the city. These figures do not take into account the groundwater extracted by individuals. "Today, anyone who can afford it has a tubewell in Jodhpur," says Komal Kothari, a social worker who has studied the water problem in the area. Those who can't install their own tubewells have built tanks that are filled by private tanker operators who purchase water from village tubewells. Depending on the quality of water and seasonal demand, 10,000 litres of water costs anything between Rs 150 and Rs 400.
This has led to a thriving market in potable water and has also fuelled demand among those who can pay for water. Thus, twice-a-day plant-watering and lawn-sprinkling is normal in houses in the posh localities of Jodhpur -- a city where the municipal authorities are unable to supply water for more than three hours on alternate days. And, in most city hotels, round-the-clock water supply is a standard feature.
But the real bonanza for tanker and tubewell owners is the frequent droughts in western Rajasthan, which have increased in intensity even as traditional water harvesting practices decline. As Laxmi Chand Tyagi, a local activist, says: "Now even a little uneven rain can create a drought-like situation for ordinary people because the traditional water reservoirs are in a mess." What seems to have precipitated the crisis is the fact that official handling has been limited to augmenting the shortfall by more groundwater extraction. Even Parihar admits that "emergency measures to provide water during droughts have added to pressure on groundwater." But he adds: "What can we do? People want water and this is the only source."
Even emergency measures during severe water shortages are not withdrawn after the situation improves "because once water is available, demand goes up", says Parihar (See box). On the other hand, because of constant pumping from one site and the consequent fall in water levels, the PHED has been adding to the number of tubewells at every site.
Municipal demand alone cannot be held responsible for the depletion of groundwater around Jodhpur because several farmers in the area have resorted to highly water intensive agriculture using tubewells. Instead of growing traditional crops that require little irrigation, such as bajra, oilseeds, cumin and wheat, most farmers have switched to chillies, vegetables and sugarcane. Even those who grew wheat and mustard now tend to plant irrigation-intensive, high-yield varieties and use heavy doses of fertilisers and pesticides. Says D L Bhatti, joint director of agriculture in the Jodhpur division, "With the advent of tubewells in the area, fertiliser and pesticide consumption has shot up during the past three decades."
Before the "tubewell revolution", the irrigation requirements for crops that suited the desert climate were marginal and could easily be met by wells with Persian wheels. However, once tubewells were introduced, all wells in the vicinity of tubewells dried up. Even the few farmers who were reluctant to change their crop patterns were forced to make use of the water for fear of losing it. Thus, first, pump sets were added to the wells; when these dried up, borewells and tubewells came up, says Pukha Bharati, one of the rich farmers of Rampura.
The result of water-intensive agriculture is there for all to see: Groundwater levels in the Rampura area have dropped about 50 metres in the past 20 years. In the Dolipal area, the level has fallen about 17 metres in 15 years, and in Ransiogaon, it has fallen by more than 16 metres in the past six years. According to state government records, almost all freshwater aquifers are not replenished adequately even in normal rainfall years.
Says K C Purohit, plant protection officer in Jodhpur: "Most farmers here think if they put in more fertiliser and water, yields will increase. There seems to be a competition among farmers to use fertilisers and pesticides. Often, they use water liberally just because it is cheap and get adverse results because of over-watering. Ratanlal Daga, the richest farmer in Mathania, echoes the general mentality: "Kheti to bas khaad aur paani ka khel hain (Agriculture is a game in which fertilisers and irrigation are the only pawns)."
Farmers are aware they will run out of groundwater soon. Already, there are many reports of farmers having to drill at five or six places before striking a good aquifer. But once again, this has only fuelled water consumption because no one wants to waste time wondering about the future. As Daga says, the present is what matters to farmers, even as the city dwellers continue their tirade against the PHED for not extracting "enough water even for a decent bath".
Waiting for justice
For those who believe that legal and administrative provisions are comprehensive enough to protect the country's environment from industrial pollution, Bichhri, a village in Udaipur district of Rajasthan, is a clear rebuff.
The groundwater in Bichhri has been so badly polluted by a chemical factory -- Silver Chemicals Ltd -- that neither the villagers nor their cattle are left with any water to drink.
The people of Bichhri and some activists have tried to remedy the situation, but with the case hanging fire in the Supreme Court, there is still no relief. The villagers' only water is trucked in by the Hindustan Zinc Smelter "on compassionate grounds". Silver Chemicals continues to deny its liability despite several scientific and administrative reports to the contrary.
When the Silver Chemicals plant, owned by O P Agrawal, "a dynamic entrepreneur of Rajasthan", was established about 14 km east of Udaipur in the foothills of the Aravallis in 1988, the villagers were happy about the arrival of another employer.
The factory manufactured a naphthalene-based dye intermediate and discharged a dark red effluent that initially escaped notice. The factory is on an incline and the liquid flowed freely onto the adjoining land. By the time some villagers noticed that their hand pumps were giving out dark red water, the groundwater of Bichhri had become unfit for humans, cattle and agriculture. About 70 wells serving a population of 10,000 in five villages had become contaminated. The Udaisagar lake, the only other source of water for the villagers, had almost dried up in 1988 during a severe drought.
The factory authorities washed their hands of the muck they had generated. Villagers petitioned the district collector, the chief minister of Rajasthan, the PHED chief, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then President R Venkataraman. A group of villagers also approached an Udaipur-based lawyer and activist, Manna Ram Dangi.
Gandhi directed district officials to examine the allegations. The collector of Udaipur and some colleagues visited Bichhri and satisfied that the claims were correct, the Udaipur subdivisional magistrate instituted a case against the factory and its managers. Meanwhile, Dangi helped the villagers set up the Bichhri Paryavaran Suraksha Sangharsha Samiti (Bichhri Environmental Protection Struggle Committee). Dangi also roped in activists from Udaipur, such as Kishore Saint and K L Bapna of the Ubeshwar Vikas Mandal and some members of another NGO, Seva Mandir.
The group first gave a representation to the collector in November 1988 and the following month more than 2,000 villagers protested before the collector. They demanded closure of the factory and compensation for the polluted wells, dead cattle and destroyed crops. They also wanted an immediate arrangement for drinking water as the quality of the water in the hand pumps and the wells had deteriorated further.
The collector appointed an expert committee to look into the matter. Just five days after it was formed, the committee upheld the allegation that the pollution was caused by Silver Chemicals. The next day, December 30, 1988, the additional collector of Udaipur closed the factory with police help.
The factory challenged the order in the Jaipur High Court, which instructed the additional collector to hear the case once again. He confirmed his earlier order. In turn, the company again challenged his ruling in the High Court, where the case is still pending. But Silver Chemicals obtained permission to reopen the factory after building a treatment plant. The plant was operational for barely a fortnight before being closed again because of protests from state and Central agencies.
A Delhi-based NGO, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), brought in noted pollution expert and former member-secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board, G D Agarwal, who was instrumental in persuading the public sector Hindustan Zinc Smelter to provide drinking water by tankers to the villagers. CSE also commissioned scientists from Roorkee University and Aligarh Muslim University to report on the state of the groundwater and causes of pollution. The experts blamed Silver Chemicals.
In the meantime, the villagers' action committee gave a memorandum and a sample of the polluted water to Rajiv Gandhi when he visited Udaipur in 1989. The chief minister and governor of Rajasthan also received samples of the polluted water. The villagers and others involved in the case asked the Supreme Court to provide them with clean drinking water, curb further spread of the pollutants, provide medical assistance for the victims and their cattle, remove sludge and compensate those affected.
The state pollution control board supported the charges made in the petition and the court directed the state government to provide safe drinking water. It also asked the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to give a report on the groundwater of Bichhri. The NEERI findings reportedly confirm the allegations against Silver Chemicals.
Yet, the case drags on. In 1990, the defence lawyer agreed to "de-water" the wells in order to clean them. A total of 69 wells were identified for de-watering but later, the defendants argued that the state pollution control board itself was obstructing the process. The court appointed a commissioner and asked for a report in three weeks. But M C Mehta, a Supreme Court advocate who filed the writ on behalf of Bichhri villagers, says the report was delayed by a year. It again confirmed the charges against the factory. It was only in 1992 that the Supreme Court finally asked the state pollution control board to remove the sludge, which was out in the open and seeping into the ground. It was then buried in cement pits in the factory premises.
Meanwhile, the villagers await a decision in their case. In April 1993, the Supreme Court held its 40th hearing. Not surprisingly, people have lost faith: "There is no hope anymore. After all these years and the involvement of all the big people, we could not even get interim relief."
Kanhaiya Lal Bapna of the Ubeshwar Vikas Mandal is even gloomier, and says "It will be difficult now to mobilise people for another popular protest here on these issues. They are all so despondent."
Before the Green Revolution of the early 1970s, the farmers of Junagadh district on the Saurashtra coast set records in agricultural production. They boast of having done as well as their north Indian counterparts in producing oilseeds, groundnuts, sugarcane, bananas and even wheat. But today, many of them -- particularly those living nearest the coast -- are paying an unexpected price for success: overexploitation of groundwater has turned it saline and virtually useless.
Mandabhai Chavda of Shahpur village in Junagadh district is one of those affected. Pointing to his large house, he laments: "This is the result of prosperity from the banana crop on my two-and-a-half ha of land. I also grew groundnuts, wheat and watermelons. But for the past four years, nothing except chikoos grow on my land because my well has turned saline."
But that is not Chavda's only problem. His family and cattle depend on tap water supplied by the state government, the only source of drinking water in a village of 500 houses and 300 wells. When the tap runs dry, Chavda and his fellow villagers have to trudge upto four km to fetch water. Cultivation has been reduced to growing chikoos, which can withstand salinity, or the lowly kharif bajra. Even coconut trees are being affected: Trees closest to the coast have dried up, while the fruit on those further inland is becoming smaller and salty. Says Chavda: "We get only half the normal price because our coconuts are shrivelled."
In perhaps the worst case of saline damage, about 200 ha of plantations were lost in Mandavi taluka of Jamnagar district. As a result, hundreds of "prosperous" farmers in villages such as Shahpur have become wage labourers in nearby Veraval and Junagadh towns, while some have even gone as far as Ahmedabad and Surat. Chavda, who now works as an agricultural labourer in a neighbouring village, has decided to go to a city once the water in the village turns saline -- an outcome he seems certain of. He explains, "When we take out water from the wells, seawater rushes to fill its place and that is why the water will turn saline even in the village I work in at present."
However, some farmers have been luckier or more resourceful. Ranabhai Mensi Nandania of Talodara village, a rich farmer who won prizes for high yields in 1967-68 from his 16 ha, four km from the sea, is still doing well. Nandania says he received the first warning in 1975, when the water in all the wells in neighbouring Sheel village, which is closer to the coast, turned saline. "This happened because the number of energised wells and tubewells in the area had shot up by as much as 10 times. We realised it would only be a matter of time before our wells met the same fate."
By the early 1980s, all the wells in Talodara had turned saline. In 1987, Nandania spent more than Rs 6 lakh and installed a tubewell on land he owned about two km further inland. He also set up a pipe to lead water from the tubewell to his Talodara farm. Today, he is the biggest employer in the village, with about 20 former farmers working for him as labourers.
Talodara does not receive municipal water supply and so its residents are forced to spend hours getting drinking water from elsewhere. Meraman Karsan, a farmer, loads 10 jerrycans cans of 50 litres each on his bullock cart every morning and spends four hours fetching water for his family and cattle from the nearest freshwater well or tap. "By the time I come back," he says, "I am tired, so I hardly work on my field." In any case, there is little work to do, now that agriculture is limited to rainfed crops, chikoos and a fodder called rajko, none of which requires much tending.
The number of people in the Saurashtra region who are unable to make ends meet from their farms is increasing every year. For most of them, land is the only asset they own, but real estate prices throughout the coastal belt have fallen substantially because of the groundwater contamination. Land prices have fallen below Rs 15,000 a bigha from about Rs 40,000 a bigha in 1978-80. (A bigha varies in size from state to state and can be as much as 0.6 acres and as low as 0.3 acres.) Even at these low prices, there are few buyers. Says Rajiv Bhagwat, a hydrogeologist working in the area with the Agha Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP), "In most cases, no one is willing to buy the land as it is considered a dead loss." Farmers believe that even in areas that now have potable water, the water will turn saline sooner or later. As a result, few want to expand their agricultural operations. As Muhammad Suleiman Ghameria of Hussainabad village in Junagadh district says: "People are trying to reduce their dependence on agriculture. While the rich invest in commercial activities in urban areas, small farmers are sending their family members out for wage labour."
But even a crisis of this magnitude has not prompted farmers to economise on water. If anything, it has only promoted reckless irrigation in areas where groundwater is still usable. The farmers argue they might as well use all the water they can while the going is good because even if some of them restrict use, others will continue to degrade the aquifer. Says one farmer, "I cannot check their use of wells. So I might as well use all the water I can."
Yet farmers are aware of the benefits of restraint. As Motibhai, another farmer in the area, says, "Even now, when the pump is not operated in a well with saline water, a layer of potable water accumulates on top after some time. If all the wells stopped motorised extraction of groundwater, maybe things would improve." He has a point, as saline water is heavier and thus lies below potable water. The pumps stir the well, polluting the freshwater.
Hence, even as more villages in coastal Saurashtra face a drinking-water crisis, crop yields drop, orchards shrink and ever larger number of farmers become wage earners, the cause -- overextraction of groundwater -- continues to grow.
The problems exemplified by Saurashtra, Jodhpur and Bichhri have cast a shadow over the future of groundwater in India and there is little reason to suggest that mechanisms have been evolved to improve the situation.
The official response is best demonstrated by the failure of the CGB to articulate the problem in a convincing manner. Official estimates put usable groundwater resources in India at a comfortable 45.2 million hectare metres (mhm). The CGB has divided the country into 700 zones, of which only about one-third is over-exploited (groundwater extraction exceeds annual recharge.) Depletion has occurred mostly in areas where groundwater is the sole or most viable source of water, says CGB chairperson R K Prasad.
However, this has led to complacency among some policy makers. In the words of a senior CGB official, "For the next five decades or so, there is no cause for worry."
But even those alert enough to see the dark clouds have limited their responses to meaningless measures such as increasing the number of inspectors and withdrawing government loans for wells. None of these measures has curtailed the use of groundwater anywhere. All that has been achieved is to give the rich increasing access to groundwater. While anyone paying a little extra can get an inspector's consent, the moratorium on public finances in over-exploited or dark zones (where annual extraction is more than 65 per cent of annual recharge) has only put small farmers and other poor consumers at a disadvantage. The Mehsana farmers are a case in point. Undeterred by the official measures, the farmers invested as much as Rs 6 lakh to establish a tubewell. Even poor farmers who want to stay in business are forced to either come together to set up a tubewell or sell their land and become wage labourers.
The lack of a systematic approach to regulate groundwater use comes across clearly in the contradictory official policies. For instance, groundwater in most fertile areas around Jodhpur is over-exploited and hence falls in the dark category. The government, on the other hand, despite paying lip service to sustainable agriculture, is also pushing a "special foodgrain production programme" in the area, which seeks to optimise wheat production. The corollary of the government drive, as far as farmers are concerned, is more use of groundwater. Similarly, huge fertiliser subsidies have encouraged fertiliser use and consequently, that of groundwater.
The Gujarat government's decision to base farmers' electricity tariffs on the capacity of their tubewell motors rather than on actual power consumption is another example of contradictory government policies. While the state government has taken measures in recent years to stop funding of tubewells in critically depleted areas, the government changed its electricity tariff policy before the last elections to enable farmers to pay a fixed sum regardless of the power consumed. The consequence is increased extraction of water. Most tubewell owners find it sound economics to sell the water, earnings from which outweigh their electricity costs. The farmers may have benefitted and the government may have gained popularity, but groundwater depletion has accelerated. Political interference has also exacerbated the groundwater situation. While officials refuse to be quoted on this issue, many admit privately that they have faced pressure from political bigwigs to certify dark zones as white (extraction less than 45 per cent of annual recharge) so that farmers could get state subsidies and assistance for installing tubewells.
According to Marcus Moench, a US groundwater expert working in Gujarat, tubewells have come to mean prosperity for farmers, no matter how unsustainable this prosperity might be. With the increase in the number of tubewells, more farmers have joined the rich farmers league, which is the most influential vote-bank in the countryside. No political leader wants to antagonise them.
Jalore in Rajasthan, for instance, continues to receive state assistance for tubewells, though it should fall in the dark category. According to reports, an influential leader from Jalore has made sure of this. But the farmers are also convinced that groundwater is going to run out sooner or later and so are determined to maximise their returns by switching to cash crops while there is still time. According to the ministry of agriculture, there has been a steady decline in the production of coarse grains and foodgrains, as well as a reduction in the cropped area. The gainers have been cash crops, most of which require plentiful water.
It is not that farmers do not want to protect their groundwater. Their apparent callousness is rooted in the belief that someone will otherwise take it away. Another reason appears to be dreams of unlimited surface water sold to them by political leaders and other vested interests. Thus, while the farmers of Jodhpur think the Indira Gandhi canal will come to their rescue, farmers in Saurashtra and Mehsana are convinced that once the Narmada dam is completed, all the lost water will be recovered.
The willingness of farmers to protect the resource is evident from the numerous conflicts over the extraction of groundwater from the countryside to supply cities. Two panchayats near Madras recently refused to allow municipal tankers to take water from their tubewells. When PHED officials went to install tubewells in Ransigaon, the villagers protested strongly and higher authorities had to intervene.
John Ambler, a water resources expert at the Ford Foundation in Delhi says the problem has arisen because of a total lack of priorities for groundwater use. Rajiv Bhagwat of AKRSP agrees and says it is because of the lack of priorities that no discipline can be enforced. He questions the wisdom of allowing high-powered tubewells for agriculture in areas either short of drinking water or facing saline ingress. Bhagwat argues it is possible to reverse salinity but this would require a total halt on the pumping of groundwater in the affected areas for about 30-40 years. The vital question is whether the people will agree to cooperate so that their groundwater resources can be protected.
Bhagwat is confident such cooperation is possible and cites the example of AKRSP's experience in organising farmers to maintain check dams in Junagadh district. The farmers agreed not to lift water directly from the dams so that the accumulated rainwater can recharge the aquifer. "This has succeeded because the farmers themselves look after the dams," says Bhagwat.
On the other hand, a large number of check dams built in the area by government agencies have become ineffective because soon after water accumulates in them, someone starts pumping it and "because it is public property, there is no one to stop this."
This has not discouraged the government from pushing check dams as the solution to groundwater depletion. As CGB chairperson Prasad says, "Right now, our main concern is to make efficient recharge projects." However, the potential of these recharge measures is yet to be established.
"In most critical areas, artificial recharge has acute limitations because it depends on the availability of sufficient rainfall at regular intervals, both in space and time," says Chatterjee. Artificial recharge can succeed only as a localised solution and only when groundwater requirements are moderate. "The amount of external effort required for recharges worries me. Is it possible to replicate them on a macro-level?" asks Tushar Shah, director of the Institute of Rural Management at Anand.
Others, such as M K Patel, joint director of agriculture in Mehsana, are more forthright. "Farming that requires intensive irrigation is not possible with measures like artificial recharge. If the priority is to protect groundwater, then changes in crop patterns will be necessary," he says. Prasad also says "we need to think about crops in relation to the sustainable availability of water."
However, successful experiences on this score are few and even AKRSP activists concede that "until water is available, it is difficult to persuade farmers to restrict its use." As Shah says, the challenge is to develop institutions to manage groundwater instead of leaving it to legislation. But he notes that collective rationality cannot be limited to the farmers alone. Evidence of responsibility must also come from other users such as city-dwellers and industry, "or else why should the farmer protect it?"
Cases like Bichhri and the plight of the model Groundwater Bill circulated 23 years ago, which has not become legislation in even one state (Down To Earth, November 15, 1992), show clearly the futility of official efforts to curb the misuse of groundwater.
On the other hand, examples of farmers' refusal to allow exploitation of groundwater seem to be stronger evidence that once groundwater is seen as a community resource, the community will protect it. So, empowering local communities appears to be the only possible insurance against misuse of the resource. But that would upset the powerful hierarchy of interests led by industry and cities. The question is whether foresight will prevail over such a powerful combination of reckless interests.
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