How Uttar Pradesh is moving towards water sustainability

Despite the efforts made by the state government, there are still challenges in the implementation of schemes and campaigns

By Faraz Ahmad
Published: Monday 12 June 2023
Photo: iStock

Uttar Pradesh is grappling with unabated use of groundwater resources due to growing demand, particularly in the agriculture sector. In the last 30-40 years, groundwater use has increased due to increase in net irrigated area.

At present, the state is known to have about 87 per cent irrigated area while the national average is only 49 per cent. As a result, the state is now one of the highly irrigated states of the country.

Irrigation in the state is highly dependent on groundwater, with more than 3.7 million shallow tubewells extracting about 41 billion cubic metres (bcm) of groundwater annually for the purpose. This is about 90 per cent of the total groundwater abstraction in the state.

Also, 35-40 per cent of the total irrigation wells in the country are located in this state, according to the State of Groundwater in Uttar Pradesh, Water Aid, 2021.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath stressed on the revival of old lakes, ponds and wells and urged people to use water judiciously during the Groundwater Week Programme in June 2022

The state has undertaken various measures to move towards water sustainability. Some of the significant steps undertaken to meet the objectives are: 

  • Illegal extraction of groundwater made a punishable offence under UP Groundwater management and regulation Act in 2019
  • Strengthening policy framework of the state by forming body of experts to review State Water Policy of 1999 and come with an improved version to address the present day challenges by setting a roadmap
  • Real time monitoring of water bodies, where the data will be used to predict problems like flood or drought and to keep track of the implementation of the projects in a transparent way
  • In 66 districts, the rural water supply stations will leverage the use of solar power. From the past experience it is realised that many schemes of water supply failed due to operation and maintenance issues. Huge electricity bills were accumulated in running the rural water supply scheme and non-payment led to their shutdown
  • Focus on river health system by implementing sewage treatment plant to check the river pollution and achieve desired quality of water
  • Plan to save wetlands by notifying UP Wetland Authority under forest department to champion the cause of saving wetland. Since the authority came into existence six wetlands have been notified under the UN RAMSAR convention

The state is also focusing on revival of the water bodies, particularly ponds as they are an essential source of freshwater and provide numerous ecological, economic and social benefits. 

A total of 245,088 water bodies are enumerated in Uttar Pradesh, out of which 98 per cent (240,140) are in rural areas and the remaining 2 per cent (4,948) are in urban areas, according to the first census of water bodies released by the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti (water resources) in 2023.

A majority of the water bodies are ponds. Out of the total available water bodies, 27 per cent (65,502) are not in use on account of being dried up, siltation, salinity, destroyed beyond repair and other reasons.

However, UP is working tirelessly towards rejuvenation of all the abandoned or non-functional water bodies over the years. 

Distribution of types of water bodies in Uttar Pradesh

Source: First Census of Water Bodies, Ministry of Jal Shakti, 2023

The Amrit Sarovar Scheme, a government initiative, was launched on April 24, 2022 to provide clean drinking water to rural areas in the state. The scheme aims to ensure that every household in the state has access to safe drinking water as a part of source sustainability under Jal Jeevan Mission. 

Jal Jeevan Mission was launched in 2019 by the Centre, aimed at providing functional household tap connections to all rural households by 2024. According to a report by the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), Uttar Pradesh has made significant progress in the implementation of the Jal Jeevan Mission. As of March 2021, the state had provided tap connections to around 3.5 million households, which is about 21.2 per cent of the total rural households in the state. 

Uttar Pradesh tops in country, with 10,858 lakes developed under Mission Amrit Sarovar, which is almost twice the total number of such lakes developed collectively in Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

Top five performing states under Amrit Sarovar Scheme

Source: Created as per the data available on the official website

Another scheme Jal Shakti Abhiyan - Catch the Rain Campaign was launched in 2019 to create rainwater harvesting structures suitable to the climatic conditions and subsoil strata, with people’s active participation, according to the status shared by the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti for the year 2021-23 for the number of work UP ranks 8 out of 36 states / UTs. 

Status of total work done in Uttar Pradesh under Jal Shakti Abhiyan

Source: Created as per the data available on website of Union Ministry of Jal Shakti

Status of different types of work done in Uttar Pradesh under Jal Shakti Abhiyan

Source: Created as per the data available on website of Union Ministry of Jal Shakti 

Another scheme, the Atal Bhujal Yojana (ATAL JAL), is being implemented in 8,562 Gram Panchayats of 80 districts in Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh with an aim to improve community led sustainable groundwater management.

Under this scheme, Rs 7.69 crore was released for Uttar Pradesh for financial year 2020-21 and Rs 32.33 crore for FY 2021-22. The fund from the central government was for 550 Gram Panchayats in 26 blocks of 10 districts. Taking this initiative forward the state government has approved to implement this scheme in the remaining 65 districts which is not covered under the central plan under Uttar Pradesh Atal Bhujal Yojana (as reported in  on 20 November 2020.)

The state government has also implemented Khet Talab Yojana started by the state in 2013. It was later stopped midway by the government for some reason but was implemented again in 2016.  

Through the Uttar Pradesh Khet Talab Yojana, a grant was provided to farmers for converting a part of their farm into a pond. Under this scheme, a grant of 50 per cent will be provided by the state government for ponds of the following sizes: Small (22x20x3 metres) and big (35x30x3 metres).

The main objective of starting this scheme was to provide adequate water for irrigation to the farmers of Uttar Pradesh by constructing ponds in their fields. This scheme will solve the problem of water scarcity being faced by the farmers in the state and increase their income. Khet Talab Yojana was divided into two phases by the government, which are as follows:

First phase: This scheme was first started in the Bundelkhand district of Uttar Pradesh, where about 2,000 ponds were constructed. Rs 12.20 crore was spent in the construction of these ponds.

Second phase: In the second phase of UP Khet Talab Yojana, 3,384 ponds were constructed at a cost of Rs 27.88 crore in highly water extracted 167 critical developmental blocks of 44 districts of the state, including Bundelkhand.

In conclusion, Uttar Pradesh has made progress in the implementation of water conservation and management schemes, but there is still a long way to go to achieve sustainable water management. Despite the efforts made by the state government, there are still challenges in the implementation of these schemes and campaigns due to the lack of awareness and participation of local communities, and poor maintenance of existing water conservation structures. 

But all these efforts are significant steps to have a positive impact on the water bodies in the state by improving the water quality, reducing water scarcity, promoting the recharge of groundwater, and conserving water. This will ensure access to adequate water availability to meet domestic, drinking and agricultural demand, which is essential for the health, socio-economic development and overall progress of the state.

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