Karnataka's groundwater situation alarming, says report
Karnataka treats its groundwater with utter callousness, a recently released government report illustrates. Not only has the water level in the state depleted further and the water quality declined, the area under exploitation has also increased. The situation in 84 of the 380 watershed areas in the state is critical. More than 100 per cent groundwater is tapped in over 50 per cent of Bangalore, Kolar, Chitradurga, Tumkur and Bijapur. Both pre- and post-monsoon groundwater levels have shown significant long-term decline in these places.
"Water levels have reduced and the area of over exploitation has spread," said M Basappa Reddy, director, department of mines and geology (Do MG), reacting to the recently released, much-delayed report on groundwater resource status of Karnataka as on December 12, 1999. The earlier assessment was made in 1994 in which 43 taluks were declared either dark or grey areas, depending on the degree of groundwater exploitation. The 1999 report has analysed watershed areas instead of taluks.
The critical areas also include 16 areas with a little less than 100 per cent exploitation of groundwater but where the pre- and post-monsoon ground water levels showed significant long-term decline. Some other areas that tapped over 100 per cent groundwater but did not show significant long-term decline in pre- or post-monsoon groundwater levels have also been branded critical. Forty-seven areas in six districts where 70 to 90 per cent groundwater was tapped have been declared semi-critical.
Depleting groundwater levels have also led to a rise in its fluoride concentration. Fluoride presence in water was reported from 18 districts. Besides, the nitrate content in water in parts of nine districts was above the permissible limit of 50 milligramme/litre. Improper sewage disposal is said to be the casue of high nitrate levels. The report charges industries located in and around Bangalore, Kunigel, Nanjungud, Hassan and Gokak with causing water contamination. The assessment has been whetted by the Central Ground Water Board and presented to the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, which will check the financing of projects in overexploited areas.
Meanwhile, the Do MG has decided to release another report by March 2005 in which the status of groundwater till the end of 2004 would be recorded. "Since groundwater is not static and is used everyday, the situation as of today must be far worse. This report  cannot be valid today," reasons T N Venugopal, deputy director, Do MG. Reddy proposes framing groundwater laws, building artificial recharge structures and banning the drilling of borewells in overexploited areas. There are around 0.85 million borewells in the state.
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