Goa declared scheduled area to curb groundwater exploitation

Owners of bore-wells, tankers and wells asked to register themselves in two months

By Ashwin Aghor
Published: Saturday 21 April 2012

Alarmed by the overexploitation of groundwater, the government of Goa has declared the entire state as scheduled area. The move aims to regulate utilisation of groundwater. The state government is also contemplating a detailed survey of groundwater resources in the state. Orders to this effect have been issued under the Goa Groundwater Regulation Act of 2002.

“There were several complaints about overexploitation of groundwater. All the owners of private wells, bore-wells and water tanker owners in the state have now been instructed register with government within two months,” said S T Nadkarni, chief engineer of the water resources department, Goa. Despite the Act being passed a decade ago, the water resources department does not have a comprehensive database of private or commercial groundwater users, especially of drinking water wells and bore-wells. The government did make an attempt to collect the data a few years ago. “The effort did not yield results due to non-cooperation of owners of thousands of wells in the state,” Nadkarni said.

Lack of data on dug wells, bore-wells and tankers has become a major hurdle in determining domestic and commercial usage of groundwater. “While the identification of dug wells is comparatively easy, taking a count of bore-wells is considered difficult as these can be hidden anywhere under a box or even inside a house. If the owners fail to register, a drive will be launched to seize tankers and close the wells," Nadkarni said.

There are a few areas in Goa with high potential for groundwater development, states a three-year-old joint study by the water resources department and the Central Ground Water Board's south-western regional office in Bengaluru. “Overexploitation has caused stress on the groundwater table in several parts of the state," said Nadkarni.

The joint study had assessed net annual groundwater availability of the state as on March, 2009 at 132.74 million cubic metres (mcm) and the gross annual withdrawal at 43.83 mcm.

Sewage contamination in coastal areas

Groundwater availability and usage varies from region to region, depending on the geology of each region. The groundwater resources in coastal belt are threatened due to waste from septic tanks. The coastal areas are vulnerable to pollution from septic tanks due to permeable nature of soil. Groundwater in Calangute, among other villages, for example, is contaminated with sewage. “There is no mechanism in place to check septic tank and sewage contamination and location of the tank," said Abhijit Prabhudesai, an environmentalist from Madgaon.

Prabhudesai says the decision to declare the state as scheduled area was a welcome move. “It is good that the government has realised the importance of groundwater resources and their protection. However, general public should not be forced to maintain the records of groundwater as it will unnecessarily create chaos,” Prabhudesai said.  “There should be a mechanism involving panchayats, and local government officials like talathis to ensure smooth functioning of the system,” he added. A senior official of the water resources department, who did not wish to be named, said the department needs to concentrate on areas, especially the coastal belt and towns, where uncontrolled overexploitation of groundwater has been observed.



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