Napo Jal Bachao Kal campaign - the pre-monsoon groundwater monitoring 2022 exercise commences

Women use an open source groundwater monitoring tool that enables collection of water level data of wells and its collation on a web platform for easy access by all. (Image: FES)
Women use an open source groundwater monitoring tool that enables collection of water level data of wells and its collation on a web platform for easy access by all. (Image: FES)
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Starting May 15, 2022 Mamatha from Andhra Pradesh, and Rameshwar from Maharashtra, equipped with a mobile phone and a measuring tape, will be joining several others heading to their fields and neighbouring villages to measure wells. What they will be doing will contribute to the larger goal of measuring and managing India’s groundwater resources via the nation-wide Napo Jal Bachao Kal campaign.

Their plan is simple: measure their wells and upload the data via the Groundwater Monitoring Tool (GWMT) to better understand the situation of the local groundwater table. The GWMT is an open-source android tool, which enables collection of well water level data and its collation on a web platform for easy access by all.

Mamatha and Rameshwar will be one among 5,500+ individuals participating independently, or with 100+ NGOs across India in what is possibly the world’s largest crowdsourced groundwater monitoring project. Last year, 32,000+ wells were measured before and after the monsoons. The work of each of these individuals and organisations is crucial for the future of the world’s largest groundwater user– India.

India uses 25% of all groundwater extracted every year globally. 70% of agriculture and 85% of our drinking water supply depends on groundwater. A major component of the groundwater extracted (89%), is used in the irrigation sector, followed by domestic use (9%) and lastly industrial use (2%).

Owing to this alarming rate of extraction and usage, India is fast moving towards a crisis of groundwater overuse and contamination. Lack of good quality, location-specific data for most parts of the country hinders its sustainable management. Thus, there is an urgent need to shift from groundwater development to its management by identifying and mapping groundwater, quantifying the available potential, and proposing plans that can improve recharge and use of groundwater resources. A robust understanding of the state of groundwater in India will help in its management and governance at the local level.

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A growing movement with a national goal

The number of participants and wells have been steadily growing over the past 2 years. “The aim of Napo Jal Bachao Kal,” according to Chiranjit Guha, the principal architect of the GWM Tool, “is to measure at least one well in each of the 6 lakh villages across India before and after the monsoons, year after year. This will give us a comprehensive insight into the status of groundwater at its lowest and highest levels. Having this information will help us better manage and govern our water resources. As an example, 430 wells have been measured in Kotri block of Rajasthan, providing a picture of the temporal changes of groundwater within the villages of the block. This has given us insights about the changing water levels in the villages, and helping in identification of villages where the decline in groundwater tables is acute. This aided our discussion with the communities to move towards better water governance practices.”

 

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The graph here shows that the water table in 2020 improved by about 2 meters, but as the water used during the year was more than the recharge, the table declined to 357.5 meters in 2021 pre-monsoon, indicating a depletion of 1 meter as compared to pre monsoon level of 2020. Further, we see that the groundwater levels improved considerably in 2021, with the water table increasing by about 9 metres, owing to the collective efforts of the communities towards water conservation.

 

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