Mrunal Manmay Dash

In a piece of distressing news, the groundwater level of nine blocks in Odisha has reached a semi-critical stage raising serious concern about the unabated usage of groundwater and rapid urbanisation.

As per the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), the semi-critical blocks are Khordha, Bhubaneswar, Bolagarh, Talcher, Baliapal, Korei, Jharsuguda, Nayagarh and Nuapada. In Bhubaneswar block, 86 per cent of the recharged-groundwater is extracted every year.

“I have been here for the last 26 years. Once the groundwater level was good in the area. But it has decreased drastically in the last two to three years. The water level drops below the halfway mark towards the end of February every year,” said Mamta Martha, a resident of Kapilaprasad in Old Town, Bhubaneswar.

Not only in Old Bhubaneswar, the groundwater level is falling at an alarming rate in many parts of the Smart City. Data from the CGWB says that in 2020, the groundwater levels in six blocks of the state were in the semi-critical category. But by 2023, the number had risen to nine. That is, more than 70 per cent of the water that seeps into the ground in these blocks is being extracted.

According to the regional director of the CGWB, the rate of extraction of groundwater in the country is 64 per cent and in our state, it is 46 per cent. However, due to urbanization and economic development, the use of groundwater in the state is increasing, which may lead to a crisis situation in the future if immediate steps are not taken.

“Though we are safe as far as the National figures are concerned, but we should not be complacent about it. If we keep using the groundwater the way we are using it till now and without any conservation measures, the situation can deteriorate quickly,” said Dr BK Sahu, In-Charge Regional Director of Central Ground Water Board.

However, water experts and environmentalists say urbanisation and misuse of groundwater are responsible for the depletion of groundwater levels in the state. In many towns, all areas are covered with paver blocks and concrete, so it becomes very difficult for the rainwater to get soaked in the ground.

There is no provision to release rainwater from big buildings into the soil. Factories are also using groundwater. As a result, groundwater is not getting sufficiently recharged. Water experts and environmentalists fear that if proper steps are not taken from now on, there may be a water crisis like Bengaluru in the future.

Ground Water Expert, Tapan Padhi said, “There is not a single State in the world where steel plants are running with groundwater. But we have a steel plant in Jajpur which is running with groundwater. The Union government has been sending model bills since 1996. But the Odisha government is yet to make a groundwater policy. It is needed to control the groundwater extraction.”

“Odisha government should bring a law to make optimum use of the extracted groundwater. Otherwise, the way the climate is changing, groundwater will soon become a scarce commodity in Odisha. We should get cautious before we reach a Bengaluru-like situation in Odisha,” warned environmentalist, Jayakrushna Panigrahy.

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