The Indian government on Monday signed a USD 450 million loan agreement with the World Bank with an aim to support the national programme to control the depleting groundwater levels and strengthen groundwater institutions.
With the support of World Bank, the Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY) - National Groundwater Management Improvement Programme will be implemented in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh and cover 78 districts. These states cover the hard rock aquifers of peninsular India, as well as the alluvial aquifers of the Indo-Gangetic plains.
The loan agreement was signed by Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, on behalf of the Government of India and Junaid Ahmad, Country Director, India on behalf of the World Bank.
Among other improvements, the programme will enhance the recharge of aquifers and introduce water conservation practices, which involve promoting activities related to water harvesting, water management, and crop alignment; creating an institutional structure for sustainable groundwater management, and equip communities and stakeholders to sustainably manage groundwater.
Sameer Kumar Khare said that in India, groundwater forms an important source for rural and urban domestic water supplies and its depletion is a major concern.
He added that the Atal Bhujal Yojana aims to strengthen the groundwater management with the participation of others and encourage behavioural changes at the community level for sustainable groundwater resource management. The latest technology, involving Artificial Intelligence and space technology will further help in better implementation of the programme.
This programme will benefit the to rural areas and in the context of climatic shifts, build the flexibility of the rural economy. The programme will have a global impact as it stands as one of the important programmes of groundwater management worldwide.
The programme will introduce a planning process to develop water budgets and Water Security Plans (WSPs). Water budgets will assess surface and groundwater conditions (both in quantity and quality) and identify current and future needs.
The WSP, will focus on improving groundwater quantity and encourage selected states to implement the proposed actions. Such community-led management measures will make users aware of consumption patterns and facilitate a reduction in groundwater consumption.
"The Programme will support on-ground actions that are based on community ownership and judicious management of water resources.
Reversing groundwater overexploitation and degradation is in the hands of the hundreds of millions of individuals and communities - they need the right incentives, information, support, and resources to move to a more sustainable development and management of groundwater resources," said Abedalrazq Khalil and Satya Priya, Senior Water Resources Management Specialists and World Bank's Task Team Leaders for the programme.
Crop management and diversification will also be focused on the programme. There will be a focus on micro-irrigation systems, including sprinkler and drip irrigation to increase productivity and farmers will be supported to shift to low water-intensive crops.
To facilitate this process, the government will transfer nearly eighty per cent of the fund to local governments, including districts and gram panchayats, as incentives for achieving targets in groundwater management. The remaining money will be used for providing technical support for sustainable management of groundwater and strengthening institutional arrangements in the selected states.
The loan of USD 450 million from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) in India, has a grace period of 6-year and a maturity of 18 years.
(with inputs from ANI)