Peoples’ Participation for Sustainable Groundwater Management
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India is the largest user of groundwater in the world. Over 85% of rural domestic water, around 48% of urban domestic water, and 60–70% of agriculture water are groundwater dependent. This has resulted in the overexploitation and acute depletion of the resource in many parts of the country. Despite the manifold short- and long-term consequences of such dependence on a fast depleting and critical resource, India has made little headway in its regulation or conservation. While groundwater exhibits the qualities of a classic common pool resource—those of subtractability and excludability, in reality, it has largely been treated as private property. Much of the problem lies in the juxtaposition between the public and common pool nature of groundwater and its rampant private, atomized, and unregulated extraction. As the volume diminishes and quality deteriorates, lack of regulation and appropriate management can lead to both inter- and intra-use conflicts with considerable political and socio-economic impacts. Therefore, in order to conserve this resource it is imperative to shift away from a paradigm of private groundwater development to a more sound system of groundwater management. This paper argues that despite the relative invisibility of groundwater and the complexities that surround its governance, decentralized management options offer better solutions for long-term sustainability of the resource and ensure social equity. Firstly, it argues for a hydrogeological foundation for groundwater management. Secondly, given the decentralized nature of aquifers, community participation is essential for the sustainability of this resource. Finally, it highlights the urgent need for policy initiatives that recognize the common pool nature of groundwater and facilitate bottom-up innovations that reflect the local geological and socio-economic specificities of the resource Sengupta 2015.
KeywordsGroundwater Participatory management India Hydrogeology Aquifer
PGWM programme has been jointly developed by Arghyam and its programme partners, Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM), Arid Communities and Technologies (ACT), People’s Sciences Institute (PSI), and Watershed Support and Services and Action Network (WASSAN) in 2010, who have been pioneers in promoting this programme. The authors acknowledge the efforts of the study group and team members working in these organizations for their valuable inputs, support during this PGWM programme work since January 2010. We are also grateful to the rural communities whose adoption of these principles and practice of PGWM have provided rich insights and learning from across the PGWM locations in various hydrogeological typologies. We sincerely acknowledge the support received from various levels of government, national, state, district, block, and panchayats for providing resources, knowledge, and guidance to the implementation of the programme. We would also like to thank all our colleagues at Arghyam, specially Sundar M Senthilnathan for editing the document and for their valuable inputs and comments on various drafts of this paper.
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