What is it about?

In Delhi NCR there is a huge gap between water demand and water supply due to which extracting underground water has become a usual practice. We are going deeper and deeper in the quest for water. At some places where there is no piped water supply, underground water is the only source. Looks fine, isn't it? Wait there's a problem : The underground water exists deep in the earth surface, where it occupies the void left by soil pores or rock cracks. At those depths, water is pressurised and it pushes the earth up. The weight of the earth is shared by both the water and the matter underneath. When the underground water is drawn out excessively, the matter underneath becomes the sole entity for managing the load.

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Why is it important?

When we extract water the land goes down (pl see the animation below), and when land goes down it damages underground utilities, such as sewage pipes, water mains supply, etc., and increases chances of waterlogging and flooding. Roads, buildings, and highways are also affected, and most importantly it puts human lives in danger.

Perspectives

Finding alternatives to groundwater, for example installing water treatment plants, promoting rainwater, bringing piped water supply to every household are some potential solutions. What's even more important is to realize that drinkable water is limited, and we have no right to waste it. Final thoughts: This is not just Delhi, It's happening everywhere, just not reported. We need to act now. Every household should be connected to piped water supply no matter what. Moreover, we need stricter laws against illegal mining of natural reserves, and to spread awareness and incentivize rainwater harvesting systems. I hope this work would be useful to NITI Aayog and Delhi Government to plan and formulate new policies.

Shagun Garg
University of Cambridge

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This page is a summary of: Tracking hidden crisis in India’s capital from space: implications of unsustainable groundwater use, Scientific Reports, January 2022, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-04193-9.
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