Water conservation

Can we build a sustainable future without groundwater?

Groundwater is one of the country’s most important natural resources on which our future depends. Found in aquifers below the Earth’s surface, groundwater is the mainstay of India compared to any other nation in the world, according to the World Bank. India accounts for around 25% of global groundwater demand. More than 90 percent of groundwater in India is used for irrigation in agriculture. The remaining 24 billion cubic meters provide about 85% of the country’s drinking water needs. About 80 percent of India’s billion people depend on groundwater for drinking and irrigation.

Today, as we celebrate World Water Day, we must remember the “request” made by Honorable PM Modi in his Mann Ki Baat speech in June 2019. PM Modi had urged us to launch a mass movement for water conservation on the lines of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. He urged us to take a close look at water conservation and address the looming water crisis. Following the mantra of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayaas,’ Prime Minister Modi had suggested revisiting age-old methods of water conservation, saving every drop of water and launching an awareness campaign to save water.

If one of the main objectives of World Water Day is to support the achievement of SDG 6 water and sanitation for all by 2030, the theme of this year’s World Water Day is “Groundwater, making the invisible visible”. This is an appropriate theme, as groundwater maintains the base flow of rivers, sustains ecosystems, prevents land subsidence, and is an important part of the process of adapting to climate change. Moreover, it is often a solution for people who do not have access to drinking water. As climate change worsens, groundwater will become increasingly critical. So while groundwater may be out of our sight, it doesn’t have to be out of our mind.

It behooves us to think about the situation of groundwater depletion in India, if we are to provide a better future for our children. If we are committed to becoming the Vishwaguru or realizing the vision of building an Atmanirbhar Bharat shared by PM Modi, then we must implement practical solutions to raise groundwater levels.

One of the greenest and most effective approaches to groundwater conservation is to plant trees. Certainly, planting trees is one of the easiest ways to conserve groundwater because trees can absorb more water and store it in the roots, increasing the amount of water on the earth. It is not new that trees allow more water to seep into the ground and increase the concentration of groundwater.

Over the past decade, there has been a flurry of campaigns and tree planting campaigns that have been launched at the state and national levels. The good part about these planting campaigns is that they were well-intentioned and pointed out by political leaders and celebrities, but the lack of consistency made them ineffective and counterproductive.

In the multitude of campaigns, the effort deployed by CM Shivraj Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh is an imposing example of coherence and strong political and personal will. Having led Madhya Pradesh for the past 15 years through its fair share of water issues, particularly in the Bundelkhand region, Shivraj Chouhan understands the impact of the looming groundwater crisis and the need to address face. So last year in February, while celebrating Narmada Janmotsav in Amarkantak, he decided to plant one tree a day in order to create a movement, albeit in silence. Despite the turmoil of his political life, CM Chouhan kept his commitment to plant a sapling every day. He fulfilled this commitment even while traveling outside the state capital or even during his campaign tours in Gujarat, Bengal and Kerala. After planting more than 500 trees in one year, CM Chouhan celebrated the first anniversary of his solitary and silent movement on February 19, 2022. This effort cemented his image as a far-sighted, futuristic environmental thinker and action-oriented leader.

To resonate his individual effort with the masses, he launched a mass movement called “Ankur Abhiyan” for the people of Madhya Pradesh in May 2022. The motive of this campaign was to encourage people to plant saplings at through this program. Ankur Abhiyan allows citizens to register through the “VayuDoot app” where they can upload photos of their work. Citizens who are most successful and plant the most saplings are declared the winners and awarded by the Chief Minister. The success of this campaign can be measured by the fact that in one year, over 6 lakh individuals (over 2 lakh women and over 4 lakh men) participated in this campaign. People showed extreme enthusiasm and planted more than 2 million saplings, according to official platform Ankur Abhiyan.

CM Chouhan has been an avowed proponent of planting saplings for all auspicious and memorable occasions – be it a birthday, a birthday, the death anniversary of a deceased family member, or the launch of a flagship program. It is this focus on planting trees that will not only reap huge dividends in terms of raising groundwater levels in the state, but also in addressing the threat posed by climate change. As we continue to work to build Atmanirbhar Bharat, learning from examples of great leaders like CM Shivraj Chouhan will only help us to ensure that the topic of groundwater takes center stage and a future sustainability is mapped out for future generations.