First ever Water Bodies Census finds 97% of India's water bodies in rural areas
Out of all water bodies, the census reported 38,496 as encroached, out of which a whooping 95.4 per cent of the encroached water bodies are in rural areas. Ponds, tanks and lakes play a major role to fulfil water-related needs of the rural hinterlands, where tap connections are still a pipe dream.
गाँव कनेक्शन 29 April 2023 1:37 PM GMT
With the rising heatwaves and acute water crisis in parts of the country, water bodies such as ponds, lakes and tanks become more important than ever. More so in the rural hinterland where motors to extract groundwater, either through electricity or diesel, is an additional financial burden.
In a bid to address the lack of data on such water bodies, the First Census of Water Bodies published by the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti on April 23, has recorded their total number. According to the census, a total of 2,424,540 water bodies have been counted in the country, out of which 59.5 per cent (14,42,993) are ponds, 15.7 per cent (381,805) are tanks, 12.1 per cent (292,280) are reservoirs whereas remaining 12.7 per cent (307,462) are water conservation schemes/check dams/percolation tanks/lakes and other water bodies.
Out of the total recorded water bodies in the census, 97.1 per cent (23,55,055) are in rural areas while 2.9 per cent (69,485) are in urban areas. West Bengal has the biggest share in the numbers, followed by Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Assam.
The census is the first of its kind because until now the water bodies data published by the Union Ministry only included the bodies which were used for minor irrigation activities.
The report mentioned that ‘the need for conducting a separate census of water bodies was pointed out by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources’ to take cognisance of encroachments on water bodies and measures needed to remove these encroachments in order to restore the water bodies.
In the census report, the ministry has defined a water body as an ‘all natural or man-made units bounded on all sides with some or no masonry work used for storing water for irrigation or other purposes’.
It noted that water is a recyclable resource but the availability is limited and the gap between the supply and demand is widening over time.
Furthermore, it warned that the climate change at the global scale will be creating more water stress conditions in many regions of the world.
Over years, the disappearing ponds and lakes have been a point of concern. A report titled ‘Composite Water Management Index’, published by NITI Aayog in June 2019, showed that large economic contributing states, including Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala and Delhi, had low-water management scores. The report says that such “poor management can hamper India’s economic progress.”
Also Read: Ponds, integral to the rural landscape, are fast disappearing. Indian govt has no data on these local water bodies
Such findings reiterate the water stress reeling in the country, and the need for proper data records of available water bodies in usable condition.
Out of all water bodies, the census reported, 38,496 as encroached, out of which a whooping 95.4 per cent of the encroached water bodies are in rural areas.
Ponds, tanks and lakes play a major role to fulfil water-related needs of the rural hinterlands, where tap connections are still a pipe dream. In such scenarios, public owned water bodies become a necessity, which can be accessed by anyone and everyone.
But out of the total number of water bodies, 55.2 per cent are under private ownership whereas only 44.8 per cent in the public domain. The panchayats own only 6,77,003 out of total 24,24,540 water bodies — a mere 27.9 per cent. This is a cumulative figure for both gram and zila panchayats.
You can read the full First Census of Water Bodies here