Atal Bhujal Yojana: Empowering Communities for Sustainable Water Management

Atal Bhujal Yojana


  • Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY) is a groundwater management scheme launched by the Government of India in December 2019.
  • The project aims to address the critical issue of groundwater depletion in India and promote sustainable groundwater management practices.
  • Atal Bhujal Yojana focuses on the participation of local communities, especially farmers and other stakeholders, in the planning and implementation of groundwater management activities.
  • The project is being implemented in water-stressed areas of seven Indian states namely Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

Objectives of Atal Bhujal Yojana(ABY) 


Sustainable Groundwater Management

  • The primary objective of  Atal Bhujal Yojana is to promote sustainable management of groundwater resources in identified priority areas. It aims to address the problem of depleting groundwater levels and ensure its long-term availability for present and future generations.

Community Participation

  • ABY aims to involve local communities, especially women, in groundwater management and decision-making processes. By promoting a participatory approach, the scheme seeks to empower communities and make them active stakeholders in the sustainable use of groundwater.

Institutional Framework Strengthening

  • The project focuses on strengthening the institutional framework for groundwater management. It supports the creation and strengthening of Water User Associations (WUAs) to facilitate effective community participation and local-level management of groundwater resources.

Demand-side interventions

  • Atal Bhujal Yojana promotes demand-side interventions to efficiently manage groundwater resources. It encourages adoption of practices like rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge, efficient irrigation techniques and crop diversification. These interventions aim to reduce dependence on groundwater and increase water use efficiency.

Adoption of Technology

  • The scheme emphasizes the use of advanced technology for groundwater management. It encourages the adoption of monitoring systems, remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques for mapping groundwater resources, monitoring their utilization and implementing effective management strategies.

Awareness and Capacity Building

  • ABY focuses on creating awareness among communities about the importance of sustainable groundwater practices. It conducts awareness campaigns, capacity building programs and training initiatives to enhance the knowledge and skills of stakeholders involved in groundwater management.

Alignment and Collaboration

  • Atal Bhujal Yojana promotes alignment and collaboration among various stakeholders including government agencies, local communities, research institutes and non-governmental organizations. It aims to create synergy and ensure coordinated efforts for sustainable groundwater management.
Title Atal Bhujal Yojana (Atal Jal)
Launch Year 2019
Objective To improve the management of groundwater resources in select water stressed areas in seven states of India
Implementing Agency Ministry of Jal Shakti (Government of India)
Targeted States Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh
Funding Pattern Central Government: 50%, State Government: 25%, World Bank Loan: 25%
Budget ₹6,000 crores
Duration 5 years (2020-2025)
Benefits
  • Sustainable management of groundwater resources.
  • Improved agricultural productivity.
  • Reduction in depletion of groundwater levels.
  • Empowerment of local communities in water management.
Expected Outcomes
  • Increase in groundwater table and availability.
  • Improvement in water-use efficiency in agriculture.
  • Enhanced participation of local communities in groundwater management.
  • Reduction in groundwater exploitation.
Key Components
  • Strengthening institutional framework for groundwater governance and management.
  • Encouraging community involvement in groundwater management.
  • Promoting efficient groundwater use in agriculture.
  • Recharge and rejuvenation of groundwater sources.
  • Implementation of water conservation practices.

Causes of Groundwater depletion


Over-exploitation

  • The primary cause of groundwater depletion in India is over-pumping of groundwater for various purposes such as irrigation, drinking water supply and industrial use. Water demand has outstripped the rate of recharge, resulting in continuous depletion of groundwater levels.

 


Population Growth and Urbanization

  • Rapid population growth, coupled with increasing urbanization and industrialization, places significant pressure on water resources. As cities expand and population increases, the demand for water increases, leading to greater extraction of groundwater.

Agriculture

  • Agriculture is the largest consumer of groundwater in India, consuming about 80% of the total groundwater. Inefficient irrigation practices, such as flood irrigation and uncontrolled use of water, contribute to excessive groundwater pumping and wastage.


Lack of water management

  •  Inadequate water management practices, including the absence of regulations and monitoring systems, exacerbate groundwater depletion. The absence of proper water pricing and the prevalence of free or subsidized electricity for agriculture also discourage efficient water use.

Climate Change and Variability

  •  Climate change and variability can have a significant impact on groundwater recharge. Erratic rainfall patterns, chronic droughts and climate change affect groundwater recharge, further straining available water resources.

Deforestation

  •  Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover reduces the infiltration of rainwater into the soil. Tree cover plays an important role in maintaining soil moisture and promoting groundwater recharge. When forests are cleared for agriculture or other purposes, it disrupts the natural water cycle.

Industrial and infrastructure development

  • Rapid industrial growth and construction of infrastructure projects such as dams, canals and urban development can alter the natural flow of water and reduce groundwater recharge. These activities often involve excavation of land, which disrupts aquifers and reduces their water holding capacity.

Inadequate water conservation measures

  •  Inadequate application of water conservation techniques and technologies increases groundwater depletion. Measures such as rainwater harvesting, watershed management and recharging structures can help conserve and recharge groundwater, but their uptake is limited.
Related Links
Jal Jeevan Mission
PM PRANAM Scheme
PM SVANidhi

Need for Atal Bhujal Yojana


Groundwater Depletion

  •  India is the world’s largest consumer of groundwater, with significant dependence on it for domestic, agricultural and industrial purposes. However, over-extraction of groundwater is depleting it in various parts of the country.  Atal Bhujal Yojanarecognizes this challenge and strives to arrest declining groundwater levels.

Water Security

  • Groundwater plays an important role in ensuring water security, especially in rural areas where surface water sources may be limited or unreliable. By implementing sustainable groundwater management practices, ABY aims to increase water security and provide communities with access to safe and reliable water.

Dependence on Agriculture

  •  Agriculture accounts for a significant portion of groundwater use in India. With more than 60% of the population engaged in agriculture, sustainable management of groundwater becomes imperative. Atal Bhujal Yojana focuses on promoting efficient water use in agriculture and encourages farmers to adopt practices such as drip irrigation, micro-irrigation and precision farming.

Climate Change Resilience

  •  Climate change has a direct impact on water availability and exacerbates the challenges associated with groundwater management. ABY recognizes the need to build resilience to climate change by adopting sustainable groundwater practices, ensuring adequate water availability during droughts and other extreme weather events.

Community Participation

  •  Atal Bhujal Yojana emphasizes local community involvement in groundwater management. The project encourages the formation of Water User Associations (WUAs) to actively participate in decision-making processes, monitor groundwater levels and implement sustainable water management practices at the local level.

Financial Assistance

  •  Atal Bhujal Yojana provides financial assistance to participating States and Union Territories for implementation of various groundwater management activities. The scheme provides funds for activities such as data collection, awareness raising, infrastructure development, and capacity building initiatives.

Institutional Strengthening

  •  ABY focuses on strengthening the institutional framework for groundwater management. It promotes comprehensive water resources management planning, robust monitoring systems and capacity building of stakeholders involved in groundwater governance.

Success Stories and Case Studies of Atal Bhujal Yojana implementation


Gujarat

  •  In Gujarat, Atal Bhujal Yojana has been successfully implemented in Saurashtra region. The project focuses on creating awareness among farmers about water conservation and efficient water management practices. This has led to a significant reduction in groundwater exploitation, with farmers adopting water-saving techniques such as micro-irrigation, precision farming and crop diversification. As a result, water tables in many areas have shown signs of recovery, and farmers have reported increased crop yields and reduced water consumption.

Rajasthan

  •  ABY has been instrumental in addressing water scarcity and promoting sustainable groundwater management in Rajasthan. In some areas, water harvesting structures such as check dams, percolation tanks and traditional reservoirs have been constructed, which have helped in recharging the groundwater table. In addition, the project emphasized community participation and the formation of water user associations, empowering local communities to effectively manage and monitor groundwater resources.

Maharashtra

  •  Atal Bhujal Yojana implementation in Maharashtra focuses on participatory groundwater management and recharge activities. It involved the construction of artificial recharge structures, such as farm ponds and percolation tanks, and the promotion of watershed development activities. These interventions have increased the availability of groundwater, especially during the dry season, and provided a lifeline to farmers in water-stressed areas.

Karnataka

  •  Atal Bhujal Yojana has made significant progress in addressing over-exploitation of groundwater in parts of Karnataka The project has implemented measures like rainwater harvesting, rooftop water storage and groundwater recharge through construction of check dams and farm ponds. By promoting sustainable irrigation systems and providing alternative livelihood options, the project has successfully reduced dependence on groundwater for agriculture and ensured its judicious use.

Madhya Pradesh

  •  ABY implementation in Madhya Pradesh has focused on groundwater management and conservation in the Bundelkhand region, which is known for water scarcity problems. The project introduced technologies such as solar-powered pumps and sprinkler irrigation systems, enabling farmers to use water more efficiently. Moreover, the project encouraged the adoption of agroforestry and the cultivation of drought-tolerant crops, thereby improving groundwater levels and increasing agricultural income.

Challenges


Lack of awareness and participation of stakeholders

  •  One of the key challenges is the lack of awareness among the general public and stakeholders about the importance of sustainable groundwater management. The success of Atal Bhujal Yojana depends on the active participation and cooperation of farmers, local communities and other stakeholders. Creating awareness and ensuring their involvement may require considerable effort.

Data Availability and Accuracy

  •  Effective implementation of ABY requires accurate data on groundwater availability, recharge and discharge. However, in many cases comprehensive and reliable information on groundwater resources is lacking. Collecting and analyzing data on a large scale can be a challenging task and ensuring the accuracy of available data is essential for effective planning and decision making.

Inter-State and Inter-District Coordination

  • Groundwater resources are often spread over multiple states and districts and their management requires coordination among different administrative agencies. Ensuring coordination efforts and collaboration between various stakeholders, including state governments, local authorities and communities, can be a complex task due to differences in priorities, regulations and resource allocation.

Adequate Financial Resources

  • Successful implementation of Atal Bhujal Yojana requires adequate financial resources. Although the government provides funding for the program, it is crucial to ensure a sustainable financial commitment over an extended period of time. Budgetary constraints or competing priorities may limit the availability of funds and pose challenges to the effective implementation of ABY.

Technical and infrastructural constraints

  • Implementation of ABY involves implementation of various technical interventions such as rainwater harvesting structures, groundwater recharge wells, and monitoring systems. However, technical and infrastructural constraints, especially in rural areas, may hinder the implementation process. Availability of skilled manpower and infrastructure required to implement the program may pose challenges.

Institutional Capacity and Governance

  • Effective implementation of Atal Bhujal Yojana requires strong institutional capacity and governance at various levels. This includes capacity building of local institutions, such as Groundwater Management Committees, to effectively manage and control groundwater resources. Ensuring accountability, transparency and effectiveness of these institutions can be a challenge.

Behavioral and cultural barriers

  • Changing long-established practices and behaviors related to groundwater use can be challenging. Farmers and communities may be resistant to adopting new practices or reducing groundwater withdrawals for a variety of reasons, including economic considerations and cultural norms. Addressing these behavioral and cultural barriers requires targeted awareness campaigns, capacity building and incentives.

Conclusion


  • Atal Bhujal Yojana is a transformative initiative that addresses the pressing problem of groundwater depletion in India. Through community participation, efficient water management practices, and institutional strengthening, the project aims to secure the future of water resources in identified priority areas. However, the success of ABY depends on effective implementation, regular monitoring and continued support of all stakeholders involved. Through collective efforts, we can ensure sustainable groundwater management and pave the way for a water-secure future for our nation.

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