India is the world’s largest user of groundwater, ahead of even the USA and China. India has always been a groundwater civilization, but until recently, restricted itself to tapping the shallow aquifer through dug wells. In the last 40 years, however, approximately 30 million rigs have dug into the deeper aquifers. Unabated extraction has brought water tables crashing down. Almost 60% of groundwater blocks are in a critical state.
Yet, the Indian state regulates groundwater with a very light touch, hobbled by antiquated laws and the lack of institutional capacity. So, how can India manage its groundwater more sustainably?
The talk will focus on the experience of my foundation, Arghyam to answer this question. If groundwater is a common pool resource, how should it be looked after to avoid the tragedy of the commons? What is the role of the state, of new technologies and of community leadership?
In prototypes deployed around the country, Arghyam and its partners have demonstrated how community level management can deliver safe, sustainable water equitably.
Managing water resources better is key to India’s dream of rapid prosperity for all. If it does, India will show the way to many countries with their own water emergencies.