India Close To Groundwater Depletion Tipping Point, Warns UN Report

India Close To Groundwater Depletion Tipping Point, Warns UN Report

Some countries, like Saudi Arabia, have already exceeded the groundwater risk tipping point, while others, including India, are not far from it.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Thursday, October 26, 2023, 05:31 PM IST
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Around 70 per cent of groundwater withdrawals are used for agriculture | Representative Image

Some regions of India's Indi-Gangetic basin have already passed the groundwater depletion tipping point, and the complete northwestern parts are expected to have a critically low groundwater supply by 2025, as per the latest report by the United Nations.

The document titled "Interconnected Disaster Risks Report 2023" and issued by the United Nations University, Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), the report highlights that the world is approaching six environmental tipping points: accelerating extinctions, groundwater depletion, mountain glacier melting, space debris, unbearable heat and an uninsurable future.

Why environmental tipping points are critical

Environmental tipping points are critical thresholds in the Earth's systems, beyond which abrupt and often irreversible changes occur, leading to profound and sometimes catastrophic shifts in ecosystems, climate patterns and the overall environment.

Around 70 per cent of groundwater withdrawals are used for agriculture, often when above-ground water sources are insufficient. Aquifers are crucial in mitigating agricultural losses caused by drought, a challenge expected to worsen due to climate change.

However, the report warns that the aquifers are approaching a tipping point. Over half of the world's major aquifers are depleting faster than they can naturally replenish. When the water table falls below a level accessible by existing wells, farmers may lose access to water, posing a risk to entire food production systems.

Other countries including India

Some countries, like Saudi Arabia, have already exceeded the groundwater risk tipping point, while others, including India, are not far from it. "India is the world's largest user of groundwater, exceeding the use of the United States and China combined. The northwestern region of India serves as the bread basket for the nation's growing 1.4 billion people, with the states of Punjab and Haryana producing 50 per cent of the country's rice supply and 85 per cent of its wheat stocks.

However, 78 per cent of wells in Punjab are considered overexploited, and the northwestern region as a whole is predicted to experience critically low groundwater availability by 2025," the report says.

Jack O'Connor, the lead author and senior expert at UNU-EHS said, "As we approach these tipping points, we will already begin to experience the impacts. Once crossed, it will be difficult to go back. Our report can help us see risks ahead of us, the causes behind them and the urgent changes required to avoid them."

(With inputs from PTI)

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