Atal Bhujal Yojana

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently launched the Atal Bhujal Yojana, or Atal Jal

Salient Features of the Scheme

  • Atal Jal is a World Bank-funded, central scheme aimed at improving groundwater management. It was approved by the World Bank Board in June 2018.
  • The government announced to start a programme for management of groundwater resources in the Budget of 2016-17, with an estimated cost of about Rs 6,000 crore.
  • Of the Rs 6,000 crore, Rs 3,000 crore will be contributed by the World Bank as loan while the other half will be provided by the central government in the form of central assistance.
  • All of it — the World Bank component and central assistance — will be given to the states as grants.
  • For now, the Atal Bhujal Yojana will be implemented in seven states
    1. Gujarat,
    2. Haryana,
    3. Karnataka,
    4. Madhya Pradesh,
    5. Maharashtra,
    6. Rajasthan and
    7. UP
  • It will be Implemented over five years from 2020-21 to 2024-25.
  • It is expected that it will benefit about 8,350 gram panchayats in 78 districts.
  • According to Jal Shakti Ministry sources, if the scheme meets its objectives in water-stressed areas, it will be extended to other parts of the country.


  • The focus will be on arresting the rate of decline of groundwater levels as well as water consumption.
  • The scheme will seek to strengthen the institutional framework and bring about behavioural changes at community level for sustainable groundwater resource management.
  • It envisages community-led Water Security Plans.
  • There has been a Groundwater Management and Regulation scheme to manage the country’s groundwater resources since 2013. The new scheme is an updated and modified version.
  • Concepts such as ‘Water User Associations’ and Water Budgeting will be introduced.
  • Better performing districts and panchayats will get more funds to further incentivize the quicker adoption of Sustainable Water management Practices

Indian water Scarcity

India accounts for 16 per cent of the world’s population living in less than 2.5 per cent of the global area, and has just 4 per cent of the global water resources.

  • In 2020, according to the Niti Aayog, 21 Indian cities, including Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru, will run out of groundwater.
  • The Aayog’s “Composite Water Management Index” (CWMI), released in June, notes that “Seventy per cent of our water resources are contaminated”
  • According to the CWC, per capita availability in the country will decrease from 1,434 cubic metres in 2025 to 1,219 cubic metres in 2050.
  • Some river basins are facing a water-scarcity Among these are the basins of the Indus (up to the border), Krishna, Cauvery, Subarnarekha, Pennar, Mahi, Sabarmati and east-flowing rivers, and west-flowing rivers of Kutch and Saurashtra including Luni.
  • Water scarcity is most acute in the basins of the Cauvery, Pennar, Sabarmati and east-flowing rivers, and west-flowing rivers of Kutch and Saurashtra including Luni.
  • Groundwater contributes to more than 60 per cent of the country’s irrigation resources. Power consumers in the agriculture sector are billed at highly subsidised rates, which several studies have shown accounts for the over-extraction of groundwater.

Groundwater situation

Water and Related Statistics 2019’, a report published by the CWC, states  that the annual replenishable groundwater resources in India (2017) are 432 BCM, out of which 393 BCM is the annual “extractable” groundwater availability.

  • Fifteen states account for about 90 per cent of the groundwater potential in the country with following 8 being the major contributors
    1. Uttar Pradesh accounts for 16.2 per cent,
    2. Madhya Pradesh (8.4%),
    3. Maharashtra (7.3%),
    4. Bihar (7.3%),
    5. West Bengal (6.8%),
    6. Assam (6.6%),
    7. Punjab (5.5%) and
    8. Gujarat (5.2%).
  • The current annual groundwater extraction is 249 BCM, the largest user being the irrigation sector.
  • Compared to the decadal average for 2009-18, there has been a decline in the groundwater level in 61% of wells monitored by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB)
  • Among the states where at least 100 wells were monitored, the highest depletion has been in Karnataka (80%), Maharashtra (75%), Uttar Pradesh (73%), Andhra Pradesh (73%), and Punjab (69%).
  • The CGWB has classified the country’s assessment units (blocks, taluks, mandals etc) into
    1. safe,
    2. semi-critical and
    3. Over-exploited in terms of groundwater resources.
  • The number of over-exploited units has increased to 1,186 in 2017, from 839 in 2004.
  • In the north India, more than 60% of the assessment units in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan are either over-exploited or critical.
  • The Jal Shakti Ministry had said 14% of the country’s assessment units are semi-critical, 5% are critical, and 17% are over-exploited, as of 2017.

Ways must be found to balance the demands of farmers with the imperatives of reviving the country’s aquifers.

  • Gradually reduce subsidies and offer cash compensation to farmers for every unit of electricity they save.
  • Persuading farmers to adopt more efficient technologies such as drip irrigation.
  • Root for alternatives to water-intensive crops such as paddy and sugarcane.
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