A tube well in densely populated Mango, Jamshedpur, is unable to pump water any longer because the aquifer is too deep below the surface. Picture by Bhola Prasad
A chunk of Jamshedpur and its suburbs, which are outside Jusco’s command, are staring at a parched summer to say the least.
Experts claim the city’s much abused water table has touched a new low and the consequences can be “disastrous” in coming days, if vertical growth continued unchecked without recharging of groundwater.
The Ground Water Directorate of Jharkhand and the Central Ground Water Board had evaluated the status of the natural resource in 2011-12, and had put the steel city in the “overexploited” category.
S.L.S. Jageshwar, the director of the state directorate, said groundwater use and abuse in the industrial hub was indeed alarming. “Exploitation in the city is 132 per cent — the second highest in the state after Ranchi. Jharia in Dhanbad comes a distant second at 106 per cent, followed by Godda at 118 per cent. All the three come under the overexploited category,” he said.
This rampant misuse has dragged down the water table by nearly 100ft in the past seven-eight years. The table, which was 40-50ft below the surface in 2005-06, is now at 120-150ft in city and its adjoining areas.
Executive engineer of drinking water and sanitation department’s Jamshedpur wing Raghunandan Sharma confirmed that according to data based on digging of tube wells in the city and its outskirts, accumulation of groundwater had gone down drastically.
“Around 5-6 years ago aquifers (a layer of rock or soil that can absorb and hold water) could be found at 40-50ft, but now we have to dig tube wells to a depth of 150-200ft to reach aquifers. Most old tube wells have become defunct because of depleting groundwater level,” Sharma said.
Experts blame vertical growth of the city — high-rises with deep boring facilities, but without rainwater harvesting apparatus to recharge groundwater — for this exhaustion.
“Apartments are mushrooming everywhere to keep up with the population boom. In the absence of a water security plan in the state, builders exploit groundwater. Even the civic body cannot make water harvesting methods mandatory in new buildings because there is no legislation to support the cause,” Sharma rued.
More than 100 high-rises have come up in Jamshedpur and its outskirts in five years.
Jageshwar pointed out that this had also led to a decrease in the average number of rainy days in the region. “The number decreased from 70 some five years ago to 50 in 2011-12. The trend is disturbing and can be disastrous,” he warned.
The region receives around 900mm rainfall every year. Rainwater harvesting seems the only viable way to check a prolonged dry spell.