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Falling Groundwater Level in Bihar Districts Becoming a Matter of Concern

According to the state's most recent economic survey, declining groundwater levels and deterioration in quality in some Bihar districts have become a source of concern for state authorities over the last two years.

Shivam Dwivedi
The water quality of the Ganga and its tributaries in Bihar indicates a higher bacteriological population
The water quality of the Ganga and its tributaries in Bihar indicates a higher bacteriological population

An assessment of pre-monsoon groundwater levels across the state revealed that groundwater levels have declined in districts such as Aurangabad, Saran, Siwan, Gopalganj, West Champaran, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, Khagaria, Saharsa, Supaul, Madhepura, Purnea, Kishanganj, Araria, and Katihar in the last two years. "The matter is being investigated by the department," Bihar Public Health Engineering Department Minister Lalit Kumar Yadav.

"We are planning a new study to determine the causes of the deterioration in water quality and preventive measures that can be taken to mitigate it. Measures to control the decline in groundwater levels will also be discussed with other state government departments," he said. According to the Bihar Economic Survey (2022-23), during the pre-monsoon period in 2021, groundwater levels were at least 10 metres below ground in districts such as Aurangabad, Nawada, Kaimur, and Jamui.

In 2020, the pre-monsoon groundwater level in Aurangabad was 10.59 metres, but by 2021, it had dropped to 10.97 metres. Other districts, such as Saran (5.55 metre in 2020 to 5.83 metre in 2021), Siwan (4.66 metre in 2020 and 5.4 metre in 2021), Gopalganj (4.10 metre in 2020 and 5.35 metre in 2021), East Champaran (5.52 metre in 2020 and 6.12 metre in 2021), and Supaul, have similar results (3.39 metre in 2020 and 4.93 metre in 2021).

"The dipping groundwater levels in various districts in the state is a matter of concern, as it critically supports agricultural, industrial, and domestic activities. In addition to affecting the state's economic growth, declining groundwater levels have other consequences such as the depletion of freshwater resources and the creation of ecological imbalances, according to the Bihar Economic Survey. It stated that, in addition to human activities, rainfall fluctuations caused by climate change can have an impact on groundwater recharge. The report stated that despite the state's abundant water resources, groundwater contamination has increased in recent years.

Bihar has 968 canals, 26 reservoirs, and a large number of state tube wells as of 2021. "The water quality of the Ganga and its tributaries in Bihar indicates a higher bacteriological population" (total and faecal coliform). This is primarily due to sewage/domestic wastewater discharges from cities located on the banks of the Ganga and its tributaries," it stated. Groundwater quality in 30,207 rural wards spread across 29 districts was found to be affected out of 1,14,651 rural wards in Bihar, according to the report.

The state government's PHED has developed a quality monitoring protocol for testing water and sharing test results with users to ensure that a surveillance system is in place, according to the statement. When asked, gastroenterologist Manoj Kumar stated that drinking untreated water poses a serious threat to human health. Drinking water contamination causes a variety of diseases, including typhoid, diarrhoea, hepatitis, cholera, and other viral infections.

"Groundwater mostly gets contaminated with leakages in sewage lines or through septic tanks. It has a high total dissolved solids concentration, which must be reduced to make the water potable. It could also contain other dangerous elements. "Drinking fluoridated water, for example, may result in fluorosis," he explained.

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