BENGALURU: The state authorities have allowed more than 9,000 borewells in taluks notified for over-exploiting underground water.
The revelation has prompted experts to describe the watershed development and waterbody rejuvenation programmes as a failure.
It shows how casual the government is about tackling problems with serious implications, they say.
Water resources have been in a rapid decline due to over-exploitation. The Department of Mines and Geology had notified 30 taluks in 12 districts where groundwater resources are critically over-exploited. The number was later increased to 35, and curbs to curb borewells recommended.
However, regulations of the Karnataka Groundwater (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Act of 2011 are consistently ignored.
Alarmed by the development, the member-secretary of the Karnataka Groundwater Authority has recently written to the Deputy Commissioners to ensure that the curbs are strictly implemented. According to data revealed in the December 29, 2015 letter, 10,555 applications were received and permission given to sink 9,141 borewells in taluks where aquifers are severely depleted.
The letter also noted that people continued to flout norms and dig borewells without permission, raising questions about the accuracy of the data.
Five taluks each from Kolar and Chikkaballapura districts, four each from Bengaluru Urban and Rural districts, three from Tumakuru, two each from Chitradurga and Bagalkot districts and one each from Belagavi, Ballari, Chikkamagalur, Davanagere and Ramanagara districts, are taluks notified in the list.
According to a study by the Department of Mines and Geology submitted to the government, people in the taluks were drawing 200 per cent of the groundwater recharge potential in these areas, leading to the crisis.
T V Ramachandra, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, blamed the situation on poor policy decisions. While in Kolar and Chikkaballapura districts, new borewells have an average depth of 1,000-1,200 feet, borewells in K R Puram and Whitefield in Bengaluru urban go down to 1,500 feet, he said.
“Even for Bengaluru, close to 40 per cent of water comes from underground sources. With an increase in average borewell death, water contamination is also higher because of the presence of trace elements such as flouride and arsenic,” he said.
Several representations have been made to the government, but to no avail, he rued. Noting that the affected areas receive enough water to avoid dependence on aquifers, he said conservation measures, such as rainwater harvesting, could turn around such districts.
A senior official said residents of such taluks were forced to consume ‘fossil water’, and so were suffering from dental and skeletal fluorosis. “Even though water from such depths is harmful, we have no choice but to give permission as they have no drinking water otherwise,” he said.
If the government stops giving permission for borewells and prevents the use of groundwater in such taluks, it might take five to six years for the aquifers to rejuvenate, he added.