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Introduction

India is home to about 1.3 billion people. Providing access to clean and safe drinking water to all citizens is one of the major concerns for the government. Groundwater is the primary source of water to meet domestic, agricultural and industrial needs. With rapid urbanization and increasing population, groundwater has come under immense strain. The immediate need to address this mismanagement of groundwater gave rise to the establishment of ‘Atal Bhujal Yojana (ATAL JAL)’.

The utilization of groundwater for various purposes is not standardized throughout the country. Out of a total of 6,881 evaluation units (Blocks/Mandals/Talukas/Firkas) in the country, 1186 units in various states (17%) are classified as 'Over-Exploited', suggesting exploitation beyond the annual replenishment capacity of groundwater.

Considering the worrying level of groundwater in India and the need to ensure the long-term sustainability of groundwater supplies in India, Atal Bhujal Yojana has been established by the Department of Water Management, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti.

The main goal of the scheme is to improve the national organizational structure for collaborative groundwater management and bring in systemic improvements at the community level for effective groundwater management. Atal Bhujal Yojana has been conceived by the Ministry of Jal Shakti to resolve the criticality of groundwater supplies in a significant part of the country.

The purpose of the system is to enhance groundwater quality in the country's focus areas through community engagement. The focus areas listed under the scheme are Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. All these States account for around 25% of the overall amount of over-exploited, sensitive and highly critical groundwater blocks in India. They also protect two main forms of groundwater structures present in India – alluvial and hard rock aquifers – and have differing degrees of institutional preparation and expertise in groundwater management.

Salient features of the Atal Bhujal Yojana

  • Atal Bhujal Yojana (ATAL JAL) is a centrally sponsored scheme intended to promote efficient groundwater supply and management with a budget of Rs. 6000 crores. Out of this, Rs. 3,000 crores would be given as a loan from the World Bank and Rs. 3,000 crores as a corresponding investment from the Government of India.
  • The scheme focuses on community engagement and demand based initiatives for effective groundwater management in defined areas of water stress in seven regions of our country.
  • The project also envisages enhancing the quality of the Jal Jeevan Mission's source, providing a meaningful contribution to the Government's aim of 'doubling farmers' incomes' and inculcating behavioural improvements in the society to encourage optimum water usage.
  • Funds under the program shall be issued as grant-in-aids to the member states. The funding of the World Bank will be issued through a new loan mechanism, the Plan for Performance (PforR), under which the funds under the system will be disbursed from the World Bank to the Govt. of India for disbursement to the participating States on the basis of the achievement of the pre-agreed outcomes.
  • The system is being introduced in 8353 water-stressed Gram Panchayats in Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

Details of area encompassed under the Atal Bhujal Yojana

StateDistrictsBlocksGPs

Gujarat

6

24

1,816

Haryana

13

36

1,895

Karnataka

14

41

1,199

Madhya Pradesh

5

9

678

Maharashtra

13

35

1,339

Rajasthan

17

22

876

Uttar Pradesh

10

26

550

TOTAL

78

193

8,353

Implementation of the Atal Bhujal Yojana

The scheme is implemented via two specific approaches: 

  • Institutional Strengthening & Capacity Building component: This component aims to reinforce the institutional frameworks for groundwater governance by promoting a robust database, research approach and community engagement in the groundwater field by the participating States in order to allow them to manage their resources sustainably. It has a budget of Rs.1400 crores.
  • Incentive Component: It seeks to incentivize States for achieving pre-defined results, with a focus on community engagement, demand management and integration between the numerous ongoing schemes of the central and state governments and the consequent enhancement of the groundwater regime. This component is made up of Rs.4600 Crores.

The Atal Bhujal Yojana Scheme can be implemented in different ways in the designated areas. The system calls for the active involvement of the societies in different events, such as

  • Formation of Water User Associations
  • Monitoring and distribution of data on groundwater
  • The budgeting of water
  • Preparation and execution of Gram-Panchayat Water Security Policies
  • IEC practices relevant to safe water resources

Public engagement is therefore required to promote the cycle of bottom-up groundwater utilization process in order to increase the quality of public financing and coordinate the execution of various policies setup by the government on groundwater management in such participating regions.

Disbursement Linked Indicators (DLIs)

These indicators have been established to calculate the incentives to be given to the states:

  • 10% of incentive fund for public disclosure of groundwater data/ information and reports
  • 15% of incentive fund for preparation of Community-led Water Security Plans
  • 20% of incentive fund for public financing of interventions through convergence of on-going schemes
  • 40% of incentive fund for adoption of practices for efficient water use
  • 15% of incentive fund for improvement in the rate of decline of groundwater levels

How can the Atal Bhujal Yojana Scheme benefit us?

The execution of the policy is projected to have a variety of successful results.

  • It can result in a deeper comprehension of the land water system
  • Leads to a concentrated and coordinated community-based solution to solving concerns relevant to groundwater deterioration
  • Promotes sustainable groundwater resources by the integration of current and new systems
  • Encourages the implementation of effective water usage methods to reduce the use of groundwater for irrigation
  • Helps improve groundwater supplies in selected areas

What are the expected outcomes from the Atal Bhujal Yojana Scheme?

  • Institutional enhancement of groundwater monitoring systems and building capacity of stakeholders at various levels to facilitate the collection, sharing, study and distribution of groundwater data.
  • Improved and practical water budgetary control focused on an updated database and the planning of community-led Panchayat Water Security Plans.
  • Execution of water conservation policies through the coordination of numerous ongoing / new schemes of the Government of India and State Governments to promote the clear and efficient usage of funds for sustainable groundwater resources.
  • Efficacious utilization of groundwater supplies with focus on demand side initiatives such as micro-irrigation, crop diversification, isolation of electricity feeders, etc.

FAQs

1. Who are the primary beneficiaries of the Atal Bhujal Yojana?

The Atal Bhujal Yojana covers 7 focus areas chosen specifically for groundwater management - Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

2. How much funding do the states get under the scheme?

The total scheme budget is Rs.6000 crores, which shall be given as grant – in – aids to the states based on their needs and proven results.

3. What is the time period of this scheme?

This scheme was implemented in 2018-19 and is expected to go on till 2022-23, for a total of 5 years.

4. What is the primary objective of this scheme?

The primary objective of the scheme is better management of groundwater resources to improve usage towards drinking use and agricultural needs.

EndNote

In a country like India, which has a population of 1.3 billion, managing its water resources is very critical to the overall development of the nation. groundwater is an important source of domestic water supply that needs immediate attention. The Atal Bhujal Yojana strives to achieve better groundwater management through incentivizing the states and equipping them with the right tools and resources.

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