Maharashtra leads the country in terms of water conservation efforts with 92.7 per cent of its 97,000-plus enumerated water bodies covered under water conservation schemes, according to the first-ever water bodies census report released by the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
The report says that the top five States in terms of number of water bodies are West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Assam. These States constitute around 63 per cent of the total water bodies in India. In terms of ponds and reservoirs, West Bengal has the highest number whereas Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu lead in the number of tanks and lakes respectively.
Conducted in 2018-19 by the Central government, the census provides a comprehensive database of India’s water resources, including natural and man-made water bodies like ponds, tanks, lakes, and more. This would contain information on all important aspects including their size, condition, status of encroachments, use, storage capacity, and status of filling up of storage, among others.
About 24,24,540 water bodies have been enumerated in the country, of which 97.1 per cent are in rural areas while 2.9 per cent are in urban areas. Of the total, 59.5 per cent of water bodies are ponds, followed by tanks (15.7 per cent), reservoirs (12.1 per cent), water conservation schemes (9.3 per cent), and lakes (0.9 per cent), with the rest constituting 2.5 per cent.
Of the total enumerated water bodies, 78 per cent (18,90,463) are man-made while the remaining 22 per cent (5,34,077) are natural ones. Out of the natural water bodies, 96.5 per cent are in rural areas and only 3.5 per cent are in urban areas, which the report attributes as a possible outcome of urbanisation. In case of man-made water bodies, 97.3 per cent of them are in rural areas and the remaining 2.7 per cent lie in urban areas.
Close to 4 lakh water bodies (16.3 per cent) have fallen into disuse on account of reasons such as drying up, construction, siltation, destroyed beyond repair, and salinity. Most of the remaining water bodies (83.7 per cent) are used in pisciculture, followed by irrigation, ground water recharge, and domestic or drinking purposes.
About a tenth (9.6 per cent) of the water bodies are located in tribal areas while 8.8 per cent of them lie in flood prone areas. Under the “Drought Prone Areas Programme”, there are 1,74,592 such water bodies (7.2 per cent) whereas 49,470 fall in naxal-affected areas (2 per cent) and 16,018 under the Desert Development Programme (0.7 per cent).
The report found that 55.2 per cent of water bodies are owned by private entities whereas 44.8 per cent of water bodies are in the domain of public ownership. Out of all public-owned water bodies, most are owned by panchayats, followed by State Irrigation or Water Resources Departments. In terms of privately owned ones, a majority are in the hands of individuals, followed by group of individuals and other private bodies.
In terms of data on encroachment, the report found that 1.6 per cent (38,496) of the enumerated water bodies are reported to be encroached, a majority of which are ponds followed by tanks. While 95.4 per cent of the encroached water bodies are in rural areas, the remaining 4.6 per cent are in urban areas. Of all those water bodies whose encroachment areas could be assessed (24,516), 62.8 per cent of them have less than 25 per cent area under encroachment whereas 11.8 per cent water bodies have more than 75 per cent area under encroachment.
(with inputs from ANI)