Environment & Biodiversity Governance

The Ministry of Jal Shakthi Conducts the First-Ever Water Bodies Census

The Ministry of Jal Shakthi has produced the first-ever census of water bodies in India, detailing the number and utilisation of water bodies. The census recorded 24,24,540 bodies of water in India. The Census gave important insights about the country’s water resources, including discrepancies between rural and urban areas and varied levels of encroachment. The information can be used to design rural development initiatives and to conserve natural resources.

Definition of water bodies

  • In this census, water bodies are defined as any natural or man-made structures used to store water for a variety of reasons such as irrigation, industry, fish farming, residential use, recreation, religious activities, and groundwater recharge. Tanks, reservoirs, and ponds are the three types.
  • A water body is also a structure that gathers water from melting ice, streams, springs, rain, or drainage from residential or other areas, or holds water diverted from a stream, nala, or river.

The Water Bodies Census: Everything You Need to Know

  • Launched as part of the Irrigation Census: In order to create a comprehensive national database of all water bodies, the census was launched under the centrally sponsored scheme, Irrigation Census, in conjunction with the 6th Minor Irrigation Census.
  • Complete information: The information on all significant characteristics of the water bodies, such as their nature, condition, encroachment status, use, storage capacity, storage filling state, and so on, was gathered.
  • Extensive coverage: It included all water bodies, whether in use or not, in rural and urban regions. The census also considered all types of water body uses, such as irrigation, industry, pisciculture, domestic/drinking, recreation, religious, ground water recharge, and so on.
  • Completed and published: The census has been completed, and the national and state-level reports have been published.

The Census’s significant results Disparities in rural and urban areas:

  • There are 24,24,540 water bodies in the country, with 97.1% (23,55,055) in rural areas and only 2.9% (69,485) in urban areas.
  • Man-made vs. natural water bodies and encroachment: 78% of water bodies are man-made, while 22% are natural. 1.6% (38,496) of all enumerated water bodies have been reported to be encroached upon, with 95.4% in rural areas and the remaining 4.6% in urban areas.
  • West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Assam are the top five states in terms of the number of water bodies, accounting for around 63% of the total water bodies in the country.
  • West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, and Tripura are the top five states in terms of the number of water bodies in urban areas.
  • Top 5 States in terms of number of water bodies in rural areas: West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Assam.
  • Ponds account for 5% of all water bodies, with tanks (15.7%), reservoirs (12.1%), water conservation schemes/percolation tanks/check dams (9.3%), lakes (0.9%), and others (2.5%).
  • Private ownership: Private entities own 2% of water bodies. The majority of privately held water bodies are in the hands of individual owners/farmers, followed by groups of persons and other private bodies. West Bengal, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Jharkhand are the top five states in terms of privately owned water bodies.
  • Public ownership: 8% of water bodies are owned by the government. Panchayats own the majority of publically held water bodies, followed by State Irrigation/State WRD.

Major use of water bodies

Of the total 20,30,040 utilised water bodies,

  • Pisciculture: West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh have the highest utilisation of water bodies. Among the total of 20,30,040 water bodies in use,
  • Irrigation: The top five states in terms of water body use are Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, and Gujarat. Irrigation accounts for 16.5% (3,35,768) of total land area.
  • Groundwater replenishment: Of the total 20,30,040 used water bodies, 12.1% (2,44,918) were used for groundwater replenishment.
  • Domestic and drinking water: 1% (2,05,197) allocated to domestic and drinking water requirements. The rest are used for recreation, industry, religion, and other purposes.

The significance of water bodies

  • Ecological Importance: Water bodies provide habitat for a variety of aquatic plants and animals, hence preserving ecosystem biodiversity. They also help to regulate water cycles, recharge groundwater, and reduce soil erosion.
  • Water bodies have cultural and religious significance in many communities. They also offer chances for fishing, swimming, boating, and other recreational activities.
  • Economic Importance: They are important in agriculture since they provide irrigation water to crops. They also help the fishing sector, which is a major source of income for many towns. Furthermore, water bodies help to generate hydropower and are used for industrial and home purposes.
  • Water bodies can help alleviate the effects of climate change by acting as carbon sinks and managing the microclimate in surrounding areas.
  • Water bodies can serve as natural buffers against natural calamities such as floods and droughts. They can also help to alleviate the consequences of water scarcity by providing alternate water sources.

What is the significance of the water body census?

  • Improvements in management and conservation: The census offers an inventory of the country’s water bodies, which can aid in improved resource management and conservation. It can help policymakers make informed decisions about water usage and distribution, especially in locations where water is scarce.
  • Data-driven planning: Census data can be used to identify regions where water bodies require repair or preservation. It can also aid in detecting gaps in water resource availability and utilisation, which can be addressed through data-driven planning and decision-making.
  • Addressing environmental issues: The census can help identify water bodies that are threatened by pollution or other environmental issues. These bodies of water can be prioritised for remediation and conservation activities.
  • Economic benefits: The census can assist in determining the potential economic benefits of water bodies, such as fishing, irrigation, or tourism. This can help to promote sustainable resource use and create job opportunities for the local community.
  • Better targeting of government schemes: Census data may be used to better target government water conservation and management projects and programmes. This can help ensure that the benefits of such programmes reach the intended recipients and that the resources are spent efficiently.

@the end

The census of water bodies in India provides useful data for rural development programmes, natural resource conservation, and encroachment prevention. The data also emphasises the significance of sustainable water management practises and the preservation of natural resources for future generations. The census highlights the importance of water bodies in supporting livelihoods, guaranteeing food security, and providing access to safe drinking water.

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