The Union Minister, Dr Jitendra Singh, launched the Heliborne water survey technology on 7 October 2021. It was developed by CSIR- NGRI, Hyderabad, for groundwater management. The state-of-the-art technology, Heli Survey Technology, is used to map groundwater sources in arid regions of the country. The survey will help in using groundwater for drinking purposes. This is a 150 crore project in collaboration with the Ministry of Jal Shakti as a part of the National Aquifer Mapping Project. The project will help the Prime Minister’s goal of “Har Ghar Nal Se Jal”, which means drinking water supply to every household and doubling farmers’ income.
National Aquifer Mapping Project
The National Aquifer Mapping Project (NAQUIM) is implemented by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB). It was initiated as part of the Groundwater Management and Regulation Scheme to characterise the aquifers (water-bearing formations) and format groundwater management plans. It envisions mapping of aquifers, their characterisation and development of Aquifer Management Plan to assist sustainable management of groundwater resources. Aquifer mapping is a scientific process. A combination of geologic, geophysical, hydrologic and chemical field and laboratory analyses is applied to characterise the quality, quantity, and sustainability of groundwater resources in aquifers.
Developments in various parts of the country have led to a depletion of groundwater resources. One of the sustainable groundwater management is systemic aquifer mapping. It will help to monitor and implement national policies to conserve groundwater resources. There is a total mappable area of nearly 25 lakh sq km, and aquifer maps and management plans have been prepared for a spot of almost 11.24 lakh sq km in various parts of the country. According to the groundwater resource assessment done by CGWB and State groundwater departments, 1186 assessment units in the country are categorised as over-exploited, of which aquifer mapping has been completed in nearly 75% of Units.
Heli-Borne Survey Technology
The heli-borne survey maps underground water sources in the arid regions to provide safe drinking water for millions of people. The Hyderabad CSIR and National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) have managed the High-Resolution Aquifer Mapping & Management in Arid Regions of North-Western India to increase the groundwater resources. The heli-borne geophysical mapping technique provides high-resolution 3D images for sub-surface up to 500 meters below the ground level. The states that are included in the survey are Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana. The survey began at Agolai Village, Jodhpur, on 6 October 2021.
The main advantage of the Heliborne geophysical survey is that it is fast, precise, highly data-dense, and economical. This survey will be implemented in two phases. The first phase covers an area spanning 1 lakh sq km. This includes 65,000 sq km in eight districts of Rajasthan, 32,000 sq km in five districts of Gujarat and 2,500 sq km in two districts of Haryana.
The heli-borne survey will help cover larger areas to obtain more accurate data to help use groundwater for drinking purposes. It will help water conservation, identifying new places for groundwater recharging at a lesser cost than the prevalent ones like digging tube wells using geophysics and remote sensing techniques. It will help in organising new schemes for improvement in water level in water scant areas.
The hot arid regions in India include Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. It covers almost 12% of the geographical land in India, and around eight crore people live in these arid regions. Rajasthan has one of the largest cattle populations, which requires a lot of water. These regions have scarce natural resources and an inhospitable climate ranging from -2 to 48 degrees celsius. Rainfall differs from less than 100 mm to 400 mm and is highly unpredictable. Therefore, there is an acute shortage of water in these areas. Pollution of surface water and groundwater from both human and animal waste has threatened public health since these water bodies are often used as drinking water sources. These states usually use canals to transport water, however, 20- 30% of this water are lost due to unwanted seepage. The Heli-borne survey technology will enable people to have better access to safe and unpolluted water for their use. The survey can assess the quality and quantity of water from existing and new sources. This will help them to manage the water sources in a better way and will be able to find freshwater sources at less cost.