Conflicts and Competition around Groundwater Resources

Competition and Conflicts around Groundwater
Groundwater resources are often the only source of water supply particularly for meeting drinking water needs of rural habitations. As towns and cities grow, the groundwater dependence increases, either as a supplement to surface water or as a stand-alone resource. The dynamics of the competition surrounding groundwater resources depend upon the properties of aquifers that govern the accumulation and movement of groundwater. These properties, commonly called hydro-geological characteristics, decide the outcomes of the groundwater competition in the forms of ‘who wins and who loses’. The outcomes themselves have significant implications not only in terms of sustainability but also around equity and justice in the use of groundwater resources. It is therefore important to understand such competitions because of its potential to change into fully blown conflict. ACWADAM, Pune is the mainly anchoring this thematic research on studying and analysing the potential conflicts around groundwater in the Mahanadi basin. The findings of the research will feed significantly into the Forum’s work on water conflicts in India.
Following are the broader objectives of the groundwater theme:
1.    To identify, understand and describe the typology of groundwater competition and conflicts at different scales in Mahanadi river basin
Secondary data was collected mainly from central groundwater Board on recharge and base flows across the basin, rainfall patterns and the hydro-geological characteristics. Primary data was collected in the identified locations of Hasdeo-Bango, Hirakud command area and the delta region of the Mahanadi basin. Through the field visits, the status of groundwater in the aquifers, nature and extension of groundwater conflict were identified in the regions. Specific legal and institutional regimes related to the development of groundwater in the Mahanadi basin are also being studied. Currently ACWADAM is preparing a paper on the groundwater status and the identified conflicts and competition in the Mahanadi basin.

2.    To draw specific inputs from the above study and integrate it with findings from ACWADAM’s other projects for macro-analysis of groundwater in India
ACWADAM will attempt a slightly macro-scale analysis of how groundwater competition and conflicts unfolds in different hydro-geological settings and the nature of responses that can enable an equitable and efficient resolution of such conflicts. A paper on this shall be published in the last year of this thematic activity.

Besides, the above activities, ACWADAM is planning to publish a compendium of cases studies around groundwater conflicts in India. Also, the dissemination of results or findings of this thematic activity shall be done in a three-fold manner, i.e., a) create awareness on groundwater management strategies through meetings and workshops, b) Supporting the research of other themes, especially in the context of groundwater and understanding the hydro-geological aspects, and c) include the water conflict theme in ACWADAM’s ongoing training programmes on ‘aquifer mapping and participatory groundwater management’

Detailed reports about field visits and updates are available through Mahanadi Basin Newsletter.