What is Atal Bhujal Yojana?

The Union Government on December 25, 2019 launched a ground-breaking ambitious scheme, the Rs. 6,000 crore Atal Bhujal Yojana (Atal Jal). The scheme aims at effective ground water management to benefit nearly 8350 Gram Panchayats in 78 districts of seven states– Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. It will be implemented over a period of five years (2020-21 to 2024-25).

The scheme, which was approved by the World Bank Board in June 2018, assumes significance in view of the fact that the fast depleting ground water contributes to nearly 65% of the total irrigated area of the country and nearly 85% of the rural drinking water supply. India accounts for 16% of the world’s population living in less than 2.5% of the global area and has just 4% of the global water resources.

The limited ground water resources in the country are under further threat due to the increasing demands of a growing population, urbanisation and industrialisation. The increasing stress on ground water due to overexploitation, contamination and associated environmental impacts threaten to endanger the food security of the nation.

The scheme, to be implemented by the Department of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation (Ministry of Jal Shakti), will focus on areas where groundwater is very low. It has been designed with the principal objective of strengthening the institutional framework for participatory groundwater management and bringing about behavioural changes at the community level for sustainable groundwater resource management.

Out of the total outlay of Rs. 6000, 50% shall be in the form of a World Bank loan and will be repaid by the Central Government. The remaining 50% shall be through Central Assistance from regular budgetary support. The entire World Bank’s loan component and Central Assistance shall be passed on to the States as grants.

The ‘Atal Jal’ has two major components. First, the ‘Institutional Strengthening and Capacity Building Component’ targets strengthening of institutional arrangements for sustainable ground water management in the States including improving monitoring networks, capacity building, strengthening of Water User Associations, etc. Secondly, the ‘Incentive Component’ aims at incentivising the States for achievements in improved groundwater management practices.

According to the Central Water Commission (CWC), the per capita availability of the ground water in the country will decrease from 1,434 cubic meters in 2025 to 1,219 cubic meters in 2050. Compared to the decadal average tor 2009-18, there has been a decline in the groundwater level in 61 % of wells monitored by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), according to a reply by the Jal Shakti Ministry in Parliament recently.