In a sobering revelation, the latest report from the United Nations has unveiled that certain regions within India’s Indi-Gangetic basin have already crossed the critical tipping point of groundwater depletion. Furthermore, it warns that the complete northwestern parts of India are on track to face a severe and potentially catastrophic groundwater supply shortage by 2025.
The document, titled “Interconnected Disaster Risks Report 2023,” originates from the United Nations University, Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS). It serves as a poignant reminder that our planet is rapidly approaching several environmental tipping points, each with the potential for far-reaching consequences.
Environmental tipping points are those critical thresholds within Earth’s systems, beyond which abrupt and often irreversible changes unfold, leading to profound and, at times, catastrophic alterations in ecosystems, climate patterns, and the overall environment.
The report highlights a range of pressing global issues, with groundwater depletion taking center stage. In the case of India, approximately 70 percent of groundwater withdrawals are directed towards agriculture, particularly when surface water sources are inadequate. Aquifers play a pivotal role in mitigating agricultural losses caused by drought, a challenge that is expected to exacerbate due to climate change.
However, the report sounds a dire warning about the state of these aquifers, which are fast approaching their tipping point. It is revealed that more than half of the world’s major aquifers are depleting at a rate faster than they can naturally replenish. When the water table drops below a level accessible by existing wells, farmers risk losing access to water, posing a substantial threat to entire food production systems.
The implications of these findings underscore the urgent need for sustainable water management, conservation, and the development of strategies to address the impending groundwater crisis in India’s Indi-Gangetic basin. The report serves as a clarion call for collective global action to protect this critical resource and avert potential environmental and food security disasters.