Growth in agricultural groundwater use in selected countries, 1940-2010. This figure shows the rapid growth in groundwater use in India, where the increase in the total number of mechanized wells and tube wells rose from less than 1 million in 1960 to 19 million in 2000. Graphic: United Nations World Water Development Report 2015

20 March 2015 (UNESCO) – Any consideration of the quality and quantity of available water supplies in the region must examine groundwater, which is critical to several economic sectors. Experts estimate that groundwater irrigation contributes US$10 to US$12 billion per year to the Asian economy. When also including earnings from groundwater sales for irrigation, that estimate increases to US$25 to US$30 billion (Shah, et al., 2003). Bangladesh, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan together account for nearly half the world’s total groundwater use (IGRAC, 2010).

Smallholder irrigation projects can provide households easy access to groundwater at relatively low costs and is particularly effective in areas with plentiful groundwater resources. In India, the groundwater or tube well revolution has largely contributed to relieving poverty, but the increase in demand for irrigation has also caused severe groundwater stress in areas such as southern and eastern Maharashtra, and Rajasthan. 

The United Nations World Water Development Report, WWDR

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