Data from the first-ever census report of the water bodies in India indicates that the information on ‘water spread area’ has been reported for over 96% of them. Out of these, 72.4% of water bodies have water spread area less than 0.5 hectares, whereas only 3.1% of water bodies have water spread area more than 5 hectares.
India’s first-ever census report on water bodies undertaken by the Ministry of Jal Shakti was released recently. The report provides valuable insights into the water bodies in India by providing important information such as the size of the water body, usage, status of encroachments, storage capacity, and recovery works, among others. In a series of stories based on the report, Factly had earlier published a story on this census along with an analysis of the distribution of water bodies across the country. We also looked into the useability of these 24.24 lakh water bodies and the reasons, and level of encroachment of these water bodies. All this information has been collected for the first time, during this census exercise. In this story, we look at the water spread area of the water bodies enumerated in the Census. We use data from the first water body census that is available on Dataful for analysis.
For this Census, water bodies have been defined as ‘all-natural or man-made units bounded on all sides with some or no masonry work used for storing water for irrigation or other purposes like industrial, pisciculture, domestic/drinking, recreation, religious, groundwater recharge, etc.’ That is, the water census has covered surface water bodies such as tanks, reservoirs, ponds, and lakes, among others. Free-flowing water bodies without any bounded storage such as rivers, springs, and streams have been excluded from the survey.
Surface water bodies are important source of water for irrigation in areas with low rainfall
Surface water bodies are essential for domestic and drinking purposes, cultural purposes, as well as commercial purposes like pisciculture, for livestock, recreation, and agriculture. In areas with relatively low rainfall and rural areas, such stored surface water bodies are relied upon for irrigation. These bodies also serve ecological purposes and are vital for groundwater recharge. Thus, maintenance and knowledge of such surface water resources is necessary.
The census was launched under the centrally sponsored scheme, ‘Irrigation Census’ in convergence with the 6th Minor Irrigation Census which defines ‘Water Spread Area’ as the area covered by water or the land occupied by the water body (submerged area). This information is crucial to understanding the availability of water resources mainly for irrigation. Further, it is on the basis of this water spread area that the Central Government disburses funds to states for restoring these water bodies.
Majority of the water bodies have a water spread area of less than 0.5 hectares
Of the 24.2 lakh water bodies enumerated in the census, the information on ‘water spread area’ has been reported for over 96% of them, which is about 23.3 lakh water bodies. Out of these, 72.4% of water bodies have a water spread area of less than 0.5 hectares, whereas only 3.1% of water bodies have a water spread area of more than 5 hectares. 13.4% have a water spread area between 0.5-1 hectare and 11.1% have a water spread area between 1-5 hectares. The distribution of water bodies according to ‘water spread area’ is similar across urban and rural areas.
More than 95% of the water bodies in Kerala, HP, and Assam had an area lesser than 0.5 hectares
The distribution of these water bodies by water spread area varies across states. Among large states, more than 95% of the water bodies had an area of less than 0.5 hectares in Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, and Assam. While Delhi and northeastern states of Sikkim, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Tripura also had more than 90% in the category, West Bengal had 88% while Odisha had nearly 78% and Uttar Pradesh had almost 75% in the said category. On the other side, less than 1% of the water bodies in Gujarat had an area of less than 0.5 hectares. The same was nearly 17% in Maharashtra and between 30 to 35% in Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Karnataka too had reported only less than 50% in the category.
Most of the water bodies, more than 35%, in Maharashtra were spread across 0.5 to 1 hectare. In Karnataka, more than 40% fell in this category while Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, and Haryana had over 25 to 30% of the enumerated water bodies in this category. Meanwhile, in Gujarat, about two-thirds of the water bodies, 68%, were spread across 1 to 5 hectares. Even Andhra Pradesh, with 36%, had the greatest number of water bodies in this category. Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh too had more than 30% in this category. Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, and Rajasthan had over 20 to 25% of the water bodies in this category.
16% of the water bodies in Telangana had a minimum area of 5 hectares
Across all the states, at least 8 out of 10 of the enumerated water bodies had an area of less than 5 hectares. In Telangana, however, almost 16% of the water bodies had an area of minimum 5 hectares. This is the highest for a state. Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Karnataka also had more than 10% of the water bodies in this category.
Telangana and AP alone accounted for more than 50% of the large water bodies with area more than 50 hectares
In terms of the share of large water bodies spread over more than 50 hectares, Rajasthan had the highest with 2% such water bodies of all the water bodies in the state while Telangana and Andhra Pradesh had more than 1% of the water bodies. However, in terms of number, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh alone accounted for half of such water bodies enumerated in the country. Ten states- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal- which are top contributors to both marine and inland fisheries in the country account for more than 55% of the water bodies in the country with a minimum area of 5 hectares.
RRR scheme is implemented to safeguard surface water bodies
The scheme of Repair, Renovation & Restoration (RRR) which is a component of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (Har Khet Ko Pani) provides Central Assistance to States for the creation and restoration of irrigation potential under the RRR of Water Bodies schemes. The objectives of this scheme include comprehensive improvement and restoration of water bodies thereby increasing tank storage capacity, groundwater recharge, increased availability of drinking water, and improvement in agriculture productivity, among others. As per the latest guidelines, rural water bodies with a minimum water spread area of 2 hectares (1 hectare for Northeastern, Sikkim and Hilly States including UTs of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh), and urban water bodies with a minimum water spread area of 1 hectare (0.5 hectares for Northeastern, Sikkim and Hilly States including UTs of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh) are eligible for inclusion under the scheme.
This census data will be useful to determine the eligible water bodies in the respective states and UTs. If all the water bodies in urban areas with a minimum area of 1 hectare alone are considered, nearly 7,300 (11% of all water bodies in urban areas) water bodies are eligible for the scheme. Likewise, in rural areas, if only those with a minimum water spread area of 5 hectares are considered, nearly 71,000 water bodies will be eligible for the scheme. Considering that about 86% of these water bodies have a water spread area of less than 1 hectare, these water bodies are not eligible for funding under the scheme to rejuvenate and restore them. According to government data, about 2,169 water bodies across 10 states were included in the scheme between 2016 and 2021, out of which the work on 1,132 was completed as of April 2022. The water spread area to be considered was relaxed since 2021-22 to encourage more states to take up the funding.
The changes in water spread area must be monitored
Both natural and anthropogenic factors affect the water spread area of water bodies. Considering the significance, measures should also be taken to track the change in the water spread area of these water bodies which would be useful for policymakers and researchers to identify the factors and come up with targeted interventions to prevent the same. The government should continue to carry out the census and publish the results on a periodic basis.
Featured Image: Water Bodies in India