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World Bank approves Centre's Rs 6000-cr Atal Bhujal Yojana

New Delhi : The Centre's ambitious Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY), a Rs 6000-crore scheme aimed at bringing in an improvement in groundwater management in priority areas across the country through community participation, has received the approval of the World Bank.

The scheme will be implemented over a period of five years from 2018-19 to 2022-23 with financial assistance from the World Bank. The scheme comes at a time when groundwater resources in most parts of the country have reached critical levels due to over-exploitation.

The scheme proposal has already been recommended by the Expenditure Finance Committee and the Union Water Resources Ministry will be soon seeking Cabinet approval for it.

The priority areas identified under the scheme fall in Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. These states togetjer represent about 25 per cent of the total number of over-exploited, critical and semi-critical blocks in terms of groundwater in India.

They also cover two major types of groundwater systems found in India - alluvial and hard rock aquifers - and have varying degrees of institutional readiness and experience in groundwater management.

As per the scheme proposal, funds will be provided to states for strengthening the institutions responsible for groundwater governance, as well as for encouraging community involvement for improving groundwater management to foster behavioural changes that promote conservation and efficient use of water.

The scheme will also facilitate convergence of ongoing Government schemes in the states by incentivizing their focussed implementation in identified priority areas. Implementation of the scheme is expected to benefit nearly 8350 Gram Panchayats across 78 districts in the states.

Each participating state will receive funds under the scheme as grants.

The scheme is also aimed at ensuring active community participation in groundwater management and envisages active participation of local communities in various activities such as formation of Water User Associations, monitoring and disseminating groundwater data, water budgeting, preparation and implementation of Gram-Panchayat wise water security plans and IEC activities related to sustainable groundwater management.

Community participation is also expected to facilitate bottom-up groundwater planning process to improve the effectiveness of public financing and align implementation of various government programmes on groundwater in the participating states.

It is expected that implementation of the scheme will lead to several positive outcomes including better understanding of groundwater regime, focused and integrated community-based approach for addressing issues related to groundwater depletion, sustainable groundwater management through convergence of on-going and new schemes, adoption of efficient water use practices to reduce groundwater use for irrigation and augmentation of groundwater resources in targeted areas.

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