HESS Opinions: The myth of groundwater sustainability in Asia

Schwartz, Franklin W.; Liu, Ganming; Yu, Zhongbo

Across the arid regions of water-stressed countries of Asia, groundwater production for irrigated agriculture has led to water-level declines that continue to worsen. For India, China, Pakistan, Iran, and others, it is unrealistic to expect groundwater sustainability in a verifiable sense to emerge. Fragmented governance and the general inability to bring traditional socio-economic tools to bear on reducing groundwater demands have impeded progress to groundwater sustainability. For India and Pakistan, where operational management is at the level of states and provinces, there is no capacity to regulate. Also in both China and India, the tremendous numbers of groundwater users, large and small, confound regulation of groundwater. With business as usual, groundwater-related problems receive insufficient attention, a situation referred to as an “accelerating and invisible groundwater crisis” (Biswas et al., 2017). Another obstacle to sustainability comes from trying to manage something you do not understand. With sustainable management, there are significant burdens in the needed technical know-how, in collecting necessary data, and in funding advanced technologies. Thus, there are risks that Iran, India, and Pakistan will run short of groundwater from over-pumping in some places and will also be adversely affected by global climate change.



Schwartz, Franklin W. / Liu, Ganming / Yu, Zhongbo: HESS Opinions: The myth of groundwater sustainability in Asia. 2020. Copernicus Publications.


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