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  • by Karma Loveday

Groundwater "gravely mismanaged" putting "millions of lives" at risk Water Aid warns

Ground water reserves in developing countries are not clearly monitored and “gravely mismanaged, needlessly putting millions of lives at risk” according to a report by charity Water Aid.


The chief threats, the report said, arose from poor data and lack of legislation that were allowing over-extraction, and pollution to grow in these vital buffers against drought.

In WaterAid multi-country research on water security: HSBC Water Programme, Water Aid warned: “Governments are blindly making policies that are ill-informed of their current groundwater situation, meaning that problems cannot be identified and addressed before they become critical.”


The report authors appraised the security of these sub-surface sources of water in five countries: Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Nepal and Nigeria. “Unreliable data seriously impedes effective management of groundwater in all five countries,” Water Aid reported. It found instances in Nepal and Nigeria where records were often on paper or incompatible digital formats.


"Left unchecked, the lack of data will significantly limit the monitoring and evaluation of groundwater quantity and quality, meaning it can’t be relied on by millions of people who depend on it for their daily water supply,” the report said.


And the researchers found that “widespread lack of legal control over how much groundwater is extracted and by whom, leaves these vital reserves at high risk of exploitation.” It offers an example in Bangladesh where it reported authorities “persistently ignored” concentrations naturally-occurring arsenic in drinking water, “vastly exceeding legal maximum levels.” This, according to the report exposed some 35 million people to “dangerous” levels of arsenic.


“This chronic lack of enforced groundwater policies embeds the risk of over-exploitation and pollution,” said the report authors.


Image WaterAid/ Abir Abdullah

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