First Waterbodies Census - UPSC Indian Geography Notes

First Waterbodies Census – UPSC Indian Geography Notes


The Ministry of Jal Shakti has recently unveiled the findings of its inaugural Waterbodies Census, offering significant insights into the nation’s water resources.

This comprehensive survey presents a detailed inventory of water sources in India, emphasizing disparities between rural and urban areas and diverse degrees of encroachment.

What is the Census of Waterbodies?


The census of waterbodies was carried out concurrently with the 6th Minor Irrigation Census for 2017-18. It defines a waterbody 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.” The census aimed to provide an inventory of India’s water resources, encompassing natural and man-made water bodies such as ponds, tanks, lakes, and more, and to collect data on the encroachment of water bodies.

Key Insights from the Census

The census enumerated a total of 24,24,540 water bodies across the country, with West Bengal accounting for the most (7.47 lakh) and Sikkim the least (134). The report reveals that:

  • West Bengal has the highest number of ponds and reservoirs.
  • The top district in terms of waterbodies is South 24 Parganas in West Bengal.
  • Andhra Pradesh has the highest number of tanks.
  • Tamil Nadu has the highest number of lakes.
  • Maharashtra leads in water conservation schemes.

The report highlights that 97.1% of the waterbodies are in rural areas, with only 2.9% in urban areas. Most of the waterbodies are ponds, followed by tanks, reservoirs, water conservation schemes, percolation tanks, check dams, lakes, and others.

Encroachment of Waterbodies

The census also gathered data on the encroachment of waterbodies for the first time, unveiling that 1.6% of all enumerated waterbodies are encroached, with 95.4% of encroachments in rural areas and the remaining 4.6% in urban areas. A significant percentage of encroachments cover more than 75% of the waterbody’s area.

Significance of Census on Water Bodies

India’s Water Bodies:

  • India is blessed with diverse and distinct water bodies.
  • Water is a crucial element of development, intricately linked with every Sustainable Development Goal.
  • Despite being a recyclable resource, water’s availability is limited, and the gap between supply and demand is widening over time.
  • Concerted efforts are imperative to conserve and preserve these vital water bodies.

Ministry of Jal Shakti:

  • The Ministry of Jal Shakti serves as the nodal ministry, responsible for laying down policy guidelines and programs for the development, conservation, and management of water as a national resource.

Challenges and Importance of Water Resources:

  • Despite India’s abundant supply of water resources, the country is gradually moving towards water scarcity due to increasing population pressure and urbanization.
  • Currently sustaining 18 percent of the world’s population with only 4 percent of global water resources, water resource management is of utmost importance.
  • The availability of water resources is a major issue and a significant challenge facing the country today.

Role of Water Bodies in Indian Landscape:

  • Traditionally, water bodies in the landscape of India have played a crucial role in the supply of drinking water, domestic use, and agriculture purposes.
  • These water bodies, whether natural or manmade (lakes, tanks, ponds, etc.), have been the major source of the Minor Irrigation (MI) system for agriculture.
  • In urban areas, water bodies serve as a vital source of drinking water, absorption of flood water, and a conduit for groundwater recharge.

Importance of Assessment and Conservation:

  • It is essential to assess the existence of freshwater resources, understand their usage, and recognize the roles of climate, technology, policy, and people in the conservation/restoration of these water bodies for healthy and sustainable development.

Need for Water Bodies Census

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources emphasized the necessity of conducting a separate census of water bodies, focusing on the subject of “Repair, Renovation and Restoration of Water Bodies-Encroachment on water bodies and steps required to remove the encroachment and restore the water bodies.”

Utilization of Census Data on Water Bodies:

  1. The data will serve as an authentic dataset for the estimation of the recharge of groundwater.
  2. Under Atal Bhujal Yojana, these data can be used for the assessment of Gram Panchayat-wise water budgets, preparation of realistic water security plans, and planning various supply/demand side measures through the convergence of ongoing schemes.
  3. The information can be used for spatial analysis of the distribution of abstraction structures coordinates (Longitude and Latitude) and assessment of groundwater draft.
  4. The census may provide an opportunity to obtain ground information on instances of water from bore wells being sold and bought at the farm level, although specific reports are not currently available.
  5. The data will be immensely useful to the Department of Fisheries for planning and executing Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY).

Government Initiatives for Water Conservation

  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS)
  • Atal Bhujal Yojana
  • Pradhan Mantri Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY)
  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)
  • Unified Building Bye Laws (UBBL) of Delhi, 2016,
  • Model Building Bye Laws (MBBL), 2016,
  • Urban and Regional Development Plan Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI) Guidelines, 2014
  • Jal Shakti Abhiyan – Catch the Rain

Traditional Water Conservation and Rainwater Harvesting

Traditional methods of water conservation and rainwater harvesting in the country exhibit variations depending on the topography, climatic conditions, soil structure, etc. The Government of India actively promotes best practices related to traditional water conservation methods and disseminates this knowledge to foster awareness and encourage replication in other areas.

What is a water body?

All natural or man-made units bounded on all sides with some or no masonry work used for storing water for various purposes (e.g., industrial, pisciculture, domestic/drinking, recreation, religious, groundwater recharge, etc.) will be categorized as water bodies in this Census.

These structures are typically of various types, known by different names such as tanks, reservoirs, ponds, etc.

A structure where water from ice melt, streams, springs, rain, or drainage of water from residential or other areas is accumulated, or water is stored by diversion from a stream, nala, or river will also be treated as a water body.

Ponds: A small body of water, usually earthen though masonry dykes are also included, and shallow made through excavations representing a restricted environment. Ponds generally describe small bodies of water where one wouldn’t require a boat to cross.

Lakes: A lake is a large area filled with water that is surrounded by land. Lakes lie on land and are not part of the ocean, making them distinct from lagoons, and they are larger and deeper than ponds.

Tanks: A shallow water unit, usually larger than a pond, created by constructing earthen or masonry barricades, receiving water from tube wells or rains.

Reservoirs: A large man-made impoundment of varying magnitude created by erecting bunds, dams, barrages, or other hydraulic structures across streams or rivers, serving purposes such as irrigation, power generation, flood control, or other water resource development projects.


In conclusion, the comprehensive census of water bodies, encompassing diverse natural and man-made structures, serves as a pivotal initiative by the Government of India. The detailed definitions and classifications, ranging from ponds to reservoirs, provide a nuanced understanding of these vital resources. Recognizing the regional variations and promoting traditional water conservation practices underline a commitment to sustainable water management. The census not only quantifies water bodies but also emphasizes their multifaceted roles, from agricultural support to ecological functions. This foundational dataset is crucial for informed policymaking, enabling targeted efforts towards conservation, restoration, and ensuring the resilience of India’s water resources for future generations.

FAQs on First Waterbodies Census

Q. What is the objective of the First Water Bodies Census in India?

Answer – The primary objective of the First Water Bodies Census in India is to provide a comprehensive inventory of the nation’s diverse natural and man-made water bodies, offering detailed insights into their distribution, types, and functions.

Q. How are water bodies classified in the census, and what types are considered?

Answer – The census classifies water bodies based on their nature and usage, encompassing a wide range of types such as ponds, lakes, tanks, and reservoirs. The classification considers factors like topography, climatic conditions, and soil structure.

Q. Why is there a focus on traditional water conservation methods in the census?

Answer – The census highlights traditional water conservation methods as they vary across regions and play a crucial role in sustainable water management. The government aims to promote these practices to address the widening gap between water supply and demand.

Q. What role does the Ministry of Jal Shakti play in the water bodies census?

Answer – The Ministry of Jal Shakti serves as the nodal ministry responsible for policy guidelines and programs related to the development, conservation, and management of water as a national resource. It actively encourages best practices and awareness dissemination.

Q. How can the data from the census be utilized for future water resource management?

Answer – The census data can be utilized for various purposes, including estimating groundwater recharge, assessing water budgets under programs like Atal Bhujal Yojana, and planning supply/demand side measures. It serves as a baseline for monitoring changes and progress in sustainable water management.

For Daily Current Affairs Click Here

Join our Official Telegram Channel HERE
Subscribe to our YouTube Channel HERE
Follow our Instagram ID HERE

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *