Groundwater extraction causing parts of city surface to sink: Study
Hindustan Times|January 18, 2022
NEW DELHI: The alarming rate of ground water depletion in the Capital may be leading to a different kind of slow evolving crisis--parts of the ground surface in the city sinking, a phenomenon known as land subsidence.
Paras Singh

Now, using satellite data, researchers have found an area of around 100 square kilometres in Delhi-NCR under high risk of ground displacement, with the largest of these, around 12.5 sqkm, in South-West Delhi's Kapashera, barely 800m from the airport.

In a study titled “Tracking hidden crisis in India's capital from space: implications of unsustainable groundwater use", published in nature, the researchers from IIT Bombay, German Research Centre for Geosciences, Cambridge and the Southern Methodist University, US said that the rate of "sinking of land" in the neighbourhood near the airport is accelerating and the subsidence feature is rapidly expanding towards the airport, potentially threatening it.

“During the years 2014-2016, the subsidence velocity was found to be approximately 11 cm/year which rose significantly by almost 50% over the next two years to around 17 cm/year. The trend remained almost same during 2018-2019," the study added.

Shagun Garg, a doctoral researcher from the University of Cambridge, part of the team which studied these land deformations, said that of all the areas under threat, Kapashera (near the Indira Gandhi International Airport) was the most vulnerable because the subsidence rate is extremely high.

“Airport requires stable ground because of the risk of major disruption if there's significant ground movement. Kuala Lumpur airport is an example to understand the implications of land subsidence where cracks on taxiways, and waterlogging emerged due to soil settlement. Continuous monitoring of the airport and its connecting roads is crucial," he added.

The study found another deformation in Mahipalpur, just 500m away from the airport. The area saw deformation of 15mm/year in 2014-16, 30mm/year in 2016-2018 and 50mm per year in 2018-2019.

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