Taking note of reports of decline in groundwater levels in various parts of Uttar Pradesh, the union agriculture ministry has now sought reports from the state government. There are reports about steep decline in water level in Baghpat, Ghaziabad, Varanasi, Meerut, Hathras, Mathura, Saharanpur, Banda, Jaunpur, Jalaun and Hamirpur.

This signals that urgent steps need to be taken against unhindered exploitation of water resources and drying up of wetlands and ponds," an official source in the agriculture ministry told IANS, declining to be named.

The centre is waiting for a report from the state government on the issue, the official added.The situation is turning worrisome as there is increase in water depletion by about 20-30 percent in some areas, the source said, adding that in some pockets the decline is even higher.

Officials in the ministry attribute haphazard growth pattern and non-replenishment of water bodies as the major reasons for the fast decline in groundwater level. Dry spell and decline in water level are not new in Uttar Pradesh, as in November 2015 the state government had declared 50 of the 75 districts drought-hit.

"The situation demands urgent corrective steps and the government will explore all avenues, including the need to recommend to the farmers that pulses and vegetables should replace paddy cultivation as an experiment, at least in some areas," the official said.

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