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Ground Water Depletion: Punjab Moving Toward Turning Into Desert

May 15, 2019 | By

Chandigarh: Eastern part of Punjab, the land of five rivers, is moving towards turning into desert. A news report (dated 15 May, 2019) in The Tribune (TT) notes that a draft report of the Central Ground Water Board (North-Western region) has warned that Punjab will be rendered a desert within 25 years if the exploitation of its underground water resources continues at the current rate.

Image used for representational purpose only

A report in another vernacular, Hindustan Times (HT), notes that ground water found at a depth of about 100 metres in [north-west region of Indian subcontinent] will be exhausted within the next 10 years, according to a draft report of the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) that highlights its over-exploitation in the region.

The report, which has been submitted to state governments, draws on data recorded between 1994 and May 2018 and shows that withdrawal of groundwater has been greater than recharge — against an annual gross groundwater withdrawal of 35.78 billion cubic meters (BCM), the annual recharge has only been 21.58 BCM, HT report notes further.

The Tribune notes with reference to the CGWB report that at the current rate of extraction, all available groundwater resources till the depth of 300 metres in the state will end in 20-25 years.

Confirming the noting in the draft report, prepared every four years, Punjab’s Agriculture Secretary Kahan Singh Pannu reportedly said the “latest reports on the declining water level in Punjab, including by the Central Ground Water Board, are alarming. It looks as if we are staring at the end of our world. Simply put, it is a red alert period and the hooter for saving water is blaring out of concern.”

“The main culprit of the falling water levels is the rice crop. Farmers got free water and wastage was rampant. Water should be priced. At the same time, no agriculture can survive without subsidy under existing circumstances. But, it should not be on water. The subsidy amount should be increased to Rs 20,000 crore from the existing Rs 8,000 crore. It should be distributed equally even to farmers who have no tubewells”, TT news quotes agriculture economist Dr SS Johal saying.

Punjab River Water Allocated to Other States:

Punjab’s river water is allocated to non-riparian states of Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi for past many decades in violation riparian rule by forging extra-constitutional arrangements. As a result of it Punjab is largely dependent of use of ground water for various purposes, including for domestic and agricultural use.

Farmers’ Given No Alternative to Come Out of Wheat-Rice Crop Cycle:

In order to fill its needs of food grain, the Indian State introduced Wheat-Rice crop cycle in Punjab during the days of so-called green-revolution. The paddy/rice crop was not suitable to environmental conditions in Punjab still the state agencies encouraged the Punjab farmers to bring more and more areas under rice cultivation.

Even now, when the situation of ground water has worsen to an alarming level, the successive governments at the state and the union level have failed to provide a viable alternative of W-R Crop Cycle to the farmers of Punjab.

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