February 14, 2009 3:54:45 am
The draft of the proposed new water policy underlines the need to realise that water is scarce and precious. With a 38 per cent deficit and 79 per cent decline in the water table,the policy calls for optimum use and conservation of water.
As per the new water policy,the state has been allocated 14.54 million acre feet (MAF) water. Its ground water is 17.37 MAF. The total available water is 31.91 MAF against an estimated demand of 50 MAF,a deficit of 38 per cent.
Continuous growth in population,sowing of crops consuming more water and high-yielding cash crops,besides expansion of economic activities,has led to increasing demands of water for diverse purposes,causing great stress on available water resources in the state. The major use of water has been for irrigation,with priority allocation for drinking water purposes.
The net area irrigated by canals has gone down from 55 per cent in 1960-61 to 29 per cent in 2006-07. While greater emphasis needs to be given on efficient conveyance and distribution system for optimal utilisation of available surface water,Punjab needs to be given greater share in its river waters to decrease stress on ground water resources and power consumption. There has been intensive groundwater extraction in the past four decades through installation of shallow tubewells by individual farmers,showing an increase of 521 per cent during the past 35 years.
The over-exploitation of groundwater for agriculture has resulted in continuous decline of the water table in most parts of the state. There are 12.32 lakh tubewells in the state,states the report.
The water table is declining in 79 per cent area of the state where ground water is sweet.
It further states that the water rates (water user charges) shall be designed to convey the scarcity value of water and foster motivation for economy in its use. The water rates shall be fixed and revised from time to time with a view to recover at least the annual maintenance and operational costs to ensure uninterrupted and timely supply of water.
Also,periodical audit of the working of systems shall be carried out in accordance with the guidelines for water audit and water conservation.
This policy would be reviewed periodically in view of changing environment and changing needs of the state.
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