With the threat of desertification staring Punjab in the face and the state struggling to break away from the ‘wheat-paddy’ cycle, farmers in the state are quickly adopting a five-decade-old scheme to use ‘Underground Pipeline System’ (UGPS) for irrigation. UGPS can help save around 30 per cent irrigation water, according to experts.
Nineteen per cent of the total area covered under the scheme across the state in five decades has been achieved in the past 14 months alone. In this period, 2.21 per cent of the state’s total area under agriculture has come under UGPS, with Bathinda and Faridkot topping the charts in terms of adopting the scheme.
Under the scheme, the state provides 50 per cent subsidy on UGPS installation to tubewell irrigated land, and 90 per cent subsidy to canal irrigated areas. In Punjab, 46,937 km long pipeline has been laid to irrigate 4.94 lakh hectares (12.20 lakh acres), which is around 12% of the total cultivable land in state, in the last five decades. Out of this 8963 km pipeline was laid in the past 14 month to irrigate around 94,0000 hectares of area.
Experts claims that with 42 lakh hectares under cultivation, including 30 lakh hectares under rice, the state government needs to do its best in bringing more area under the scheme.
Under this system, RCC/PVC/HDPE pipes with different diameters from 9 to 14 inches are laid at 3-4 feet deep in the fields with opening channel in every field against the traditional method where the open water channels are made around the fields to carry the water. The system is low maintenance and the life of pipes are at least 40 years.
“Findings of soil Conservation department, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD ) and Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), Govt of India , reveal that around 25 to 30 per cent irrigation water is saved through this system and there is an increase of productivity of for paddy (by 18 per cent), wheat (by 52 per cent) and Sorghum (by 161 per cent) crops along with saving of 36.1 per cent and 43.3 per cent water in irrigating of paddy and wheat on one acre, respectively,” said Dharminder Sharma, IFS, Chief Conservator of Soil Department Punjab,which is executing this scheme.
Gurvinder Singh Dhillon, Map Officer, Chief Conservator Office Chandigarh, said that findings revealed that after laying UGPS about 100 sqm land, which is wasted due to open channels, and 2750 cusec meter water per hectare was saved which resulted increase in yield by 3 quintal and 3.8 quintal in wheat and paddy, respectively. He also informed that system provides assured irrigation which increases farmers’ income.
“Till a few years back, I had to run my electric tubewell for five hours to irrigate one-acre land. But now it takes around three hours to irrigate crop on one acre. This had happened because now I have changed the system of ferrying irrigation water from open channels (drains) to underground pipes in his fields now,” said Surjit Singh (45), a farmer from Rurka Kalan village in Jalandhar.
Sarup Singh, another farmer from Bachhowal village, said: “By changing my irrigation method, I am not required to keep labour now for repairing, digging and cleaning my open water channels and also no herbicides are required to stem the weeds in open channels.” Both these farmers have adopted UGPS, in recent years. A senior Agriculture officer said that government should give 100 per cent subsidy to the farmers on such projects.