Terming the water situation in Punjab as “critical” and which is expected to get worse in the coming years, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh Monday said he would soon call an all party meeting to discuss ways and means of conserving water and push crop diversification. He also ruled out advancing advancing the date of paddy sowing from June 20 to June 1.
“What will we leave for the future generations? June is a dry month and more water is required for the paddy. It is not possible to advance the date of sowing,” Amarinder said.
“The transplantation date was advanced to June 13 this year only on experimental basis. There is no proposal under consideration for permanently altering the date of paddy transplantation,” he informed the House.
He was responding to a question by AAP’s Kotkapura MLA, Kultar Singh Sandhwan, who sought to know whether there was any proposal to change the date of paddy transplantation from June 20 to June 1.
Amarinder said the all-party meeting, which he will call soon, will discuss drip irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, and crop diversification to evolve a comprehensive strategy to stop the reckless use of groundwater. “Roughly 85 per cent of Punjab is in the critical zone as far as depleting ground water is concerned. Annually, the water table is going down half a metre,” he said.
The CM said that earlier long duration varieties of paddy were sown in Punjab but new short to medium duration varieties of paddy, introduced by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), were taking fewer more days to mature and require lesser irrigation. “These new paddy varieties like PR 126, PR 124, PR 127, PR 121 and PR 122 were now being sown in 83 per cent of the area and were maturing, on an average, in 110 days,” he said, adding that marketing of these varieties was not a problem either.
Amarinder pointed out that Punjab was facing acute shortage of water, with even the Eradi Commission having assessed the river water level at 17.1 Million Acre Feet (MAF) at the time of its evaluation. The level had since gone down further to 13 MAF, he pointed out, adding that the problem had been aggravated as a result of the melting of glaciers, coupled with the greenhouse effect.
Expressing concern over the fast depleting groundwater level, the chief minister cited the Dynamic Ground Water Estimation Report 2017, published in 2019, to observe that the number of blocks falling under over-exploited category (where groundwater abstraction exceeds recharge) stood at 109 out of the 138 study blocks in the state.
Responding to Akali Dal member HS Chandumajra’s query on whether the state government would give relaxation in percentage of moisture in paddy or give bonus to farmers due to the problems faced in late sowing of the crop, the CM said that the moisture limits are set by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), a central government organisation.
“Your minister sits there, it is your government at the Centre. Go talk to him. All purchases done by state procurement agencies is done on behalf of the Government of India. The issue is not in our hands,” he added`.
Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) president Simarjit Singh Bains demanded that the CM should clarify whether his government will demand the revenue due from Rajasthan for the supply of 11.2 MAF water being diverted from rivers passing through Punjab.
“This house passed a resolution on November 16, 2016 asking for a bill of royalty to be sent to Rajasthan. Rs 16 lakh crore is to be recovered from the state. Will this bill be sent to Rajasthan or the water being supplied to it be stopped and diverted for the sue of farmers of Punjab,” he questioned.