Punjab: Water crisis looms as Bhakra dam level hits a record lowhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/punjab-water-crisis-looms-as-bhakra-dam-level-hits-a-record-low-5219455/

Punjab: Water crisis looms as Bhakra dam level hits a record low

Officials at BBMB say if it does not rain properly this monsoon, a huge water crisis is looming over the region. In Pong dam reservoir, the level recorded on Thursday was 1,286 feet, at least four feet lower than the last year.

water crisis, haryana, punjab, delhi
Delhi water crisis. (Representational)

Water crisis is staring in the face of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan as water level in Bhakra dam has dipped to 1,509 feet, a record low in the last 15 years. As per Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), the water level at the reservoir was at 1,567 feet on June 14 last year. The level was at 1,670 feet after monsoon last year against a capacity of 1,680 feet.

Officials at BBMB say if it does not rain properly this monsoon, a huge water crisis is looming over the region. In Pong dam reservoir, the level recorded on Thursday was 1,286 feet, at least four feet lower than the last year. Climate change and injudicious use for power generation are being blamed for the situation.

Delhi gets 0.20 million acre feet (MAF) of water from Bhakra Main Line (BML) canal, supplied to Haryana through Narwana branch and finally to the national capital. It is used for drinking purposes. Rajasthan is also dependent on these two reservoirs through Indira Gandhi canal network for drinking water.

Punjab and Haryana largely depend on the canal network, supplied through these two reservoirs, for irrigation purposes. Also, some parts in Malwa use it for drinking purposes. With paddy transplantation set to begin, both Haryana and Punjab demanded 24,000 cusecs of water from Bhakra reservoir, constructed on Sutlej river.

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A meeting of chief engineers from Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan with BBMB authorities was held here on Friday in which the three states were apprised of the situation. They were told that inflows in the reservoirs were low. The inflow in Bhakra was 27300 cusecs, due to melting of snow in the catchment area, while outflow was at 24,800 cusecs. This is despite that 8,000 cusecs from Pong are being diverted into Bhakra every day.

In the upcoming paddy transplant season, the outflow is all set to increase manifold. The BBMB agreed to release 29,000 cusecs water per day till June 30 to the three states on Friday with a rider that they would review the situation on June 30 and take a decision accordingly. Also, the BBMB has asked the states to use water judiciously. The outflow will be more than the inflow.

If not sufficient rains are experienced and inflow does not increase, Bhakra level can go further down. Power generation is stopped at 1,461 feet. Bhakra alone generates 1380 MW power. This could also mean trouble for Punjab.

As Punjab has directed its farmers to transplant paddy from June 20 onwards, the water would be released from the reservoir on the night of June 16. It would fill up the canal network by June 19.

“We are just banking on the metrological prediction about good monsoon this year. Otherwise, the situation is bad. The BBMB seems to have released lot of water for power generation. They should have been more careful during the depletion period of the reservoir,” said a Punjab official.