Punjab, the nation’s food granary, uses nearly 97 per cent of the total groundwater it extracts for irrigation purposes, against the national average of 63 per cent, a study by Central Ground Water Board has revealed. Of the 22 districts in Punjab, 20 have been using more than 90 per cent of the extracted groundwater for farming. Mansa tops the list, using 99.9 per cent of the total groundwater for irrigation.
The state, which was at the epicentre of the Green Revolution, is now facing imminent desertification, mostly because of over-exploitation of groundwater to meet its farming needs. Here’s why: the Punjab government in a report has confirmed that of 138 blocks, 109 are “over-exploited”, two blocks are “critical”, five are “semi-critical” and only 22 are in “safe” category. In other words, it has confirmed that 79 per cent area of the state area is over-exploited.
The NITI Aayog, in a recent report, has claimed that four cities from Punjab, out of 21 across India, face groundwater extinction by 2020. The cities are Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala. In Punjab, the net annual availability of groundwater is 21.58 billion cubic meters (BCM) or (21.58 lakh hectare meter) but it is drawing 35.78 BCM. Out of this, it is using 34.56 BCM for irrigation purpose and 1.22 BCM for domestic and industrial purposes. In terms of percentage, the state is overdrawing the groundwater by 166 per cent and using 160 per cent of the overdrawn water for irrigation.
Among districts, Sangrur is the worst performer overdrawing groundwater by 260 per cent, of which 256 per cent is used for irrigation. Against the net annual groundwater availability of 144,088 BCM, the district extracts 3,74,631 BCM, using only a measly 6,129 BCM for the domestic and industrial supplies. As per the Groundwater Board report, the district would require 232,842 BCM water for future irrigation needs, which won’t be available if timely measures are not adopted to replenish the water table.
All nine blocks in Sangrur are overdrawing the groundwater ranging between 198 per cent to 320 per cent. Dhuri, Sunam, Sangrur, Ahmedgarh, Indiana are the top five drawing 320 per cent, 299 per cent, 285 per cent, 275 per cent, and 271 per cent, respectively.
Mansa, which has 102,794 BCM net groundwater availability, withdraws 1,45,381 BCM (141 per cent) and uses all of it for irrigation purposes.
Moga, Patiala and Ludhiana are among other heavy exploiters using 98.5 per cent, 97.5 per cent, and 95.3 per cent of the total groundwater extracted for irrigation purposes.
Faridkot, Bathinda, Amritsar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Fazilka, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Muktsar, Nawanshahr, and Tarn Taran use more than 95 of the groundwater for irrigation while Hoshiarpur and Ropar use 92 per cent.
Only two districts in Punjab, Pathankot and Mohali, are using less than 90 per cent of the groundwater for irrigation. The two districts have been using 86.6 per cent and 76.7 per cent groundwater for irrigation, respectively.
Scientists at the Central Ground Water Board said that Punjab was at the top in exploiting groundwater and the state government should work on its canal system to irrigate more and more area. They said the government should take some immediate measures to replenish the water table. They further said that various wings of the state government dealing with groundwater situation, including the hydrology wing of the agriculture department, were hardly doing anything to replenish the water table by promoting various methods, including rainwater harvesting.
Joint director, hydrology wing, Rajesh Vasisht could not be contacted despite repeated attempts and text messages.
Director, Department of agriculture, Dr Suntantra Kumar Airy, said that they have been working hard to curtail the usage of groundwater for irrigation by promoting drip irrigation, direct seeding rice and diverting area under water-guzzling paddy for other crops.