As Punjab government re-issues guidelines on digging and closing borewells, ANJU AGNIHOTRI CHABA explains why borewells are left uncovered and why they continue to claim lives.
What is a borewell?
A borewell is a well — 100 to 1500 ft deep — in which a PVC pipe of diameter 6 to 12 inches is used to extract ground water for irrigation purpose. According to the experts in Hydrology-Geology wing of the Punjab Agriculture Department, borewell and tubewell are the same.
Why do farmers leave them uncovered?
After a borewell goes dry, farmers abandon it after taking out the water pump, and pulling out the PVC pipe to the extent possible for re-use. The guidelines to cover these borewells are not strictly implemented. Also, farmers think that they pose little risk as only adults work in the fields.
How many abandoned and uncovered borewells are there in Punjab?
Punjab government has no data related to this. On Monday, Punjab CM Amrinder Singh has asked all districts to do a survey and file a report on open borewells. CM has asked Deputy Commissioner (DCs) that if there is any such uncovered borewell or pit then they should take corrective action and report on it.
Sources said that there were at least 2-3 open borewells in every district. They added that there were hundreds of abandoned borewells in Punjab, but there was no exact data to know how many of them were uncovered.
What are the borewell guidelines?
Supreme Court had issued guidelines for both abandoned/under repair/newly constructed borewells/tubewells to prevent the fatal accidents involving small children. According to these, if a borewell is abandoned at any stage, a certificate from the concerned department is must and such data should be maintained in the District Collector or Block Development Office.
Further, fencing around borewell is must at the time of construction/repair. A senior officer in the Hydrology wing of Punjab Agriculture Department said that filling up abandoned borewells with clay, sand, boulders, pebbles till ground level is must.
“The owner of the land, before taking any steps for constructing borewell or tubewell must inform in writing at least 15 days in advance to the concerned authorities in the area. Registration of all the drilling agencies is mandatory with the district administration or other concerned Authorities,” he said.