Having “over-exploited” the underground water to produce grains for granaries of the country, Punjab is now looking at Centre to help the state replenish its drained aquifers through rain-water harvesting.
The state government is preparing to take up the issue at the NITI Aayog meeting on June 15, to be attended by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. The water crisis is one of the top agendas for the meeting, to be held in Delhi. The issue holds importance in view of water crisis being faced by Chennai and Mumbai metros and Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra states.
Three departments in Punjab — water resources, agriculture and public health — have jointly prepared a project to recharge underground water. The project is awaiting the CM’s approval. If it is done, the proposal would be put up in NITI Aayog meeting, a government official said.
As per the report prepared by water resources department, of 138 blocks of the state taken for study, 109 blocks are over-exploited, 2 blocks are critical, 5 blocks are semi-critical and only 22 blocks are in the ‘safe’ category. “There is an urgent need to recharge ground water in the over-exploited blocks and develop available shallow ground water in the safe blocks to avoid water logging in the foreseeable future,” the report says.
It adds, “The ground water is being over-exploited to meet ever increasing demands of water for diverse purposes, for intensive irrigation, drinking, industry, power generation etc. With the introduction of Green Revolution in the state in mid-sixties, the number of tube-wells increased from a meager 50,000 in the early sixties to above 70,000 in early eighties, to about 10.70 lakh in year 2001 to 11.80 lakh in the year 2005-06 and to approximately 12 lakhs in the year 2012-13 as per the 5th Minor Irrigation Census Report.”
As per the report, it has been observed that water level has gone down in most of the area of the state. The average yearly rate of fall in water level, in the area of significant fall of water level (fall of more than 5 m during this period) worked out to be approximately 0.49 m per year, and districts including Baranala, Bathinda, Fatehgarh Sahib, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Moga, Mohali, Pathankot, Patiala and Sangrur are mainly affected. Moreover, taking the entire area of fall of water level into consideration, average yearly rate of fall is worked out to be approximately 0.37 m every year for this area.
Sources said the state government would once again take up the issue of farm debt waiver for farmers in Punjab as well. Though the state has waived farmer loans to the tune of Rs 4,700 crore as of now, it has turned out to be inadequate. Punjab is making a case that the fund-crunched state government was not capable of waiving off a loan of about Rs 70,000 crore on its own. Despite the crunch, it had doled out a waiver of Rs 9,500 crore.
Also, on the agenda is the issue of smuggling of narcotics through borders and Border Area Development Funds.