Chandigarh, June 27 (IANS) Punjab may mean the land of five rivers but the agrarian state may not be left with any water in the next 15 years, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh warned on Wednesday.
“Punjab would have no water left in the next 15 years unless immediate steps are taken to control the situation.
“With the highest rate of decline in ground water level, Punjab has the highest percentage of dark zones in the country,” Amarinder Singh said, expressing serious concern over the depleting water levels.
Mission Director of the Directorate of Ground Water Management Arunjit Singh Miglani said: “Punjab, which has the highest rate of groundwater exploitation, had during 2008-2013 on an average withdrawn 28.2 Million Acre Feet (MAF) yearly, with yearly average replenishment of only 18.9 MAF, thus causing a severe shortage.”
The Chief Minister underlined the need for a Master Plan for conservation of water and suggested including water conservation in school curriculums to create awareness among children about the importance of saving ground water.
Looking at the critical situation, Amarinder Singh appealed to farmers to minimize the use of tubewells and shift to canal-based irrigation.
Miglani, who made a detailed presentation to the Cabinet highlighting the gravity of the problem, said: “Punjab uses 73 per cent of its groundwater for irrigation, while only 27 per cent of surface water is utilized for irrigation purposes.
“The number of tubewells in the state had gone up exponentially – from 2 lakh in 1971 to 12.50 lakh in 2015-16 – with 41 per cent of these having the availability of water at the depth of beyond 60 metres.”
The Chief Minister also exhorted the farmers to go for crop diversification instead of sowing water guzzling crops like paddy, which requires 150 cm of watering even though actual requirement for plant growth is only 60 cm with the remaining water getting lost in evaporation, a spokesman said here.
The Punjab Cabinet, which met here on Wednesday, set up a five-member sub-committee to assess the ground water situation in the state and come out with a detailed proposal for conservation of the critical resource.
Amarinder Singh suggested that the committee, comprising Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, Local Government Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Revenue Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria and Environment Minister O.P. Soni, should visit Israel to study the methods being used by the West Asian country to minimize the use of ground water.