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Parched Punjab

Punjab, as the name connotes, is the land of five rivers, and the wheat granary of India. However, today, the state is staring at an impending water crisis that may render it a desert in the near future. The Punjab Agricultural University research from 1998-2018 indicates a decline in the groundwater level to below 30 meters in over two decades. Reports reveal that out of the 150 assessed blocks, 117 blocks (78 percent) are overexploited (under dark zone) implying that the annual groundwater extraction exceeds the extractable yearly resource.

Since the Green Revolution in the late 1960s, the shift to water-intensive crops; wheat & rice, from the earlier pulses, maize & vegetable crops has strained the groundwater resources. Furthermore, the state government’s policy of providing free electricity to the farmers has caused a shift from canals & Monoblock pumps (the primary water resources for agriculture in the 1980s) to submersibles & tube wells. In fact, tube wells have become the primary source of water supply in the rural areas, both for agricultural and domestic purposes, thereby, leading to intensive groundwater extraction.

However, the entire fault is not on the part of the farmers alone, because erring industries are equally liable. Discharge of industrial effluents into the water bodies has contaminated the ecosystem such as the “Buddha Naala” whose water quality has turned to “E- grade” due to the disposal of untreated industrial wastes. Thus, industrial waste causes water pollution, enhances groundwater alkalinity, and makes it unfit for agriculture.

“If this continues, in the coming 20 years, supply from about 60% of top aquifers may be jeopardized. Around 30 million residents of the Punjab region may face a collapse in agricultural output. “

Therefore, it’s imperative to protect the water resources to revive the state’s economy. The first step towards the direction is to create awareness amongst the rural & urban folk. An NGO called “Progressive Youth Forum” is doing commendable work in this regard. However, to ensure comprehensive success, awareness has to be generated among the public regarding rainwater harvesting, as any infrastructure of 250 yards can practice this technique. Punjab would be highly benefitted from this as it receives 650 mm of rainfall annually; thus, 2.5 million liters of water can be preserved every year. However, in urban areas, more than 65 percent to 70 percent of rainwater gets wasted, either by flowing into sewer lines or evaporating due to lack of green belts. Hence, the perfect solution in urban areas is to collect rainwater on the roof and transport it via pipelines to storage reservoirs. Furthermore, in rural areas, the construction of ponds and water recycling units for rainwater storage is critical.

Moreover, 1.4 lakh of the dry wells in Punjab should be revived as they form the backbone of irrigation. The steps to be initiated for this purpose are collecting information about the wells, emptying the contents, repairing the damage to their inner walls, cleaning, disinfecting, dewatering, and making final repairs to the well cover.

Article By: Mehz Sandhu

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