Alarming groundwater depletion ‘non-issue’ for parties in Punjab - Hindustan Times
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Alarming groundwater depletion ‘non-issue’ for parties in Punjab

By, Sangrur
Jan 13, 2022 11:12 AM IST

Despite the fact that groundwater depletion is one of the major problems in Punjab, this is a non-issue for political parties. It is high time that we start taking concrete measures to stop it, said Balbir Singh Seechewal

Gurjant Singh, 29, a farmer hailing from Namol village near Sunam, witnessed the fourth tubewell installation on his farm in January last year.

Jaswinder Pal Singh Grewal, joint director, agriculture (inputs), Punjab said the state is facing groundwater depletion. Farmers need to adopt crop diversification to save water. Environment activist Balbir Singh Seechewal said water and air should be key issues in the state assembly and Parliament elections. (HT Photo)
Jaswinder Pal Singh Grewal, joint director, agriculture (inputs), Punjab said the state is facing groundwater depletion. Farmers need to adopt crop diversification to save water. Environment activist Balbir Singh Seechewal said water and air should be key issues in the state assembly and Parliament elections. (HT Photo)

Gurjant owns seven acres of land. The new tubewell was dug up to 330 ft with the cost of 90,000 due to the depletion of groundwater in the area whereas around two decades ago, water was found at 100 ft only.

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Tirath Singh, 60, from the same village, who owns 5 acres, is planning to dig new tubewell up to 500 ft as their earlier tubewell at 180 ft failed to provide sufficient water for the paddy crop. Singh will probably spend over 2 lakh on the new bore this month.

According to a recent study of the agriculture department, conducted in 2020 in 150 blocks of the state, 117 blocks (78%) are “over-exploited”, six are “critical”, 10 are “semi-critical” and 17 blocks are in the “safe category”.

Agriculture experts advised farmers to adopt crop diversification but farmers claimed that they are forced to cultivate paddy crops as successive governments failed to provide the minimum support price (MSP) for other crops. However, environmentalists accused political parties of making an important matter a non-issue in state assembly elections amid freebies.

“The state is facing groundwater depletion. Farmers need to adopt crop diversification and cultivate short-duration varieties of paddy to save water. New varieties developed by the Punjab Agriculture University ripen early and require less water. We need to focus on cotton and pulses,” said Jaswinder Pal Singh Grewal, joint director, agriculture (inputs), Punjab.

Environment activist from Punjab Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal said water and air should be key issues in the state assembly and Parliament elections but sadly even educated voters are not raising these issues.

“Right to life is our fundamental right. Every party should give us this right. It is the government’s duty. Despite the fact that this is one of the major problems that Punjab is battling today, this is a non-issue for all political parties. It is high time that we start taking concrete measures to stop the depletion of groundwater,” added Seechewal.

Dr Amandeep Aggarwal, an environment activist, said the water table sinks over 1 meter in Punjab every two years but in some pockets, water recedes even at double pace.

“The successive governments and political parties are not serious about the depletion of groundwater. Besides, our drinking water is being polluted. We need cancer-free areas, not cancer hospitals. To improve the water table, the government should develop a rain irrigation model. If government institutes will adopt rain harvest model, the common man will follow them,” added Dr Aggarwal.

Farmer Gurjant Singh said, “I am an educated man. I know that 1 kg of rice takes 5,000 litres of water. The overexploitation of groundwater is dangerous. We want to leave traditional crops, but the governments should provide MSP on other crops.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Avtar Singh is a staff correspondent who covers politics, agriculture, crime and rural areas in Sangrur, Barnala and Malerkotla districts of Punjab.

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