INDIA’S PUNJAB TO BE A DESERT SOON, MAY NO LONGER FEED THE NATION
WATER GUZZLER RICE IS THE CULPRIT, ONE KILOGRAM TAKES 3,367 LITERS OF WATER
Ever imagined Asia’s food bowl, land of lush green fields, Punjab will soon have sand dunes all over. As the environmental experts say, this transformation would take place in just a short span of 15 years times.
Fearing worst ever the ecological disaster in this part of the world because of degradation of agricultural areas may become a severe problem, the government of India has started a survey to know how much water state’s has under the ground, by mapping of aquifers the underground beds or layer yielding groundwater, up to 300 meters deep.
Many of original natives of this area who have migrated to other countries may not find the lush green fields when they visit home next time.
What is contributing to the loss is water guzzling rice grown over 75 lakh acres every year. The colossal loss of water could be imagined from the fact that a kilogram of rice requires 3,367 litres of water and by an estimate every year 12,000 million kilograms of rice grows in the state. The water consumed in growing the amount of rice can be imagined: 40,404,000 million litres.
Data from the department of agriculture shows that of 35.78 billion cubic metre water extracted from the ground, 96.65% water is used to grow paddy, while 0.53% is used by industry, and 2.82% is used for domestic purposes.
Punjab is one of the biggest producers of wheat and paddy contributing upto 60 percent of country’s total food requirement. After it exhaust its water, it would not be able to grow any crop
The state agriculture department forecasts that if the rate of fall continues, water up to the depth of 100 meter will finish in 12 years while the water available at 300 meters will finish in 20-25 years. Pulling out water from lower levels would not be practically possible to irrigate the fields, says the experts.
Different national and state level agencies have already predicted a grim scenario for Punjab, with over a majority of the state four-fifth over-exploiting its sub soil water.
If the annual rate of fall in sub soil water, currently 51 centimeters every per year, continues, the state would empty all its water reserves soon, turning the country’s food bowl into a desert. From being a food producer, the state would become a consumer.
According to a study by the Central Ground Water Board of the country, 10 districts: Bathinda, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Moga, Pathankot, and Patiala are the worst affected. Here, the fall is very severe, nearly one metre a year. The fall is evident from the fact that tubewells in these districts are dug as deep as 300 feet to get water fit for irrigation.
Adding to the worry is 1.3 million tubewells in the state for which farmers are getting free electricity these tubewells keeps digging out subsoil water during parched weather of June and July when heat and evaporation is at peak. Three-fourth of Punjab is dependent on subsoil water for agriculture and one-fourth on the canal water.
“We don’t want to come at a juncture where there is no groundwater left. It’s a matter of livelihood, so to save ourselves from the ensuing crisis, we have started mapping of the subsoil water, particularly in Punjab and Haryana, which are food bowls of the country,” said a functionary of central ground water board as head of the study. He said by using aquifer maps, it coiuld be explained to farmers that depleting water table and ask them to look for an alternative to water-guzzling paddy. Gamma mapping and electrical resistance techniques are used to study the amount of water under the soil.
The government agencies have been continuously measuring the groundwater level, but it for the first time that mapping is being undertaken to quantify the available groundwater resources. It will give block-wise figures so conservation plans and crop patterns could be planned.
The groundwater depletion in Punjab was 55 centimetre in 2015. As per seasonal fluctuations recorded by the CGWB between January and May, 2016, 73% of wells monitored — covering 60% area of Punjab — witnessed a fall in the water level. Barring some isolated pockets, the water table goes down by 2 meters in the state annually. Figures by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States of America, the groundwater level in the state is depleting at an average of one metre every three years.