Skip to main content

No Riparian rights, groundwater 'overused', only 27% of Punjab farming is canal-based

By Dr Gian Singh* 

On March 4, 2021, on the fourth day of the budget session, concern was expressed over the declining groundwater level in Punjab. Recognizing the serious problem of declining groundwater level in Punjab, the Punjab government has been asked to take immediate steps to address this problem by passing a unanimous resolution in the Vidhan Sabha.
Announcing the formation of a high level committee of the House, the Speaker said that this committee would present its status report on the declining groundwater level in Punjab and its proposals on water recharge methods and resources. The committee will submit a report on its proposals within three months.
There are several reasons for the declining groundwater level in Punjab. One of the most important of these reasons is the use of groundwater for irrigation in agriculture. A research conducted by three of us (myself, Dr Surender Singh and Harvinder Singh) on the declining groundwater level in Punjab, published in the book, “Groundwater Development in Punjab”, suggests falling groundwater levels are recorded in the development blocks in which irrigation water is being used far more than its available quantity for crop production.
There is a strong correlation between crop-combination and groundwater balance. In Punjab, for example, wheat and paddy are sown in the declining groundwater development blocks. In Punjab, two crops of wheat and paddy account for more than three-fourths of the total sown area. With the increase in irrigation resources in Punjab, the increase in the area under crops is also one of the reasons for the declining groundwater level.
Punjab's statistics show that the development blocks in which the groundwater level has been steadily declining have a higher crop density than the average crop density of the state. The area under paddy planting is of special importance in relation to the declining groundwater level in Punjab. Irrigation requirement for high yielding varieties of paddy is much higher than that of maize, cotton and many other crops.
One of the important reasons for this is the prevalence of pond-irrigation system for paddy crops. In Punjab, since 1973, there has been a rapid increase in paddy planting, especially in the traditionally non-paddy areas and in areas with very low rainfall. Almost all the development blocks in which more of the total sown area is allotted for paddy cultivation are development blocks in which there is a negative balance of groundwater.
In view of the immense increase in wheat productivity and production as a result of the success of the new agriculture technology in Punjab and the consequent relief to the Union government from the shackles of importing foodgrains, the Union Government in order to meet the needs of the Central pool of foodgrains, through relatively higher minimum support price (MSP) of paddy and its assured procurement by Central government, the Central government has imposed paddy crop on the farmers of Punjab.
Some of the major problems arising in Punjab due to falling groundwater level can be easily observed. Irrigation was usually done by wells and canals in Punjab before the adoption of the new agriculture technology'. The adoption of this technique greatly increased the demand for irrigation which resulted in the use of tubewells as the main means of irrigation.
The number of tubewells in Punjab during 1960-61 was only 7445 which at present shows a tremendous increase to around 15 lakh. The groundwater level is falling so fast that the submersible motors have to be installed due to the abandonment of the monoblock motors and the bores of these motors have to be deepened time and time again. This means of irrigation is so expensive that it is beyond the reach of the marginal and small farmers, for which they either take loans or sell some of their already small holdings when the loan is not available.
Due to the anti-farmer policies of the Union government, the Punjab government has been providing free supply of electricity for agricultural irrigation. As a result, the Punjab government is facing increasing financial burden. Due to shortage of electricity for irrigation in Punjab, farmers have to run submersible motors on their own or rented tractors and generators, the cost of which is further increasing their debt.
In 1980, there was a shortage of drinking water in 3,712 villages of Punjab. In 2007, the number had increased to 8,515. At present the number is even higher and the chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and other chemicals used for agricultural production from the bundle of 'new agricultural technology' poisons have dissolved in the groundwater. As a result, groundwater in most parts of Punjab is no longer directly available for drinking. Life is not possible without water, so water is the elixir of life.
Recognizing the importance of water for all life on earth, this year the United Nations has adopted the theme ‘Valuing Water' to celebrate Water Day. The people of Punjab are still suffering due to the declining groundwater level and the problem of severe shortage of groundwater which will be an issue for the people of Punjab in the near future is not easy to predict.
In Punjab, 73 per cent area is dependent on tubewells, which suggests justice should be done to the state regarding river waters
The Union government and the Niti Ayog have been giving a lot of advice to the Punjab government and farmers of Punjab on crop diversification, but the Union government itself has been doing the opposite through its agricultural policies. If the Union government does not make its agricultural policies pro-farmer, plans growing or planting of crops in accordance with the agro-climatic conditions of different regions, then what to talk about planting of paddy in Punjab, growing/planting of many other crops would not be possible due to a severe shortage of groundwater in the near future.
The fast declining groundwater level in Punjab calls for new policies to be implemented. In order to increase agricultural productivity and production, announcement and procurement of remunerative agricultural products and marketing as well as sustainability of agriculture should be the cornerstone of Punjab's development. To bring crop diversification in Punjab, instead of sowing/planting wheat and paddy, the crop combinations such as wheat-maize, wheat-cotton, wheat-basmati paddy or other suitable crops should be sown and planted.
The need for irrigation is far less than the prevailing varieties of paddy and due to Punjab's agro-climatic conditions, the world's best paddy is grown in Punjab (a research study from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi). In order to do so, the Central Government will have to fix reasonable prices for these crops and insure their procurement at these prices.
The issue of distribution of river waters of Punjab is in the Supreme Court of the country. Over time, the rivers have receded. In Punjab, only 27 per cent area is being irrigated with canal water and the remaining 73 per cent area is dependent on tubewells. Justice should be done to Punjab regarding river waters. Therefore, the Riparian principle of division of river waters should be adopted.
The government should invest heavily in canal irrigation to improve the canal irrigation system by constructing check dams on year-round rivers and rivers that run during the rainy season and to improve canal irrigation. Eliminate illegal encroachments on ponds in Punjab and ensure their annual cleaning. Drains should be cleaned and drilled at short distances to allow excess water to seep into the ground. In addition, rainwater harvesting should be done to prevent the groundwater level from falling and old and new wells should be used.
Regarding the efficient use of irrigation water, land reforms in favour of small and marginal farmers and landless farm labourers can be very beneficial as marginal and small farmers use water efficiently by making very small beds in their fields. Increase investment in research and development work for the development of new economical techniques/methods of irrigation and ensure that preferential subsidies are given to the small and marginal farmers for adopting these techniques and methods.
Apart from the above suggestions, there is a need to strictly curb the misuse of water in industries, cities and villages to curb the fast-declining groundwater level in Punjab. In this regard, people need to be made aware of the need to develop a restrained attitude towards water use so that they realize that even a single drop of wasted water is our unforgivable mistake because this is a matter of governmental/social responsibility as well as individual character and historical role.
In order to make groundwater potable, it is necessary for the government to strictly control the use of chemicals/poisons for agricultural production as well as to provide necessary finance and other facilities for research and development works necessary for the development of natural agriculture. The discharge of chemicals, metals, toxic water in industries, cities and villages into rivers, streams, canals, drains, ponds and the like must be strictly stopped.
---
*Former professor, Department of Economics, Punjabi University, Patiala

Comments

Anonymous said…
I have yet to see an article clearly stating that all of Punjab requires 5000 liters of water per Kg of Paddy. This great story was brought into prominence by the gentleman Gulati bhai. However subsequently it has been found that many of his stories rely on 2013 data and biased - false conclusions. The IRRi says paddy requires from about 500 - 2500 liters of water and more per Kg of paddy produced. It is unbelievable that India does not have any geniuses which can tell us whether these numbers apply only to Punjab or all of India? Can any agricultural genius also let us know what is the quantum of rainfall taken into account in these calculations ? Also can our farm geniuses tell us if one uses the DSR method of planting paddy what is the quantum of water used per Kg of paddy produced. Also the difference in consumption of water / Kg of paddy for Basmati and other Paddy varieties.

sharemarkettips said…
Best work you have done, this online website is cool with great facts and looks.

Best work you have done, this online website is cool with great facts and looks.

TRENDING

Corporate-political party nexus? Rise and rise of Gautam Adani under Modi regime

By Sandeep Pandey*  In last five years Rs 10,09,510 crore taken as loans by various companies from banks in India have been declared as Non Performing Assets, an euphemism for writing them off. Out of this State Bank of India alone wrote off Rs 2,04,486 crore. Only about 13% of the total written off amount was recovered. Identity of the defaulting borrowers, most of whom are influential corporates, is not revealed. Compare this to the loans taken by farmers. The names of defaulting farmers is displayed on walls in tehsil offices to shame them and some unlucky ones also land up in lock-ups there. On the contrary, a few corporate defaulters have fled the country and quite curiously the authorities didn’t seize their passports like they do with some dissenting intellectuals or activists booked under mostly false cases. Now consider the donations received by political parties in the form of electoral bonds. The identity of the donor need not be revealed even to the Election Commission or i

'Extremist' US Hindu global group funding hate against Indian Churches: NGO groups

Counterview Desk  As many as 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the US Senators, Representatives, State Governor, and other elected officials have demanded the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Justice should investigate into Texas-based organization Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) a fundraiser campaign for demolishing churches in India. Co-signed by Federation of Indian American Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA), North American Church of God, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program, Amnesty International - Dallas, World Without Genocide, Center for Pluralism, Genocide Watch, The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Limitless Church, Justice for All, Hindu for Human Rights, North Texas Peace Advocates, Good Citizens of DFW, and the North Texas Islamic Council, the letter has been sent to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Representatives Michael C Burgess, Pat Fallon, Van Taylor, Terr

Carbon abatement to tackle climate change: India's failure has 'outpaced' its success

By Satorupa Karmakar*  On November 01, 2021, India took a pledge of reaching a carbon-zero stage by 2070, at the COP-26 held in Glasgow, UK. As ‘ambitious’ and dubious it may sound to some, with a short-term delay in renewable energy generation (which gained the pace post-September 2020) and drastic fall in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level as COVID-19 emerged as a ‘necessary evil’ , the path of India’s clean energy mission could be seen being paved throughout this time. Currently ranked as the third largest GHG emitter in the world, India is projected to demand more energy in coming years due to a large population base (1.3 billion as per 2011 Census data) and primarily coal-based fast-growing economy. Rapid industrialisation in post-colonial developing countries like India, stimulated by a larger and cheaper pool of fossil fuels and labour-force depicted a continuous upsurge in temperature, heavy precipitation in some places with an overall declining rainfall and a burgeoning soc

BJP-RSS trap opposition in 'futile row' around Savarkar, freedom movement

By Prem Singh*  Everything in this article is just a repetition. I have been saying all this since 1991-92. It is obvious that the Congress and the RSS/BJP do not like my ideas. But most socialists, advocates of social justice and communists also dislike my thoughts. I watch their measures and efforts to deal with the present crisis with interest. I respect them and also participate. Yet, the fact it, we fall behind again and again, and the crisis goes ahead. Instead of being a solution-providers, we are seen to be a part of the crisis. How long will this last? Perhaps, if the new generation thinks differently, things may turn for better! 1 To say that modern Indian society and politics are passing through the deepest crisis ever will surely be a repetition. The crisis is deeper than the spreading of communal hatred we witness around us. In fact, the business of communal hatred is flourishing by taking its manure and water from the deep crisis. The crisis of neo-colonial slavery is pro

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

'Unprecedented rise' of attacks on students of Delhi university by ABVP condemned

Counterview Desk  A statement, sent as an email alert by "concerned teachers and students of Delhi University", referring to a protest organised against the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad's (ABVP's), has alleged “brutal” attack on students and teachers demanding the release of civil rights leader Prof GN Saibaba and others from “unjust incarceration.” “We are seeing an unprecedented rise of attacks on the students of our university by the fascist ABVP goons. Almost every week we see our fellow students and activists getting attacked physically by the lackeys of this current Brahmanical Hindutva fascist regime”, the statement claimed. Text : A joint protest was organised by the students and teachers of Delhi University on 2nd of December against the brutal attack by ABVP goons. On 1st of December, activists of Bhagat Singh Chatra Ekta Manch (bsCEM), Lawyers Against Atrocities (LAA) and many other organisations as a part of Campaign Against State Repression (CASR),

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w

Muslims, Dalits off Bangladesh border 'don't have acess to' water, power, farmland

Counterview Desk  Kirity Roy, secretary, civil rights group Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), in a letter to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, has revealed how, even after 75 years of Independence, Muslims and Dalits living next to the India-Bangladesh border do not have access to electricity, drinking water, even to their own land. Stating that the “horrible situation” has due to “illegal restriction on the agricultural activities” imposed by the Border Security Force (BSF), plunging “farmers and their families into deeper poverty”, the letter, referring to the plight of 1,200 people reside in the Changmari village, states, There are about 200 acres of cultivable lands out of 3,500 acres is situated beyond the border fence. “The ingress and egress of the farmers to their own agricultural land through the fencing gates are regulated by the BSF. The soil and climate of this region is very suitable for jute and maize cultivation”, it adds. Text: This letter is

Climate change 'can't be fought' with fancy issues: re-engineering cities, green energy

By Shankar Sharma*  "The Hindu" has carried a discussion paper in the form of an interview, Can poor countries afford to go green? Many such articles/ opinion pieces are making the grievous mistake of ignoring a fundamental question: what is the true cost of climate change (CC), and can poor countries, or for that matter any community, afford not to do all that is feasible to address the threats of  CC; instead of wasting our time and resources in endlessly deliberating on the so called "financial/economic costs" of the much needed transition. Such articles seem to focus only on high profile / glamorous/ debatable stuff, and ignore the basic issues which we all can do something or the other to minimise the impacts of CC in the short-term, and which may probably lead to long term solution. The opinion pieces/ discussion, as above, are guilty of conveniently ignoring the basic question: what is the fundamental cause of CC? The answer should be: the unsustainable dema

Enemies of elephants: Odisha real estate agents, ivory smugglers, mining contractors

By Sudhansu R Das  Over centuries the elephant in Odisha has been closely associated with its economy, culture and politics. The state was known for its mighty elephant army which repelled enemy attacks until the end of the 16th century AD. The kings of Odisha were known as Gajapati for their skill and ability to use elephants in the battlefield. Some historians said Odisha had 18,000 war elephants. In the olden time, Odisha had exported fine ivory work to foreign countries. The ancient temple walls have the carvings of an elephant army and the scene of elephants boarded on traditional boita (ship) for transportation. Today the elephants in Odisha are at the receiving end; they are being hunted, poisoned and poached for their tusks. They are branded as trespassers, destroyers of crops and human life; the media paints the situation as human-animal conflict and the debate to show concern for the elephant’s protection has become a meaningless endeavor. The state needs a development vision