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Posted at: Jun 13, 2018, 12:24 AM; last updated: Jun 13, 2018, 1:02 AM (IST)

Rajasthan gained what Punjab & Haryana lost

Pritam Singh & RS Mann
While the canal irrigated area in Punjab is down by 29.21%, and by 10.57% in Haryana, it has gone up by 87.71% in 7 districts of Rajasthan.
Rajasthan gained what Punjab & Haryana lost
Canal water irrigation: Huge increase in Rajasthan areas. Tribune file photo
Pritam Singh & RS Mann

The article published in these columns yesterday demonstrated that Punjab is losing approximately 8 million acre feet (MAF) of canal water every year. The article put forward that this water was flowing free to Punjab's neighbouring states of Haryana or Rajasthan or both. Since river water sharing has been a source of inter-state tensions and legal disputes, it is important to not over-emotionalise the issue and have an empirically-grounded understanding of the situation. From this perspective, it is important to examine the change in net irrigated area (NIA) under canal irrigation in Punjab as compared to the change in NIA under canal irrigation in those districts of Haryana and Rajasthan which are irrigated by the canals which carry water from Punjab. 

Haryana areas irrigated by canals that carry water from Punjab

NIA under canal irrigation in Haryana in year 1970-71 was 952 thousand hectares. It increased to 1161 thousand hectares in 1980-81, 1337 thousand hectares in 1990-91, and touched the highest point of 1476 thousand hectares 2000-01. Then it declined to 1236 thousand hectares in 2010-11 and 1151 thousand hectares in 2014-15. The difference between the area under canal irrigation in Haryana in 2000-01 when it was the highest (1476 thousand hectares) and that in 2014-15 (1151 thousand hectares) shows that Haryana has lost 325 thousand hectares area under canal irrigation. This amounts to 22.01 per cent decline in area under canal irrigation between 2000-01 and 2014-15. As in Punjab, a contributory factor to this decline is the rise in tubewell irrigation in Haryana. 

To get a better comparative picture of canal water use in Haryana, it is more relevant to look at those districts of Haryana which are irrigated by the canals which carry water from Punjab. They are Fatehabad, Hisar, Kaithal and Sirsa. To avoid complexity in estimation, Jind is also added to this list though only a part of this district is irrigated by canal water flowing from Punjab. The total NIA under canal irrigation in these five districts was 6,65,000 hectares (in 1977-78), 898000 hectares (2000-01), 778000 hectares (2005-06), 797000 hectares (2010-11) and 803000 hectares (2014-15). The difference between the area under canal irrigation in these districts in 2000-01 when highest (8,98,000 hectares) and that in 2014-15 (8,03,000 hectares) shows that these five districts have lost 95,000 hectares. This works out to be a decline of 10.57 per cent, a substantial decline but still significantly less than the decline of 29.65 per cent in Punjab. 

Rajasthan areas irrigated by canals that carry water from Punjab

In Rajasthan, the NIA under canal irrigation in 1980-81 was 941 thousand hectares, which increased to 1,353 thousand hectares in 1990-91, 1619 thousand hectares in 1999-2000, 1628 thousand hectares in 2010-11 and 1928 thousand hectares in 2014-15. The difference between the area under canal irrigation in 1990-91 when it was the lowest (1353 thousand hectares) and that in 2014-15 (1928 thousand hectares) shows that since 1990-91, Rajasthan has gained 575 thousand hectares under canal irrigation. This amounts to an increase of 42.49 per cent in area under canal irrigation in Rajasthan between 1990-91 and 2014-15. This means that 575 thousand hectares which was previously either not under irrigation or used other sources of water such as wells or tanks or tubewells for irrigation, was brought under canal irrigation. 

However, to get a better picture in comparison with Punjab and Haryana, what is more relevant is to look at those districts of Rajasthan which are irrigated by the canals carrying water from Punjab. They are Barmer, Bikaner, Churu, Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. The total NIA under canal irrigation in these seven districts was 673571 hectares (1980-81), 778130 hectares (1985-86), 901561 hectares (1990-91), 1013211 hectares (2000-01), 1139327 hectares (2010-11) and    1264426 hectares (2014-15). The difference between the area under canal irrigation in these districts in 1980-81 when it was lowest (673571 hectares) and in 2014-15 (1264426 hectares) shows that since 1980-81, these districts have gained 590855 hectares under canal irrigation. This amounts to a massive 87.71 per cent raise.

Comparative canal water use over the years in Panjab, Haryana, Rajasthan

The crucial statistics that capture the comparative picture of canal water use over the years in the three states is:

i. In Punjab: The NIA under canal irrigation in Punjab declined by 485,000 hectares (29.21 per cent). 

ii. In Haryana: The NIA under canal irrigation in the five districts of Haryana which are irrigated by canal water flowing from Punjab declined by 95,000 hectares (10.57 per cent).

iii.  In Rajasthan: The NIA in the seven districts of Rajasthan which are irrigated by canal water flowing from Punjab has increased by 5,90,855 hectares (87.71 per cent). The significance of the increase in the NIA under canal irrigation in Rajasthan is further enhanced by the fact that the increase has been continuous for most of the years under study.

It is obvious that Rajasthan has been an enormous beneficiary in canal water use due to poor governance of canal water resources in Punjab and, to a lesser extent, in Haryana. While Punjab and Haryana are engaged in legal confrontation over 3.5 MAF water of the Sutlej Yamuna Link canal, the issue of a bigger loss of canal water due to mismanagement of canal water resources in the two states needs more attention from policymakers and opinion-makers in Punjab and Haryana. 

Pritam Singh is Professor and  RS Mann a PhD scholar in Economics at Oxford Brookes University, UK

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