Ruchika M Khanna
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, September 28
The Union Government has red-flagged a sharp decline in the groundwater level in Punjab. As per a study conducted in May, 94 per cent of the state has shown a decline in the water level when compared to the average level from 2007-16.
Despite that, the Punjab Government is adamant on keeping the “politically sensitive” free power to agriculture consumers going — a major reason for excessive tubewell connections that drain the groundwater. There is also no action plan to wean away farmers from water guzzling paddy crop.
The results of the study, which the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, had commissioned to the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), and now shared with the state government, have shown a decline in water in 89 per cent of the observation wells. These cover 94 per cent area of the state.
The findings of the study that mapped aquifers (up to 300 metres) has shown an alarming fall of over 4 metres in 10 per cent of the observation wells (a total of 704 wells were studied), covering 8 per cent of the state’s area.
It also reveals that 26 per cent area in the state has seen its water table fell by 2-4 metres, while 60 per cent of the area has seen a fall of up to 2 metres. This, however, may still not deter the government to restrict the use of subsoil water, as three-fourth of the state is dependent on sub-soil water for irrigation.
Though the Centre has asked Punjab to invest in strengthening ground water monitoring; implement a water security plan; promote micro-irrigation and crop diversification, besides having separate feeder lines for agriculture and non-agricultural uses, it remains to be seen if the state will have any affirmative action plan soon.
Unfit for drinking: Study
The study has also brought to light another major concern — higher value of electrical conductivity (reflection of chemical constituents in groundwater which may have deleterious effect on human health). The study has brought to light much higher levels of fluoride, arsenic, and nitrate (beyond permissible limits), while asking the Punjab Government to act immediately to ensure safe drinking water is provided to all. The higher levels of these chemicals are related to the growing incidence of cancer.
State of affairs
26% of the area has seen its water table fall by 2-4 m
60% of the area has seen a fall of up to 2 m
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