Punjab’s water crisis: Political will to arrest the slide is lacking - The Tribune India

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Punjab’s water crisis

Political will to arrest the slide is lacking

Punjab’s water crisis

The groundwater level is going down by 70 cm in Punjab annually; the volume of groundwater recharged every year is far less than what is being extracted. File photo



A special Vidhan Sabha committee has reaffirmed that unceasing groundwater depletion is pushing Punjab towards desertification, which could become a reality in a decade and a half. In its report, the committee has recommended agricultural zoning and metering of the groundwater supply for arresting the slide in the water table. The panel has also suggested a water credit scheme, under which farmers and the industry will be incentivised for using the precious natural resource judiciously. The figures are indeed alarming: the groundwater level is going down by 70 cm in the state annually; the volume of groundwater recharged every year is far less than what is being extracted.

Punjab’s groundwater crisis has been red-flagged repeatedly over the years, but successive state governments have desisted from taking drastic measures that could antagonise the farming community — a decisive vote bank that has become even more assertive and restless of late, especially amid the ongoing agitation against the three contentious farm laws brought in by the Centre last year. With the state going to the polls early next year, the Congress government is expected to tread warily on the committee’s recommendations. There is no denying that lack of political will has brought things to such a pass. The situation on the ground is unlikely to improve as long as political parties keep viewing the problem through the prism of electoral gains or losses.

The silver lining is that the state government is banking on Israeli know-how to curb groundwater depletion and give a fillip to replenishment. Once a water-deficient country, Israel has established itself as a global leader in the water sector in recent decades, thanks largely to recycling and reuse of treated wastewater for agricultural irrigation. Israel’s holistic approach to water consumption and management can benefit Punjab in the long run. For a start, various categories of users — agricultural, domestic and industrial — need to be sensitised to their collective responsibility towards preventing the not-too-distant disaster. Taking all stakeholders along holds the key to effective water conservation. It’s time to make every drop count.


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