Water Audit

4.5 lakh water recharge units required in Punjab, only 103 built

Punjab doing little to protect water table: CAG

4.5 lakh water recharge units required in Punjab, only 103 built

Vishav Bharti

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 19

Around seven years ago, the Central Ground Water Board identified 4.55 lakh potential groundwater recharge structures, but the state has constructed just 103 such structures, meeting just 0.02 per cent of the total requirement. Despite its groundwater depletion crisis, the state government doesn’t have a road map in place to tackle the problem, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has observed in its findings.

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According to sources in the Department of Water Resources, a 26-page CAG report on groundwater will be tabled in the upcoming Budget session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha from Thursday.

In consultation with states, the Central Ground Water Board developed a master plan in 2013 which identified 4.55 lakh potential recharge structures, including nearly 80,000 shafts, rooftops of 3 lakh houses and 75,000 government and institutional buildings. Despite the water board’s initiative, the state government constructed only 103 groundwater recharge structures between 1992 and 2015. Of the 103 structures, the Department of Soil and Water Conservation constructed 73 small rainwater harvesting dams.

As per the master plan, which was to be implemented by 2023, Punjab is among the states that require “highest recharge”. “The efforts to recharge the groundwater in the state have been negligible despite the fact that the state had the highest stage of groundwater extraction in the country.” CAG observed.

The report observed that the state was yet to lay emphasis on ensuring the sustainability of this scarce natural resource, as is evident from the fact that it has not yet implemented the Indian Easement Act, 1882, and also hasn’t adopted any groundwater legislation. According to Indian Easement Act, the owner of a piece of land does not own the groundwater under the land if it passes through a defined channel.

The Water Resources and Environment Directorate (WRED) submitted a “Draft State Water Policy” to the government in November 2008 with the overall objective of ensuring equitable distribution among agriculture, industry and domestic sectors but this policy is yet to be approved. By 2012, 14 states had adopted the State Water Policy, but Punjab wasn’t one of them. The CAG has observed that no effort was made by the state to frame legislation to save groundwater.

Groundwater Depletion

  • The CAG noted that Punjab has the maximum percentage of wells, causing groundwater depletion.
  • State is extracting water from the ground at the highest speed in the country.
  • In 32 years (1984-2016), 37% of the area in Punjab saw a fall of up to 10 metres in groundwater table.

CAG Recommendations

  • Bring in state groundwater policy
  • Undertake rigorous awareness campaigns for farmers
  • Revisit power subsidy for agriculture in the state
  • Go in for scientifically designed observatory wells
  • Check overuse of fertilisers and pesticides

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