Ruchika M Khanna
Chandigarh, November 20
With a rapid groundwater depletion and Punjab predicted to be heading towards desertification, the government proposes to restrict the digging of tubewells and empower canal officers to enter any private land and close channels/demolish tubewells, necessary for use of water.
Groundwater to last 17 years
- As many as 117 of the 153 groundwater blocks are overexploited
- Punjab has the highest groundwater extraction in the country
- The annual groundwater extraction was 28.02 billion cubic metre, while the recharge was just 18.94 billion cubic metre
- An NGT-monitored committee had cited a report that observed that Punjab had groundwater to last just 17 years
All these provisions are being incorporated in the Punjab Canal and Drainage Bill, to be tabled in the Vidhan Sabha’s winter session, scheduled for November 28-29. The Bill was today approved by the Council of Ministers.
It may be noted that 117 of the 153 groundwater blocks are overexploited. Punjab has the highest level of groundwater extraction in the country. According to the Groundwater Resources Assessment Report for 2022, the annual groundwater extraction was 28.02 billion cubic metres, while the recharge was just 18.94 billion cubic metres.
In June 2022, a National Green Tribunal-monitored committee had cited a report that observed that Punjab had groundwater to last just 17 years. It is in this scenario that Punjab has decided to form its own Act, by repealing the old “Northern India Canal and Drainage Act, 1873”.
Top functionaries in the state Water Resources Department said the Act would lay provisions that would help it to prohibit installation of tubewells within 150 metres of state tubewells and even along the embankments of canals and water channels. There are over 14.50 lakh tubewells in Punjab, which are the main reason for the high groundwater extraction.
The new Act will also pave the way for resting the ownership of any source of water, including still water in a natural collection with the government and empower it to use water for any purpose of existing or projected canal or drainage work.
The government also proposes to form water user associations to create a sense of ownership among stakeholders. It will also pave the way for imposing heavy penalty on those using the water unauthorisedly.
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