Delay paddy sowing, meet water demand for 3.5 years: Panel

PPCB, agriculture department want paddy transplantation after June 25 | State govt yet to take decision

Delay paddy sowing, meet water demand for 3.5 years: Panel

Every January, the state government announces a date for paddy sowing. File photo

Aman Sood

Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 12

Worried about the falling groundwater table in the state, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) and the Agriculture Department have pressed for delay in sowing of paddy after June 25.

Grim reality

  • 2.27 lakh hectares under paddy in 1960
  • 30 lakh hectares in 2016

  • 14.5 lakh tubewells in state

  • Every tubewell pumps out 30.24-lakh litres of water per week with an average eight hours of power supply

  • The total irrigated area increased from about 38% to 98%, out of which 73 per cent is irrigated by tubewells

  • In 1973, only 0.4% area had water table depth of more than 20 m

  • The area has now increased to more than 50%

Recent reports submitted to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) by an expert committee suggest that if paddy transplantation is delayed by a week, that state can meet the demand for water of its 3-crore population for more than 3.5 years.

Every January, the state government announces a date for paddy sowing. Accordingly, preparations are made for arranging additional power and other things.

The expert committee, comprising members from Ludhiana’s Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Central Pollution Control Board and the PPCB, has recommended that the date of sowing should be around June 25 and that it should not be advanced.

As per the committee, there are 14.5 lakh tubewells in the state. Every tubewell pumps out 30.24-lakh litres of water per week with an average eight hours of power supply. This means that 14.5 lakh tubewells pump out 4,385-billion litres of water per week.

This amount of water will be sufficient to meet the state’s demand for water for 3.64 years if paddy transplantation is delayed by a week.

Take the case of Ludhiana city. Its average daily water consumption is 750 million litres, while its average yearly water consumption is 274 billion cubic litres. If paddy cultivation is delayed by a week, the city’s demand for water will be fulfilled for 16 years.

“There is need to delay paddy sowing if we want to save our state from becoming a desert in two decades,” said one of the committee members.

Agricultural experts say the decision could help save the groundwater level which is falling by 1 m every year. The PPCB states that sowing of paddy before June 25 would “put extra pressure on soil”.

Last year as well, the Congress government had advanced the date to June 13 following pressure from farmers’ unions. It was more of a political decision rather than a scientific one, experts say.

A couple of years ago, the PPCB had advocated that the state government should amend the Punjab Preservation of Sub-soil Water Act, 2009, and make June 25 as the official date for paddy sowing. In 2014, the state had issued an advisory to farmers to not transplant paddy saplings before June 15. Earlier, the date was June 1, which was postponed to ensure more dependency on rainwater.

Secretary (Agriculture) Kahan Singh Pannu told The Tribune that he had read the committee’s recommendations. “I have always recommended that paddy needs to depend more on rainwater rather than on underground water. Our limited natural resources are under a lot of pressure. We are already urging farmers to give up water-guzzling paddy and shift to other crops,” he said.

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