Health hazard

Just 60% Punjab groundwater fit for use

CAG says it’s laden with toxic chemicals, heavy metals

Just 60% Punjab groundwater fit for use

Vishav Bharti

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 17

Almost half of the groundwater in Punjab is unsafe and contaminated with hazardous chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive material. And in the absence of any remedial steps by the government, the remaining safe groundwater is depleting at a rapid pace. These facts have come to the fore in the first-ever audit report on Punjab’s groundwater prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

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

The CAG report says 40 per cent of the groundwater in the state is contaminated with chemicals and heavy metals beyond permissible limits. While 10 per cent of it is unsafe even for irrigation purposes, 30 per cent is marginally to moderately saline/alkaline, but can’t be used by humans.

The quality of groundwater is classified as fit, marginal and unfit for agricultural use on the basis of electrical conductivity and residual sodium carbonate, which is indicative of its salinity and alkalinity.

Not adhering to the Bureau of Indian Standards norms, it was found that in 16 districts, fluoride was above the permissible limit (which is 1.5 mg in 1 litre); in 19 districts, nitrate (was above 45 mg in one litre); in six districts, arsenic (was above 0.05 mg) and in nine districts, iron (was above 1.0 mg).

The CAG noted that Punjab has the maximum percentage of wells showing depletion in groundwater and figures among the top 10 worst-affected Indian states (pre-monsoon data 2018).

Punjab is extracting water from the ground at the highest speed in the country. The report has found that groundwater extraction has increased from 149% in 2013 to 165% 2018. Going into the reason, the CAG has noted that paddy sowing is the main culprit.


Overdose of fertilisers

  • The CAG observed that excessive fertilisers were being used to increase production
  • Fertiliser use in the state shot up by 146.46% between 1980 and 2018
  • The increased use is causing deterioration in quality of both surface and ground water

Unsafe and unfit

  • Nearly 10% of groundwater in Faridkot, Muktsar, Bathinda and Sangrur is saline/alkaline and unsafe for all purposes

Heavy metal contamination

Lead: Amritsar, Bathinda, Ferozepur, Gurdaspur, Muktsar

Cadmium: Fatehgarh Sahib, Ludhiana, Nawanshahr, Patiala

Chromium: Sangrur, SAS Nagar, Tarn Taran, Amritsar,

Barnala, Bathinda, Gurdaspur, Kapurthala, Mansa, Ropar.

Radioactive material found beyond permissible limit in Mansa, Bathinda, Moga, Faridkot, Barnala, Sangrur

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