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Not only sugarcane states, others too abuse ground water

NEW DELHI: Over 90 per cent of the extracted groundwater in India is used for irrigation. Though this has never been a secret, the quantum of groundwater use in different states shows that the culprits are not only the sugarcane producing states like Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka; the onus of abusing groundwater resources also lies with wheat, rice, maize and oilseed producing states like Punjab and Haryana.

Groundwater use pattern of these two states show they are extracting more water than can be replenished, driving home the urgent need for farmers to adopt efficient micro-irrigation systems like drip and sprinkler which can help conserve water.

The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) in its latest assessment report noted that though Punjab has only 20.32 billion cubic metre (BCM) of annual groundwater availability, it extracts 34.88 BCM annually . Similarly, Haryana extracts 13.05 BCM as against the availability of only 9.79 BCM. Of this, Punjab uses 34.17 BCM for its irrigation needs, while Haryana uses 12.35 BCM of groundwater it extracts annually for the same purpose.

Referring to such indiscriminate use of groundwater, Union water resources minister Uma Bharti on Wednesday expressed her concern that prosperous states like Haryana and Punjab have "abused" groundwater over the years and now most of their blocks fall under 'dark' zones or highly groundwater exploited areas.

"More than 70% of their blocks are falling under dark zones now. A state like Maharashtra had reported water deficit situations earlier as well. But Punjab and Haryana tell us a tragic story," Bharti said while addressing the `India Water Forum', organised here by The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), on the ongoing water crisis.

Though the situation of groundwater use is more or less same in many states, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan are especially guilty because of the excessive pumping causing severe groundwater depletion.

What's the way forward? Sudhir Panwar, Lucknow University professor and president of the Kisan Jagriti Manch, said government policy should be tweaked in such a way that farmers could conveniently move towards sprinkler and drip irrigation systems - the twin methods of using water in most judicious way in agriculture.

Noting how free canal water in Uttar Pradesh and free electricity to farmers in Punjab lead to indiscriminate use of water, Panwar said, "States should rather go for differential tariff on canal water and power source (electricity and diesel) of tube-well. The farmers who go for drip irrigation must be given user cards which can be used to get loan and subsidy (on the basis of efficient use). Such users should also be encouraged by giving them recognitions like state and national-level prizes."

He also suggested that the government should link solar energy subsidies to the tube-well fitted with drip system in the dark zone (highly groundwater exploited zones).

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Underlining the needs to go in a big way to conserve groundwater resources, Uma Bharti during her address to the 'India Water Forum' emphasised that the government was quite serious about this and therefore it had increased its budget for the purpose from Rs 60 crore to Rs 6000 crore during this fiscal.

 

Apr 21, 2016, Times of India