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Water table falls alarmingly in Central Punjab

Water table falls alarmingly in Central Punjab
Water table in 9,058 sq km drops by over 20 metres

Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
The desertification of central Punjab is feared if its falling water table is any indication. The water table in 9,058 sq km of central Punjab has gone down by more than 20 metres in the past one decade and the trend is continuing with some districts registering a fall despite a good monsoon last year.
The latest study of water-level data for both the pre- and post-monsoon periods collected by the Agriculture Department paints a grim picture. The water table has gone down all over the state in the one-year period from June 2009 to June 2010. Some areas have even registered a fall in the post-monsoon period last year.
The June 2009 to June 2010 data shows that central Punjab has been most affected. The districts of Sangrur, Barnala and Moga, which are known as the granary of Punjab, have shown alarming dips in their water table.
Moga has registered a dip of 1.75 metres followed by Sangrur with a fall of 1.50 metres and Barnala with a dip of 1.25 metres. Other districts affected in central Punjab include Ludhiana that witnessed a fall of 84 cm.
What is even more alarming is that areas in central Punjab have witnessed a dip in the water table even post- monsoon last year. This is the time when the water table invariably goes up, says the Agriculture Department Director, Dr Balwinder Singh Sidhu. Water readings taken in October 2010 that have been tabulated now reveal that Barnala witnessed a drop in its water table by 91 cm followed by Moga by 70 cm and Sangrur by 63 cm.
The water table has, however, gone up in many areas after the monsoons in October 2010. Patiala, Ropar and Nawanshahr districts have witnessed a two-metre increase. However, this increase could be short term in nature due to over exploitation, says Joint Director, Hydrogeology, KS Sodhi. He says post-monsoon recordings taken for the last 10 years have shown an annual fall of more than one metre in central Punjab districts.
Experts claim the state needs 52 MAF of water to sustain its present intensive cultivation. It has only 14.54 MAF of canal water leading to over exploitation of ground water.
With farmers reluctant to reduce area under paddy cultivation, this over exploitation is likely to continue. The Agriculture Director, Dr BS Sidhu, says the area under hybrid maize, which is being looked as an alternative to paddy, is stagnating at 1.50 lakh hectares. Sidhu, however, maintains efforts are on to manage water in a better manner and that a Rs 14-crore scheme would shortly lay underground pipelines to increase water application. He said laser levellers, which level land scientifically, were being given on subsidy to help stop water wastage.