Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday announced that an All Party Meeting would be convened soon to evolve a broad consensus to comprehensively address the problem of depletion of ground water in the state.
Chairing a high level meeting of the cabinet ministers, political leaders, senior officers, water experts, scientists and representatives of the farmer organizations and industry to discuss ways and means to resolve the alarming situation emerging out of fast depleting ground water table across the state here at Punjab Bhawan this morning.
Captain Amarinder Singh said that it was the high time to tackle this problem for our future generations otherwise the fertile Punjab was on the verge of becoming a desert. “Posterity will not forgive us in case we fail to act now”, said the Chief Minister.
Sharing the underlying objective of calling All Party Meet, the Chief Minister said it would provide a healthy platform for all parties to build a political consensus on this critical issue of paramount importance, which would severely impact the existence of the people in the state and the coming generations.
He said any complacency or laxity at this point of time would virtually lead us nowhere. The Chief Minister also sought whole hearted cooperation of all farmers and farmers’ organizations as this issue was directly concerned with the very existence of the mankind.
Narrating his personal experience while he was Agriculture Minister in the state way back in 1985-86, the Chief Minister pointed out that the Eradi Commission constituted by the then Central Government assessed availability of water in the State at 17.1 MAF which has now reduced to 13.1 MAF in past 30 years, adding that the climatic changes had reduced the glacier cover, causing even substantial fall in the ground water level.
Acceding to the demand of all water experts, academicians and scientists besides representatives from other states like Maharashtra where a broad consensus emerged in the meeting after a brain storming session which almost lasted for over four hours, Captain Amarinder Singh also decided in-principle approval to set up a State Water Authority to ensure better management of water in domestic, agriculture, industry and other purposes in the state.
The Chief Minister also announced to constitute a committee under Additional Chief Secretary (Development) Viswajeet Khanna and Vice Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University Dr. BS Dhillon to explore the possibility for change in the existing cropping pattern besides developing a viable scheme to motivate farmers to give up the sowing of paddy being a water guzzling crop and switch over to alternate crops like maize, pulses, vegetables and horticulture under crop diversification programme as an integral part of state’s endeavor to save water.
Earlier, making a presentation on the current scenario of depletion of ground water in Punjab, Principal Secretary Water Resources Sarvjit Singh said that if the present rate of the extraction continues the available ground water resources upto 300 metres would exhaust in 20 to 25 years while in some areas it would exhaust even earlier.
Taking part in the deliberations, Additional Chief Secretary Development said that few path breaking initiatives have been taken to obviate the water scarcity in terms of bringing more area under cotton from 2.90 lac hectare to 4.02 lac hectare in 2019, which would be subsequently enhanced to 6 lac hectare.
Likewise, plans were on anvil to enhance the area under cultivation of maize to 2.5 lac hectare by 2021 from 1.08 lac hectare in 2018. Area under Basmati was also being increased from 5.16 lac hectare in 2018 to 7 lac hectare by 2022. Area under horticulture crops would also be enhanced to 4.85 lac hectare by 2023-24 from 3.81 lac hectare in 2018.
He also emphasized the need to promote drip irrigation especially in cotton, maize and sugarcane besides effective use of treated water from sewerage treatment plants for irrigation. He also suggested that sugarcane could be raised through drip irrigation and similarly crops like cotton & maize could also be brought under the ambit of drip irrigation to save water.
Expressing his views on the emerging situation due to depletion of ground water, PPCC President Sunil Jakhar said that this problem should be tackled by one and all in close coordination especially with the representatives of all parties cutting across their political affiliations in the larger public interest.
He complimented Chief Minister for his dynamic leadership and visionary approach who can lead the state to get rid of this crisis which could assume alarming proportions in the near future.
Local Government Minister Brahm Mohindra said the Local Government department would plug the loop holes to ensure prevention of wastage of water for domestic and industrial use in the urban areas. He also stated that the building regulations that mandate rain water harvesting would be implemented in the right earnest.
Rural Development & Panchayats Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa said that as part of the state’s concern to recharge ground water, a major campaign had been taken up by the department in which almost 6000 village ponds were being de-watered, de-silted and scientifically prepared based on the Seechewal model and other technologies. He said that the recycled water would be also used for irrigation purposes.
Water Resources Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria pointed out that a common minimum programme should be chalked out to ensure the holistic consensus of all the political parties to resolve the problem of water crisis for once and for all. He stated that the department had submitted several proposals to the GoI for up-gradation of the old canal infrastructure for enhancing its carrying capacity.
Cooperation Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said that a mass awareness campaign should be launched at all levels of the society starting from the primary schools to educate the students about the importance of water and its judicious use.
Industries Minister Sunder Sham Arora said that the state should have its own ground water authority to redress the issues related to usage of water by industry, agriculture, domestic and other purposes efficaciously on the long term basis.
PWD & School Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla and Transport Minister Razia Sultana also expressed their views to save water in the public interest which was the need of the hour.
BBMB DK Sharma, Chairman also made a presentation on the current scenario of the Bhakra and Pong Dams.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Punjab State Farmers’ Commission Ajay Vir Jakhar said that the emphasis should be laid on the awareness building programme besides ensuring participation of the farmers’ associations and organizations for taking major initiatives to ensure proper utilization of water being a precious natural resource.
Prominent amongst others who also participated in the discussions included; MLA Rana Gurjit Singh, Chairman, PPCB Dr. SS Marwaha, VC PAU Dr. BS Dhillon, Water Expert from Israel Niv Pintow, Chairman Powercom BS Sran, National President BKU Bhupinder Singh Mann, President BKU (Rajewal Group) Balbir Singh Rajewal, Member (Law) of Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Vinod Tiwari, Eminent economist from CRRID Dr. RS Ghuman, Dr. Rashpal Malhotra from CRRID, Industrialist from Vardhman Group Sachit Jain and Chief General Manager NABARD JPS Bindra.
The meeting was also attended by the Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh and several senior officers of the state government.