ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Water Crisis in Punjab and Haryana

Politics of Sutlej–Yamuna Link Canal

After the Green Revolution, Punjab and Haryana have become water-scarce states due to the introduction of paddy as the main kharif crop, a massive increase in cropping intensity, and rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. However, the real issue--of reverting to sustainable cropping patterns and improving water-use efficiency--remains unaddressed. An improvement of 15% to 20% in water-use efficiency from the present level can provide each state with the increased water share it is demanding.

The whole of north-west India, ;especially Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, are facing an acute water shortage. This crisis has intensified after the Green Revolution. Roughly, 80% of the total demand for water comes from agriculture. The rest is used in ;domestic consumption, industry and commerce, and the power sector. Water use in agriculture has increased many times over due to the cropping intensity and the introduction of water-intensive crops such as rice, sugar cane and horticulture. Similarly, domestic, commercial and industrial demand has incre;ased following rapid urbanisation, acc;elerating commercial and industrial activities, and increased thermal power generation. This has put tremendous pressure on the limited water resources in the region.

The region’s water resources consist of surface water, mainly supplied by perennial rivers originating from Himalayan glaciers, and groundwater resources acc;umulated over centuries. The widening gap between demand and supply has caused states to compete for larger shares of surface water. Individual users are ;exploiting increasing amounts of groundwater resources as there is no regulation of its use. Free electricity in Punjab and electricity at highly concessional rates in Haryana has increased the pressure on groundwater resources. Available data on groundwater indicate that the number of dark blocks (where extraction exceeds recharge) has increased and water is ;being extracted or mined from aquifers as deep as 250 feet to 400 feet, with an average level of depth at 128 feet for Punjab as a whole (Ghuman 2016). Hary;;;ana faces a similar situation. Farmers are deepening their bore wells at tremendous cost, crowding small and marginal farmers out of the race for groundwater extraction. NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) has reported that “beneath northern India’s wheat, paddy and barley fields, the groundwater has been disappearing” (Dhaliwal 2016). There is apprehension that large parts of the region may soon turn into desert ;unless radical measures are taken to check groundwater depletion.

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