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That sinking feeling: Water table dip and how Punjab must fight the looming crisis

Indian Express 2019-07-11 08:21:28

The Indian Express explains how Punjab, which has only 1.57 per cent of the total land in the country, is the state with most cities (4 — Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala) in the list after Rajasthan (5).

The NITI Aayog report claiming that 21 cities in India face groundwater extinction by 2020 has four cities from Punjab.

explains how Punjab, which has only 1.57 per cent of the total land in the country, is the state with most cities (4 — Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala) in the list after Rajasthan (5).

According to the scientists of Central Ground Water Board, this is a projection on the basis of the current GW (groundwater) extraction in these four cities of Punjab. They say that it does not mean that there would be no groundwater available in these cities after 2020, but the water availability in the aquifers available up to 200 to 300 meters would be finished and then more deep aquifers would be needed to meet the water need of these cities.

Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala cities having population up to 10 lakh and above have 45,747 hectare meter (ham) existing gross GW draft, including 10,014 ham for (Amritsar), 12,264 ham (Jalandhar), 16,330 ham (Ludhiana) and 7,139 ham (Patiala). By 2025, the provision needed will be total 61,313 ham water. The provision needed for respective cities by 2025 is 13,655 ham (Amritsar), 16,714 ham (Jalandhar), 21,176 ham (Ludhiana) and 9768 ham (Patiala).

It is highly negative as already more water is being extracted against the recharge rate. In Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala, the exploitation of water is 148 per cent, 239 per cent, 183 per cent and 217 per cent, respectively. These figures means that if 100 units of water are being recharged then we have not only extracted the recharged water but also the water earlier available in the underground aquifers. This figure revealed that even Jalandhar and Patiala have been over-exploiting more than double of its recharge rate.

The state’s average is 166 per cent. Further, these four cities have higher extraction rate than the state average. The existing ground water draft in urban area is 1,21,772 hem out of which 37 per cent is supplied in these four cities only.

Because the recharging is less, according to experts. In Punjab not even 20 per cent rain water is being used for recharging aquifers in the urban areas and the condition of these four big cities is worst where 65 per cent rain water goes into storm sewer and nearly five per cent goes back into the earth where earthy surfaces and green belts are available and remaining 30 per cent get accumulated on the concrete roads and streets where no kuccha (earthy) places are available and finally it either evaporates or take the form of slush till the time it gets dried, said scientists.

Scientists say that even if 50 per cent of rain water is sent into earth, then it would help save Punjab’s aquifers in urban areas. They said that Punjab’s groundwater level could be brought up by installing of water recharging system at individual houses starting from 200 sq yard and above. Every government, private building, schools, colleges should have this system. Also metered water supply with the water usage charges must be made compulsory to regulate water usage and cut down the wastage. There should be more green spaces for natural water recharging. Rain water must be harvested by collecting it in underground tanks in the areas where recharging is not possible. The stored water can be supplied after filtering for various purposes later on. In the fields where natural recharging takes place, there should be an arrangement on the sides of fields for sending excessive rain water into earth to bring the groundwater level up.