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Dr. G. S. Dhillon

The Punjab Government wants to approach the Apex Court with the plea that before forcing Punjab to undertake completion of the ‘balance works’ located in the Punjab’s region. It is essential that volume of flow through the SYL canal is decided. That would depend upon Haryana’s “share”, if any, in the diverted Beas water available at the Nangal pond.

Before approaching the Apex Court, it is essential that Punjab should do the needed ‘home-work’. one essential ‘step’ in that aspect is the correct assessment of the total water demand considering the various water users such as agriculture, industry, municipal use, fish ponds etc. An attempt has been made in that direction.

Water Resource Availability
As per the recent statement of Punjab Chief Minister, the volume of water made use of from the surface water sources, i.e. river waters, is around 12.5 MAF (Million Acre Feet). It may be stated here for the readers reference that the total water allocated to India under the Indus Water Treaty is 34.8 MAF. This water is flowing through canal systems built during the British Rule viz. the Sirhind canal, Upper Bari Doab Canal, Eastern Canal etc. Many canal systems fall under the category of “Non-Perennial Canal Syst em” the others suffer from ‘chronic shortages at tail-ends.
The principle on which the canal systems were designed during the British Rule was to ‘spread thinly’ the available water resource over as large area as technically possible i.e. the systems were designed with low water capacity factors and the cropping intensity figures.

It was felt that the ‘created shortage’ would force the farmers to use each drop carefully and thus ensure efficiency in canal water use. The allocation of each farmer’s share was carefully worked out considering the farmer’s holding and its location in the command area of the water courses conveying water to the farmer’s field from the canal outlet. The share was sanctified through the legal measure of ‘Wara-Bandi’ which fixed the farmer’s turn to use full share of water available in the water course correct right upto ‘hour & minutes’ and the rotation of turn was after a fixed period of seven days.

The-low capacity factors and the cropping intensity values prevailed during the post-British period as well with minor changes.

It maybe mentioned that the adopted cropping intensity was around 66% which meant that the farmers could grow one crop annually that too not over the entire area. The capacity factors were fixed to well below 2 cusecs for 1000 acres.

Situation During The Green Revolution Era
During 1960s with the advent of the Green Revolution when hybrid variety of seeds came to be introduced, which required more frequent irrigation rather than after seven days rotation period and in heavier doses”, the farmers took to supplementing the canal irrigation by tubewell irrigation. For that purpose the farmers went in for installing shallow tubewells privately owned and worked. The Rural Electrification Scheme played a major role and soon there were more than 8 lakhs electrically operated tubewells in Punjab.

The above mode not only helped in attainment of the Green Revolution but also in depressing the high water table prevailing in Punjab in the post 1955 era when nearly the whole of Punjab had got waterlogged. The farmers mostly adopted the ‘mono-block motor centrifugal pump sets’ located just a metre or so above the water table so as to keep the ‘suction lift’ to a reasonable level.

During this period the wheat-paddy crop rotation came to play a major role and enabled the country to achieve self-sufficiency in foodgrains.

During the 1980s the benefits of the Green Revolution began to fade away and with the continual drop in water table, problems began to crop up.

Canal System of Punjab
It came to be felt that the canal system was not enough to provide irrigation to the various regions of Punjab. Large tracts were without canal water. The case list is very long but a few cases are cited next.

Take the case of Gurdaspur district. Though the network of the UBDC System traverses the district yet hardly any area of the district is irrigated by the UBDC System. Then comes the case of areas located on the right bank of the river Sutlej e.g. Chamkaur Sahib area which is traversed by the Sirhind Canal System but has no irrigation. The tracts earlier covered by the Ghaggar through the Banur Canal are now without any irrigation because these were transferred to the SYL, which is now in doldrums. To this list, area of Dera-Bassi Block need to be mentioned as the deep tubewell system installed by the PSTC has failed and this area is covered by large number of important industrial units which have to pump water through very deep tubewells at great cost and with great effort. There is no provision for delivery of canal water to this area.

Industrial Use of Water
At present the industry is left to fend for itself by exploring, drilling and installing suitable tubewells to meet their water needs. Most of the pumped water has to be ‘softened’ before use in boilers and for other purposes so as to reduce or remove ‘salts’ present in the pumped water. The industrial units which fall in the ‘distress region’ are required to pump back an equivalent volume of ‘treated water’ to ‘recharge’ the water table.

Though the present day use of the industrial units is around 2% of the total water use, yet soon it is expected to rise above 10% figure as large industrial schemes are being planned. Then this user too will demand its share from the surface or canal water.

Urban Water Schemes
At present most of Punjab’s urban centres meet their water needs by local pumping. Distress has been felt due to abnormal fall in the water table and the Municipal Corporations have started looking for supply of the canal water for being available after some treatment. This will put additional claim on canal water available to Punjab now being mostly used by the irrigation sector.

Pumping From Ground Water Resource
Safe volume that can be pumped from ground water can be limited to dose of the natural surface water recharge occurring in Punjab. The volume of the natural recharge has been assessed to about 10 MAF and not more than 8 MAF can be made use of as part of the recharge falls in the area where ground water is saline or unfit for use and so is rendered useless. So the available water resource to Punjab can be considered to be around 20.5 MAF

Punjab’s Water Demand
Some years earlier (in 1990), the experts from PAU worked out the normative water demand for the crops grown in Punjab as 37.6 MAF and adding this to the quantity for civic needs, the demand rises well above 43.25F.

Gap Between Availability & Demand
From the figures obtained above the “Gap” works-out to 22.75 MAF and this gap is being met by pumping from the ground water resource which means ‘mining’ or ‘over-exploiting’ of the ground water resource and this is leading to problems in different areas.

Distress Zone

The print media (Tribune July 4, 2002; Indian Express, July 6, 2002; Hindustan Times, July 28, 2002) has recently reported that the water level in Jalandhar district has dropped during last one year by more than 8.5 ft. In the Nakodar area water table has dropped through 26 ft during last few years adding to the farmers’ problems. Sometime earlier ‘distress’ reports appeared in the print media regarding abnormal drop in water level in the Majha area particularly around the Khadur Sahib Block where the water table has now dropped to a depth of 100 ft and more. In Patiala district also the reports indicate distress from Samana and Patroan area and it is reported that the water table has now dropped to a depth of 120 ft or more, whereas it stood at depth of 80 ft a few years earlier. The farmers have to get new connections of 12 HP motors so as to install the submersible pumps compared to the earlier use of 7.5 HP connections for their mono-block centrifugal pump sets. In a recent survey conducted by PSEB in connection with Voluntary Disclosure Scheme (VDS), it has been found that nearly 15 per cent of the total 9.5 lakh tubewells operated with electricity had applied for additional load due to drop of water table in the area. This has sent panic signals among the farmers as they are required to pay a charge of Rs. 3000 per HP under the VD Scheme for switching over to submersible pumps. PSEB source disclose that it has been made mandotry for all new agricultural power applicant, the connection holders would have to install ‘electronic meters’ and also pay the ‘service connection charges of pump motors at the rate of Rs. 5000 per HP. Earlier this charge used to be Rs. 3000 per HP. PSEB source further disclosed that whereas the farmers earlier paid Rs. 45.000 to Rs. 50.000 for installing a tubewell, they will now have to pay double the amount since the water level had fallen drastically during the past few years.

SOS From Chukhira Village of Jalandhar District
This small village having 160 or so agricultural families each owning 2.4 acres of land or less, used 58 tubewells for cultivation of paddy every year. The village covered 400 acres land and the farmers were a contented lot till a year or two earlier. This year (2002) all the fiftyeight tubewells have gone dry due to inordinately large drop of water level and the farmers’ style of living has changed to ‘nomadic style of farming’.
According to the District Agriculture Officer, Jalandhar many other villages in the area are reaching the danger limit and the farmers will find the same situation as their love for paddy is still strong.

Bond Between Paddy & Punjab Farmers.
From the Ludhiana area it is reported that the ‘power starved’ farmers have switched over to generating sets for operating their pumps for planting early paddy crop. The decision of the State Government to deter the farmers from early transplantation of paddy by cutting power to the villages seems to have fallen flat with the farmers using the alternative diesel generators. The farmers are going in for 25 KW generators and use 200 to 300 litres diesel per acre for plantation of paddy.

The farmers of the area who earlier tried to switch over to sugarcane plantation instead of paddy were found switching back to paddy as they found the yield of sugarcane low and the payments were delayed by the sugar mills, whereas in the case of paddy, farmers were happy as its procurement was smooth and the farmers are promised a subsidy of Rs. 30 per quintal by the Chief Minister, Punjab. These factors furthers cement the bond between paddy and farmers.

Concluding it can be said that out of 3.56 MAF of the Beas Waters that has become available at Nangal pond, Haryana is at present making use of 1.62 MAF waters through the Narwana Branch and so there is no justification of operation of SYL to supply more water. Punjab needs the available balance water at Nangal pond for irrigation of vast tracts of land located on both sides of the river Sutlej.



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